GOP bashes EPA over $100M in foreign anti-pollution grants

House Republicans launched a fresh attack on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week, blasting Administrator Lisa Jackson for setting aside millions of dollars in grants to foreign countries aimed at reducing global pollution.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a report Monday night detailing what they say is nearly $100 million in “foreign handouts” to countries like China, Thailand and Indonesia to support various environmental programs over the last decade.

While the lawmakers focus on grants that were awarded during the Obama administration, many of the grants were initiated under previous administrations, including the Bush administration. The report says that EPA has "intensified" its foreign grant program under the Obama administration, approving $27 million in grants since 2009.

“We are concerned that, more broadly, EPA’s awarding of foreign grants reflects a surprising detachment from our nation’s foremost priorities, including those in the environmental realm,” the top Republicans on the panel said Monday in a letter to Jackson.

It's the latest effort by the GOP to take aim at the EPA. House Republicans and some Democrats have sought to limit or block a slew of the agency's pollution regulations, arguing that they impose an unnecessary burden on the country's already struggling economy. But the administration says the agency's work is essential to protecting public health.

The GOP lawmakers — including full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Oversight and Investigations subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) — requested that EPA provide a series of documents related to the grants.

“We hope you would agree that in these challenging economic times, with unemployment at over 9 percent, federal spending should reflect the priorities of the American people,” the letter says. “This includes investment in the American economy and its greatest assets — the American worker and those who create the jobs they fill.

But EPA defended its grant program Monday, arguing that the agency must work to reduce pollution around the world.

“Pollution doesn't stop at international borders, and neither can our environmental and health protections; the local and national environmental issues of the past are now global challenges,” the agency said in a statement.

EPA noted that many of the grants are part of the agency’s Global Methane Initiative, “which aims to limit pollution before it can cross U.S. borders and promote the development of commercial opportunities for U.S. environmental technologies and services business in foreign markets.”

Ben Geman contributed to this story.