Virtually gone amuck during Obama’s last years, the EPA has issued masses of job-killing and job-preventing regulations and rulings that only a very strong and knowledgeable managerial hand can fix. That involves annulling or reversing recent rulings and replacing or relocating many of the agency’s top staffers. Congress also needs to reverse recent rulings and subpoena the records of staffers who’ve dealt with outside environmental groups to bring about the EPA’s job-destroying “sue and settle” and “sweetheart suits” schemes. These prevent productive economic uses for a vast amount of land. I have written before how there is almost no new mining investment in Western lands and Alaska because of EPA regulations and generated lawsuits.
The ways Washington hurts job creation and burdens industry with billions of unproductive costs are far too many to fit in a short article; however, I refer readers to my many past articles at Reason. Just two of them give lots of details and links, including explanations about carbon dioxide, cement, ozone, lead paint, factory boilers, oil drilling, ethanol, and radiation health limits in case of “dirty bombs.” (See: “Job Killing Environmentalists” and “Confronting Washington’s Job Killers.”)
No wonder there was a recent demonstration in Washington opposing Trump’s most threatening nomination to rein in the EPA, Myron Ebell, to oversee its transition! He has now followed through with the selection of Oklahoma’s tough attorney general, Scott Pruitt, to be the new director. Pruitt knows what he’s doing, being one of the leaders of the 28-state lawsuit challenging the EPA’s Clean Air Act with its many costly regulations, including the shutting down of coal-fired power plants, which provide much of America’s electricity. Trump’s promises of keeping and creating more blue-collar jobs in America will depend upon Pruitt’s reversing and reining in the agency. The current leadership should be fired or relocated to Alaska, maybe to study polar bears, which actually are thriving.
Congress also needs to control the EPA’s self-funding operations, which are designed to allow it independence of political control by Congress. More and more government agencies actually keep some of the money from the large fines they level. The EPA now has something called the Mitigation Trust Fund. Its recent settlement with Volkswagen for the company’s falsifications of emissions tests orders the company to put $2 billion over future years into the trust fund for the EPA to make grants to favored constituencies. One of them is Indian tribes, who then would be expected to support and reinforce EPA programs to cut back future emissions—let’s call them jobs—which create, say, engine exhaust. Also there is another $2 billion “to promote the use of zero-emission vehicles and technology.” This in addition to the $10 billion in costs to Volkswagen so far. Think of all the new bureaucratic jobs and spending money these EPA self-administered funds will generate.
The biggest EPA threat and costs involve the theories of human-caused global warming, now called climate change, which its proponents are using to try to prevent new oil pipelines and the incredible new production from horizontal fracking, not to mention vastly raising electricity costs. Actually, all the dire computer models of ten years ago proved to be wrong. Yet for many people it has now become a virtual religion. Americans are bombarded with stories from the New York Times and Washington Post almost every week, fanning fears.
There is no better example of such yellow journalism than the front-page headlines of the Times, such as one on November 25: ”Rising Seas Turn Coastal Houses into a Gamble—Fears of Market Crash.” Only reading halfway through the long, scary report does one discover that it is cutbacks in federal subsidies for flood insurance, not rising seas, that has substantially raised costs and affected prices. Past flood claims on a property used to go unreported, but now many states are requiring disclosure upon sale of a property. Also, the Times reports, many new borrowers are now required to obtain flood insurance. The actual expected sea-level increase of 1 to 2 millimeters per year (according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report) would be 200 millimeters over the next hundred years, or eight inches, which equals less than one inch every 10 years. A newer article from the BBC reports the possible rise at 20 to 40 inches over the next 100 years—or two to four inches every ten years. Then the Washington Post warns that if Antarctica also melted, the seas could rise 50 feet by the year 2500. However, Antarctica has actually been gaining more ice these past years.
Forbes writer Mark Hendrickson explains how the EPA repeatedly abuses and exceeds its legislated authority using, for example, the Clean Water Act, “which pertains explicitly to navigable waters as a pretext to regulate land where puddles form after heavy rains.” His very detailed article “EPA, Worst of Many Federal Rogue Agencies,” reads like a Franz Kafka horror story.
Even when the EPA does finally correct past errors in one area, it doesn’t follow through to change others. For example, after finally modifying its nuclear radiation threat levels by a factor of hundreds for civil defense (a tiny radiation dirty bomb would have entailed evacuating half a city under its old rules), it still maintains the same obsolete rules for nuclear energy plants and superfund cleanup sites, thus adding billions to their costs.
Nearly all the EPA’s “science” about risks comes from the discredited linear no threshold theory. This postulates that if 100 aspirin would kill a man, than out of 100 men each taking one aspirin, one would die. Exposing the agency’s reliance on the theory will go far toward gaining more public confidence in cutting its claws. This theory is also the Achilles’ Heel of much of the EPA edifice; exposing it is the way to cut through masses of lawsuits which will be filed to prevent modifying past regulations.
Tackling this monster will be very, very tough. The procedures for just reforming its most egregious rules can be very onerous and time consuming, also involving long lawsuits as the well-funded extremists in the environmental movement will fight tooth and nail for relevance and “their religion.” Opponents are smeared as charlatans or industry lobbyists. Well of course, it’s affected industries which are most damaged. Government-funded EPA proponents have time and again been exposed as hiding, obfuscating, or directly lying about contrary information. Also, it is often well-paid blue-collar jobs that EPA regulations most affect. White-collar or fast-food workers are far less threatened by draconian EPA standards. And lots of the job losses blamed upon free trade are rather because of handicaps imposed by Washington onto U.S. industry.
Jon Basil Utley is publisher of The American Conservative.