Rand Paul and other GOP White House hopefuls will spend time on the stump attacking the big EPA rules to cut carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.
But at the outset of his formal campaign launched Tuesday, Paul is also bashing a smaller EPA-backed initiative—much, much smaller.
A fundraising email accompanying Tuesday's campaign rollout includes this line: "EPA is announcing it wants to use our tax dollars to track how long hotel guests spend in the shower so they can start working to 'modify their behavior'"!
The lengthy appeal for donations holds this up as evidence that Washington is "still filled with those who think they're entitled to our tax dollars and believe they can run our lives better than we can," according to a copy tweeted by a reporter with the Center for Public Integrity.
What's Paul talking about? The line appears to be a reference to a $15,000 grant to University of Tulsa researchers for "Developing a Wireless Device for Monitoring Water Usage for Hotel Showers."
An EPA summary of the project notes that hotels use lots of water and that most don't track guests' usage, leading to millions of gallons of wasted water. The project aims to create a "novel low cost wireless device" for monitoring guests' water use.
Here's the part that Paul partially quoted in his fundraising appeal: "This technology will provide hotel guests with the ability to monitor their daily water online or using a smartphone app, and will assist hotel guest in modifying their behavior to help conserve water."
The grant has been attacked in conservative circles and was subject to coverage by several conservative websites and news outlets last month.
For instance, a blog post last month by the right-leaning National Legal and Policy Center, citing a detailed Washington Free Beacon story about the grant, called it an example of EPA "meddling" in people's lives.
But EPA says it's doing nothing of the sort.
"Let us be very clear: EPA is not doing this. Students at the University of Tulsa are researching how to develop a low-cost wireless device that hotels could use to measure water use, as part of a student design competition for sustainability," EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said.
"The marketplace, not EPA, will decide if there is a demand for this type of technology. EPA is encouraging creativity with water-conservation efforts. It's up to hotels to determine their water usage and whether technology like what's being developed at the University of Tulsa is helpful to them," said Purchia, who noted that her comment was limited to the grant and was not about Paul's campaign.
According to the description on EPA's website, a team of students studying engineering, marketing, and other fields are working to build and test a prototype.
Paul, for his part, already has EPA in his crosshairs for other reasons too. The Kentucky Republican, whose state is a major coal producer, has strongly attacked the agency's air-pollution and carbon-emissions rules.
His new campaign website flags EPA while vowing to "cut regulations and take power away from unelected bureaucrats."
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