Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

February 11, 2014

Going Rogue, Part X: Americans just don’t properly appreciate the EPA

— — Americans do not fully appreciate the efforts of government to protect them from a wide variety of threats to their health and safety. This effort occurs to some degree at the more local levels, but the real champion of this grand effort is the federal government.

While many federal agencies contribute to this effort, one goes far beyond the others at trying to keep us safe: the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA.

The EPA is so concerned for the safety and protection of the citizens of the U.S. that it has issued thousands of regulations requiring specific steps be taken to reduce or eliminate actual or potential harm. This agency is so concerned for our welfare that it has even required, under penalty of heavy fines, the use of things that are unavailable.

As part of the Renewable Fuel Standard the EPA required gasoline producers to use cellulosic biofuels, and in its paternalistic effort to keep us safe from threats real and imagined, the EPA fines producers for not using the required quantities of biofuel ingredients, even though those quantities are unavailable.

Not everyone is on board with the EPA’s magnificent efforts on our behalf, such as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, whose office is suing the EPA over greenhouse gas standards for new power plants. These standards are, according to the Manchin and Bruning, “impossible” to meet.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and energy industry groups have jumped on the anti-EPA bandwagon by urging the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last August to strike down a federal rule limiting mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants, saying the agency used flawed methods to create unachievable emissions standards.

Even the EPA’s fellow federal agency, the State Department, has shocked Americans by daring to disagree with the ideological environmental dogma of the Obama administration.

When the State Department was performing an environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline project, the EPA intervened. The pipeline project would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the U.S., which supporters say would provide a big step toward energy independence. The EPA argued, however, that this pipeline should be treated differently than every other pipeline ever constructed in the country.

The State Department’s report found that the project would create nearly 2,000 jobs lasting for two years and would support more than 40,000 jobs, and further finds that the pipeline provides enough positives to negate whatever negatives the EPA believes may result.

Even the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers found reason to criticize the EPA’s zealous efforts to protect us from every conceivable negative influence in our lives. The Boilermakers’ President Emeritus Charles W. Jones states in a commentary on the union’s website, “particle and ozone standards will damage the economy without significantly helping the environment.”

The EPA has moved to make ozone and airborne particle standards so strict, in fact, “that former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus has called them ‘an impossible standard of perfection,” the commentary continues. “So strict that many U.S. electrical power plants, pulp mills, cement kilns, chemical plants, smelters, and manufacturing plants are expected to close down rather than try to meet them. Thousands of American workers could lose their jobs. So strict that many of the scientists on the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) cannot support them,”  Jones states, citing the effects on his organization’s members.

Thirty-nine Congressional Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R -Ky., are attempting to use a rare legislative tactic to block planned Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas standards that would limit the amount of carbon new power plants can emit. The rarely used Congressional Review Act enables the filing of a formal resolution of disapproval that allows Congress to block executive branch regulations that it considers onerous.

Last month, a federal court dealt a serious blow to the EPA’s renewable fuels push by ruling that the agency exceeded its authority by mandating refiners use cellulosic biofuels because of their commercial scarcity, a determination that should not require legal action.

It is encouraging to see opposition to the tyranny of the EPA growing, and at last see meaningful opposition coming from Congress. However, the majority of this opposition comes from Republicans, while the timid Democrats mostly sit on their hands, allowing the executive branch to run roughshod over the legislative branch, while their constituents get crushed under the federal boot.

The Democrats simply look the other way, likely because the lead perpetrator of this unconstitutional behavior is one of their own. They ought to think a little (for a change) and realize that someday it may be a Republican in the position to abuse the office, and the Congress.

It is doubtful that any of this will have much of a positive effect on this out-of-control agency, which, because of its ideological blinders and the infection of uncontrolled zealotry that is the hallmark of the Obama administration, ignores the damage its policies and regulations do to the country it is supposed to serve.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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