In November 2009, a dozen protesters triggered a traffic jam in an intersection of Chicago’s financial sector by laying down in a circle in the middle of the road, locking their arms together inside pieces of pipe. They were protesting the city’s climate exchange, part of a scheme to regulate CO2 emissions through permits. Ironically, it was a case of a left-leaning plan being attacked by the far left.

After a few hours, the activists were arrested, including among their ranks members of groups like the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). According to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, about six months later, the agency awarded LVEJO a $25,000 environmental justice grant, which was to be directed to “…work[ing] in coalition with their partners to implement 3 areas of Climate Change Mitigation…” The first “area” is to “…conduct a grassroots Clean Power Campaign in the Chicago Region to address coal power plant emissions…”

If EPA’s grant was an attempt get LVEJO to change its tactics, it doesn’t seem to have worked. After getting the grant, a half dozen activists from LVEJO and other groups were arrested after climbing the fence to a coal-fired power plant and unfurling a banner that read: “Close Chicago’s Toxic Coal Plant.” Even amid America’s deficit crisis, the EPA has enough walking-around money to fund green radicals harassing EPA-regulated businesses in President Barack Obama’s hometown — coincidentally, the same President who spoke of bankrupting new coal-fired power plants.

Although the rest of the nation has had to tighten its belt, that has not been the case for the EPA. The Obama Administration’s first budget increased EPA funding to $10.3 billion, a whopping 36% over the preceding fiscal year. While the President’s current budget request is down from the all-time high, it is still more than 20% over the FY 2008 budget.

As we search for means to cut Washington’s waste, grants like the one to LVEJO should move to the front of the line, where it should have lots of company. According to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, there are 2,141 federal grant programs with some 109 coming out of the EPA. By the EPA’s own grant database, over the last ten years, the agency has bellied up to the bar and bought drinks for many of its friends at the taxpayers’ expense. Within the past decade, the EPA awarded or continues to have open more than 7,500 grants, totaling $3,847,160,250 to non-profit groups alone.

While some EPA grant recipients like the American Lung Association may seem more palatable than LVEJO, many have shown themselves to be reliable reactionaries for the EPA. The American Lung Association recently came to the agency’s defense, stating:

Polluters and some members of Congress want to interfere with EPA’s ability to protect public health. Most Americans believe that the Clean Air Act needs protecting. We are fighting hard to prevent anyone from weakening or undermining the law or the protective standards the law provides. We are fighting to ensure EPA has the legal authority and necessary funding to continue to protect public health.”

Exactly what kind of nefarious plans by “[p]olluters and some members of Congress” to damage public health is the American Lung Association seeking to thwart?  One of their efforts is targeted at defeating a bill that seeks to stop the EPA from doing an end run around Congress and regulating greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide – under the Clean Air Act. Money can’t buy passion like that, but if it could, the 164 EPA grants to various American Lung Association groups totaling over $20,000,000 within the past decade might help.

Other EPA grantees grab grants of tax dollars in one hand while collecting attorney fees from the federal government with the other. Wild Earth Guardians, for example, states in its annual report that it received grants not only from the EPA, but also the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service, which, along with state, county and city grants, totaled well over a half million in 2009.

The Washington Post recently reported on a settlement between Wild Earth Guardians and the federal Government “that could pave the way for an avalanche” of endangered species. Under the settlement the US Fish and Wildlife Service will take action on 251 species considered as “candidates” for addition to the Endangered Species List — along with 9 subspecies of the same species of pocket gopher in the state of Washington, 36 insects including 10 kinds of cave beetle, 18 clams and 23 snails is Digitaria pauciflora.

For the non-botanists, the common name of this species is Florida Pineland crabgrass and yes, it belongs to the same group of crab grasses (it is one of 68 such species) that suburbanites constantly battle. The fear is that Florida Pineland crabgrass could be driven to extinction if global warming causes the oceans to rise and swallow the tip of southern Florida, this species’ habitat. While USFWS states this threat is “currently low, but expected to be severe in the future,” one must ask, even if the preposterous apocalyptic scenario played out, wouldn’t there be bigger worries like, say, the fate of Miami?

The list goes on with environmental justice groups like North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) and Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. The former seeks to “to accomplish [its] goals through organizing, advocacy, research, and education based on principles of economic equity and democracy for all people.” The latter’s worldview (along with NCEJN’s), is outlined in “17 Principles of Environmental Justice” that it adopted.

The preamble to that document states that, among other things, signatories “do hereby re-establish our spiritual interdependence to the sacredness of our Mother Earth…” and seek “to secure our political, economic, and cultural liberation that has been denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression…”

The EPA even has a history of giving taxpayer money to the California Indian Basketweavers Association, which doesn’t just dedicate itself “to preserving, promoting, and perpetuating California Indian basketweaving cultural traditions” but also champions “a healthy physical, social, spiritual, and economic environment for basketweavers…”

Throwing money around like this goes far beyond waste. It is a brazen offense to most taxpayers. If Congress doesn’t have the will to slash this kind of stuff, what can it cut?

Co-Authored by Meera Yogesh, a member of The Heritage Foundation Young Leaders Program.