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EPA Tag

Contrary to what the headlines are telling you, there's more going on in Congress than the debate over "fast track" free trade agreements. At the end of last month, the Obama Administration worked via the EPA to drastically expand the power federal regulators have over private property owners. The new "Waters of the United States" ("WOTUS") rule (re-dubbed the "Clean Water Rule") was decried as a power grab by both industry moguls and conservative members of Congress, who believe the changes stand to kill jobs and raise the cost of doing business, especially for those working in the agricultural industries. Republican Congressman Bob Gibbs (OH-7) is leading the charge in the House to overturn the WOTUS rule. The Regulatory Integrity Protection Act passed out of the House in mid-May with bipartisan support (237 republicans and 24 democrats voted for the measure) and if enacted, would force the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to overhaul the new rules to specifically identify waters covered and not covered under EPA regulations. The Act would put an emphasis on local control and individual property rights, which Gibbs says should be a key concern for anyone who stands to be affected by and increased EPA presence.

Another left narrative bites the dust and this time, by the agency considered to be the equivalent of an environmental Pontiff, the Environmental Protection Agency. Hydraulic fracking is still a relatively new technology (as it relates to using it for shale gas deposits). Most people would not have heard of it 10 years earlier, but now it is common. Environmental groups aided by Democrat politicians have been successful in banning fracking in counties and municipalities across the country. New York banned it statewide based on hysterical nonsense about the lack of a good economic impact and it supposed harm to the environment. First on the economic front, The American Enterprise Institute says the economic impact has been very positive:
The direct benefit of increasing oil and gas production includes the value of increased production attributable to the technology. In 2011, the USA produced 8,500,983 million cubic feet of natural gas from shale gas wells. Taking an average price of $4.24 per thousand cubic feet, that’s a value of about $36 billion, due to shale gas alone. This increase in value produced can also increase the number of people employed directly in production and delivery activities. These numbers will often be pointed to in political debates. In an economy with full employment, such an increase would not be considered a ‘benefit’ per se, but a state such as New York with a high unemployment rate of 8.2 might wish to weigh the potential employment effects when evaluating the merits of a moratorium. At its peak in 1980, the oil and gas extraction sector supported 267,000 employees, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. As more easily tapped oil reserves grew scarcer and domestic oil production gradually declined over the following two decades, so did employment, with the number of employees in oil and gas extraction shrinking by over 50 percent to 118,400 in 2003. Since 2003, however, there has been a steady upward climb in employment, slowing only slightly during 2009 and reaching 198,400 by December 2012 – over a 67 percent increase. As other industries have sputtered in the a”ermath of the 2008 recession, oil and gas has been a remarkably bright spot in the US economy, with employment at the end of 2012 at its highest since 1987.

While presented as a means to protect drinking water and "hold[ing] polluters accountable," the Obama administration's latest EPA rule, Waters of the United States, is rather more far-reaching than many conservatives like. According to the document (full text embedded below), the rule itself is not intended as regulatory (that probably comes later), but is instead "a definitional rule that clarifies the scope of the 'waters of the United States' . . . ."  Essentially, almost all fresh water, including that in "water-filled depressions," is now under the federal government's purview and subject to government oversight and regulation. Politico reports:
On its face, the Waters of the United States rule is largely a technical document, defining which rivers, streams, lakes and marshes fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. But opponents condemn it as a massive power grab by Washington, saying it will give bureaucrats carte blanche to swoop in and penalize landowners every time a cow walks through a ditch. . . . "This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable,” Obama said in a statement after the EPA released a final version of the regulation. “My administration has made historic commitments to clean water, from restoring iconic watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes to preserving more than a thousand miles of rivers and other waters for future generations. With today’s rule, we take another step towards protecting the waters that belong to all of us.”
Obama's emphasis is on safety and clean water; the rule, however, greatly expands the definition of what waters "belong to us all," including that on privately-owned property.

