Sadly, this is not from The Onion. For satire to work it has to be believable and no one with commonsense would believe that the federal government would intervene to fine people living in Alaska for using wood-burning stoves in the winter. But the advantage that the federal government has is that it does stuff that is so profoundly stupid that no one would ever believe they would do it. And that is their greatest defense mechanism. Just like ‘Verbal’ Kint/Keyser Sose says in The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
Via The New York Times:
“It’s all one thing — when you most need the heat is when you’re most apt to create a serious air pollution problem for yourself and the people in your community,” said Tim Hamlin, the director of the office of air and waste at the E.P.A.’s Region 10, which includes Alaska.
And forces are now converging to heighten the tension in this seemingly unlikely pollution story. Civil fines by Fairbanks North Star Borough — which includes the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, with a total population of about 100,000 — could be assessed in coming days against residential polluters. The E.P.A. could declare the entire area to be in “serious” noncompliance of the Clean Air Act early next year, with potentially huge economic implications, including a cutoff of federal transportation funds.
Residents are also trapped, he said, by economics. Natural gas, a much cleaner fuel source, is not widely available in this part of Alaska, and heating oil can be very expensive. Oil also produces particulate pollution, though less than wood. A study for the borough last year said residents here spent, on average, almost four times the national average in annual heating costs.
Mr. Hamlin, the E.P.A. official, said his agency was definitely not trying to take away anyone’s wood stove, or make life more expensive. But he said the Clean Air Act, passed by Congress in 1970, requires a standard of breathable air for all Americans. The E.P.A. was given the job of enforcing that standard.
“We don’t want to be telling people what to do, but the standard is what it is, and we want to work with you to be able to get there,” he said.
Shorter: “We don’t want to tell people what to do but they can freeze to death or pay a huge fine.”
And while this Tim Hamlin character is not personally to blame, the EPA, in all its permutations, is to blame for inserting itself into a distinctly local situation and bludgeoning a local governnment into submission with the threat of fines and loss of federal funds. (The Federalist has a good piece on the issue from the viewpoint of an Alaskan native, not a Native Alaskan.) This is how a tyrannical government treats subjects, not how a servant government treats citizens. It needs to stop and only Congress can make it stop.