(The opinions expressed in guest op-eds are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.)
Recent concerns over the 87,000 new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees, including additions to its ranks of armed agents, have reignited debate over how necessary it is to have armed agents in certain departments of the federal bureaucracy.
Indeed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Postal Service, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and countless other federal agencies also have police divisions.
Another unnecessarily militarized agency, I would argue, is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This isn’t strictly a partisan issue, though Democratic administrations tend to allow the EPA to leverage their increasing power with more leniency. In fact, the EPA was first allowed to exercise military-like power by Congress under the Reagan administration. Then, in 2015, it was reported that the EPA was spending nearly $75 million per year to keep their 200 special armed agents kitted up with “military-style weaponry,” drones, amphibious assault vehicles, night-vision gear, and other equipment.
But, don’t worry; it’s not going to waste. EPA agents seem to relish any opportunity to use their cool gear on We The People.
For example, in 2015, residents of Chicken, Alaska, woke up to their town and local gold mine being swarmed by armed officers in full body armor and “POLICE” jackets. They quickly learned that these men were with the EPA, and they were being raided due to an allegation that the mine was potentially violating the Clean Water Act.
The intimidation tactics and frightening aggression displayed that day by EPA special agents infuriated locals, as well as the Alaskan state government.
Three years earlier, in 2012, EPA agents knocked on the door of Larry Keller, who had sent a short email to the staff of then-regional administrator of the EPA Al Armendariz. The email was a query for Armendariz’s contact information: “Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello? -Regards-Larry Keller.”
Keller wanted to ask Armendariz about the administrator’s inflammatory statements about the oil and gas industry, where he had said his enforcement goals were to “crucify” executives.
Armed agents and local police showed up at Keller’s door, refused to give him their business cards, and interrogated him about the intent of his email.
Unfortunately, these kinds of abuses didn’t end when President Obama exited the White House; after the December 2020 National Compliance Initiative: Stopping Aftermarket Defeat Devices for Vehicles and Engines, shortly before Trump was out of office, the EPA announced it would crack down on private shops that modify cars.
In July 2021, armed and body-armored agents showed up, unannounced, at the Lund Racing auto-tuning shop in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Other shops throughout the country were also raided and fined for failure to follow regulations so fickle and unclear that Congress had to pass the RPM Act to protect competition vehicles from the EPA’s wrath. This comes despite the fact that race cars are already exempt from the Clean Air Act.
These examples serve as a reminder of the heavy-handedness a bunch of self-righteous bureaucrats can, and will, impose on average American citizens in order to enforce regulations that, largely, are not even voted on by Congress. This is doubly dangerous when agencies like the EPA are also not held accountable for their own misconduct, which encourages the impression that these agencies are above the law.
What about when the EPA dumped heavy metals into a major river system, and no one at the agency lost their job over it? If a private individual or company was to cause that kind of pollution, they’d be in jail.
If the EPA is allowed to regulate your individual carbon dioxide or methane emissions, or your use of nitrogen fertilizer on your garden, they will be allowed to use their militarized divisions on you to enforce their edicts or intimidate you as well.
Fortunately, in West Virginia v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has been overstepping its authority in regulating carbon dioxide, particularly from state power plants. Hopefully, this ruling can serve as precedent to prevent further regulatory tyranny going forward in that arena.
Still, it is probably best that administrative agencies are at the very least demilitarized.
As former congressman Ron Paul shrewdly said in a prophetic 1997 speech about the militarization of government administrative agencies, “Yes, we need gun control. We need to disarm our bureaucrats, then abolish the agencies. If government bureaucrats like guns that much, let them seek work with the NRA.”
Linnea Lueken ([email protected]) is a Research Fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.