Monday, March 07, 2011

REGULATING THE ENVIRONMENT

"My God, It's So Thick!"
-EPA head Lisa Jackson upon seeing crude oil washed up on Gulf shores

The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 by Richard Nixon, and tasked with protecting human health and the environment. As the decades have drawn on, the EPA has been given greater and greater power by congress, with the most recent the Clean Air Act in 1990 signed by President Bush the elder. That act gave the EPA broad-reaching powers to protect the environment by defining pollutants and the freedom to act to limit and reduce them. But has the agency overstepped its bounds?

Under President Bush, the expansionist tendencies of this agency were restrained, such as their desire to declare CO2, a common gas exhaled by all humans and required by plants for survival, a pollutant. The theory behind this is that it would allow the EPA to act to limit "carbon emissions" which are blamed for global climate change according to some scientists.

When President Obama took office in 2009, he not only removed those restraints, but encouraged the agency to take bolder action to protect the environment and combat alleged human-caused climate change. And the EPA has been very aggressive in its efforts to do just that. They rapidly declared CO2 pollution and began working on ways to reduce its output, something congress even when controlled by Democrats refused to do. In fact, the EPA has been working hard the 13 months, with idea after ruling after regulation that impacts you directly.

For example, the agency seems determined to drive food prices up through a series of actions:
  • The EPA classified milk as oil, which requires dairies to build special containment facilities and have special environmental hazard cleanup equipment on hand, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Milk technically contains some oils, and that was good enough for EPA head Lisa Jackson.
  • Push for the Food Safety Enhancement Act which passed, requiring farmers to grow crops in "sterile areas, surrounded by 450 foot buffers, so that they are not exposed to other vegetation, runoff water, birds, beasts, or wildlife of any kind."
  • Require all farms to create and implement "food safety plans" which are subject to warrantless searches at any time by the EPA under the same act.
  • Plan on implementing new dust reduction standards which would cripple or bankrupt many farms and ranches
  • Set up a scheme that pays farmers to stop growing food and plant trees on part of their land instead
That's only the regulations that would directly affect food prices alone, which are already rising in America. When food prices go up, the people most negatively impacted are the elderly and the poor who have fewer resources to deal with the increase in costs. Already a record number of Americans are on food stamps.

But its not just in food production that the EPA has been busy. Among their latest work are these gems:
  • Propose a new requirement on boilers which would cost an estimated 800,000 jobs by crushing and shutting down businesses who cannot afford the changes
  • Classify burning woody biomass from the forest floor the same as coal and under the same restrictions, even though if left to rot on the forest floor it emits the same carbon
  • Permit the sale of up to 15% ethanol in gas blends, which car manufacturers note will damage and destroy existing car engines
Why all these changes? For the environment, of course, because the EPA believes this will be for the good of everyone. The problem is their choices are actually quite damaging to the economy, harmful to business, destructive to jobs, and will tend to increase inflation.

The Environmental Protection Agency is continually looking for more new ways to use the power it has through legislation to implement more and more rules and regulations that burden business, farms, and American consumers, at a time when people are suffering from a weak economy already. Many of their ideas seem to betray a basic ignorance of how farming and rural life is actually led.

Academic, theoretical ideas are fine if they are tested with real world practical experience and examination, but too many in the Obama administration do not care for that critical step. They have their idea on how things should and do work, and reality just gets in the way.

*This originally ran on the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone.

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