In virtually every area of concern to the federal government where there exists a federal agency, the Obama administration’s abuse of power and stretching of the law needs to stop and it should be a centerpiece of any Republican candidate’s agenda. This series of articles will focus on only three such agencies- the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Except for the NLRB, these agencies affect every taxpayer and anyone who breathes air and drinks water.
Since its inception, the EPA has been used to advance a political agenda. Its first administrator, William Ruckleshaus, despite ample scientific evidence to the contrary, banned the use of DDT. In 1978 under the Carter administration, the EPA proposed rules that would have killed the domestic steel industry and it was the efforts of two Pennsylvania Senators that stopped their action. As early as 1991, an independent group of scientists determined that “science” at the EPA was skewed to reach a desired result and that it went both ways depending on the party in power at the time.
The stated mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment. For these tasks, Congress gave the EPA the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Despite their own mission statement saying they have nothing to do with the Endangered Species Act, they often use it to block economic development.
This behemoth of an agency employs over 16,000 full time employees. People were shocked to learn of an Inspector General’s report which found great fraud and waste at the agency including employees watching porn on the job on their computers…and keeping their $120,000 check while being investigated. In this case, the agency employees were afforded considerably more due process than most victims of the EPA enjoy.
Many have argued that the EPA should be abolished altogether. This writer sees a need for the EPA, but an agency in serious need of reform and downsizing. Congress can start by cutting its budget. It can start by requiring the agency to rely to real science to establish regulations. It can start by requiring the EPA to cease its collusion with environmental groups whose agenda often is something different, but cloaked in environmental words.
Lisa Jackson, a former EPA administrator, actually testified that when formulating clean air rules, the EPA ceased using actual air samples and was relying more heavily on computer models. People do not breathe cyber-air. This practice needs to cease. As we see with climate change, computer models are basically useless. Secondly, when the EPA announces any regulation, the science should be justified and that can be achieved by an independent review from the scientific community to ensure the science is correct.
Naturally, the regulations should be worthy of being passed in the first place. Recently announced regulations on mercury from coal plants need to be questioned. Less than 3% of atmospheric mercury comes from these plants. The EPA justifies the regulation on a 0.00209 point advantage on average American IQ scores. And to have any effect on pregnant women, they would have to eat the equivalent of a fish every day of the year. Does this justify such an onerous regulation?
In 2010, the EPA decided against the Pebble Mine in Alaska strictly on ideological grounds. We know this because no permit had been sought and no paperwork filed. The EPA determined an environmental risk without any investigation or scientific inquiry. It was further revealed that an EPA biologist had colluded with Native Americans to file lawsuits against the mine. The problem was there was no mine, not even a permit for one. However, there was a permit issued four years previous for a surface mine in West Virginia which Obama’s EPA rescinded despite the fact the company had complied with all the conditions of the permit and there was no scientific evidence of pollution from the mining operation. Again, ideology got in the way of science and development.
Today, Obama’s cause du jour is climate change and I have written many articles about the flawed science, logic and underlying anti-capitalist thought processes. In the real world, the computer models have met with failure. Instead, the EPA now bases their climate change regulations on reducing the incidences of asthma and on national security. Nowhere in the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act, nor in the EPA’s own mission statement, is national security mentioned. As for asthma, if the prediction record of the EPA and environmentalists holds true, rest assured that if these regulations were fully implemented, we will be wringing our hands twenty years down the line on how to reduce the incidence of asthma. By then, the economy will be damaged and you will be paying extra to heat and light your home.
Besides abusing the Clean Air Act, the EPA has decided to expand the scope of the Clean Water Act without any Congressional approval. The “waters of the United States,” as defined in that law, means navigable waters of the US- lakes, rivers, oceans- anything that is navigable by even a kayak. Yet, proposed rules now would affect waters that one article described as “six degrees of separation” from navigable waters. In theory, all rain water goes somewhere- usually into a navigable body of water. It could also evaporate. Yet the possibility of regulation of rain water, or the runoff from your hose as you wash your car in your driveway, could be regulated under these proposed rules. The EPA determined themselves that they have the power to regulate water with “a significant nexus to navigable waters.”
And lest anyone think this is not possible, consider the case of Maryland and regulations on runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. As that rain water runs off private property, it carries both sediment and minerals which the EPA has determined are detrimental to the ecosystem of the Chesapeake. As a result of those regulations, some Maryland counties have imposed a “rain tax” on landowners. They are assessed a fee for having “impervious” surfaces- driveways, parking lots, etc.- through which rain water runs off and eventually ends up in the Chesapeake. Charles County imposes a flat fee of $43 per property. Other counties base the fee on the square footage of the impervious surface. Some landowners, particularly the United States Navy, simply refuse to pay the fee. Republican governor Larry Hogan made repeal his campaign rallying cry, but he lacks the ability to nullify the law by himself. Instead, legislation was introduced to exempt larger jurisdictions from the mandate provided they prevent runoff and/or remove pollutants. Regardless, the county would have to fund it. Instead of a rain tax, there would be another name for it. So beware of that puddle in your driveway the next time it rains. If it could happen in Maryland to a landowner far removed from the Chesapeake Bay, it could happen near you because under these EPA rules, chances are there is a navigable waterway somewhere near you (“somewhere” determined by the EPA).
One area that needs to be eliminated is the civil rights division of the EPA. They investigate pollution that adversely affects minority communities. For example, in Baton Rouge minority residents of a low income housing development complained about fly infestation they attributed to the local sewer plant. Pollution is pollution, but because there is a civil rights division of the EPA, apparently pollution in minority areas matters more.
Another area of concern is the “sue and settle” tactic used by environmental groups where the EPA, especially under Obama, is a more than willing accomplice. Here, an environmental group sues the EPA to stop a project or enact a regulation. Instead of going through lengthy litigation, the EPA enters into a consent decree which is then endorsed by a court. The EPA then proposes and enacts the regulation or stops the permitting process using the excuse they are under a court order to do so. It is clearly collusion and capitulation to the environmentalist lobby with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club being the two biggest offenders.
So what specifically should be done. The following would be a great start:
- Decrease the budget and bureaucracy of the EPA;
- Eliminate the Civil Rights Division of the EPA;
- Have Congress specifically define the pollutants that the EPA can regulate and not include carbon dioxide as a pollutant;
- Have Congress specifically define “significant nexus to a waterway;”
- Eliminate or scale back the use of computer models when determining actual effects of pollutants;
- Independent review of scientific findings of the EPA to eliminate ideological agendas;
- Have mandatory cost/benefit analysis for all proposed EPA regulations;
- Mandatory Congressional review of any proposed regulation with a cost exceeding a predetermined amount and have Congress approve such regulations as amendments to existing law;
- Greater reliance on and input from state environmental regulatory agencies;
- Cease the practice of “sue and settle” and vigorously fight environmental litigation;
- Review and reform of civil lawsuits against development projects thus streamlining the process and clarification of “standing” rules for bringing lawsuits;
- Review and rescind every Obama Executive Order and agency directive that involved the EPA.
We all like clean air and clean water. This is not about the cleanliness of the environment, but about a politicized rogue federal agency. Under Obama, the EPA acts not as a steward of the American environment, but as a tool of radical environmental groups. Standing up to them in a court of law and confronting them with true science is a must. The Left likes to describe the Right as anti-scientific; turn the tables. Confront them with real science without the emotional sob stories of the mayfly, some beetle in Nebraska, or a 200-member indigenous tribe of Indians nowhere near a development site.