Say the name "Laurence Tribe" to anyone connected to the legal community, and you're sure to get a reaction. Love him or hate him, Harvard Law's Professor Tribe has made a name for himself as one of those fearlessly liberal legal scholars that we can always depend upon to be fearlessly liberal. Well, except when he's not. Yesterday, the New York Times published a profile on Professor Tribe and his unlikely legal alliance with Peabody Energy. Peabody is a coal company that is working overtime to shoot down a controversial EPA regulation that would place a limit on CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. For environmentalists, the regulation is important because it forms the backbone of President Obama's climate change agenda; if they lose this regulation, the plan loses its teeth. Peabody retained Professor Tribe to argue their case against the EPA in federal court, and the reaction from the legal community has bordered on apoplectic. From the NY Times:

It looks like the "luck of the Irish" continues today. Last week, I reported the US House of Representatives was poised to vote on H.R. 1030, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015. The purpose of this legislation is “to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.” The measure passed, along with another one that would put an additional check on the EPA:
The House has passed two Republican-backed bills that would place new restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency. A bill approved Wednesday would require the EPA to disclose scientific data behind proposed regulations, while a measure passed Tuesday would prohibit the agency from appointing registered lobbyists to the EPA's Science Advisory Board. Both were approved largely along party lines. The scientific data bill was approved 241-175, while the advisory board measure was approved 236-181. Republicans said the bills would increase transparency at the EPA and make it more accountable to the public. "Right now, the EPA is trying to impose harmful regulations based on scientific studies that no one can check — not the public, not independent scientists, not even the United States Congress,' said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "It's called 'secret science' and it's wrong." If the EPA or any other agency proposes a rule that adds costs to businesses or infringes on private property, "the people have every right to know why," McCarthy said.

One of the earliest projects I took on as a citizen activist was promoting the work of former UCLA professor, Dr. James Enstrom, an epidemiologist who challenged the voodoo science used by the California Air Resources Board to pass stiff, new air emission regulations. David French of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) explained what subsequently happened to this heroic whistle-blower:
The facts of the case were astounding. As the environmentalist Left pushed new, job-killing regulations in the interests of “public health,” Dr. Enstrom took his own look at the data and determined that the health threat from diesel emissions was being wildly overstated. As he looked further, he discovered that the lead researcher pushing the new regulations actually possessed a fraudulent degree, purchased from “Thornhill University,” a shady, long-distance diploma mill. Moreover, members of the state’s “scientific review panel” tasked with evaluating the science had in some cases overstayed term limits by decades. At least one was a known ideological radical. (He was a member of the infamous “Chicago Seven.”) Dr. Enstrom did what a scientist should do. He exposed public corruption, called out fake scientific credentials, and worked to save California from onerous and unnecessary regulations. So UCLA fired him. After more than 30 years on the job.

In 2012, Mark Levin's Landmark Legal Foundation filed a FOIA request with the EPA in an attempt to discover if senior agency officials were postponing the implementation of key (read: controversial and politically-damaging) regulations until after the 2012 presidential elections. As soon as that FOIA request was received by the EPA, the agency was bound to preserve any and all documentation covered by the request. What happened next was predictable, and not at all out of character for an Obama agency. After months of hoop-jumping that extended beyond Election Day 2012, Landmark finally went to court and asked a judge to levy sanctions against the EPA for failing to comply with the request. Now, more than thirty months after Landmark's initial request was submitted, a court has thrown the hammer down on the EPA's lazy and borderline unethical FOIA fulfillment standards. Judge Royce C. Lamberth didn't grant Landmark the sanctions it asked for in its lawsuit against the EPA, but she did bestow 25 pages worth of condemnation upon the heads of current and former EPA officials. From the ruling:
Two possible explanations exist for EPA's conduct following Landmark Legal Foundations' filing of a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request in August 2012. Either EPA intentionally sought to evade Landmark's lawful FOIA request so the agency could destroy responsive documents, or EPA demonstrated apathy and carelessness toward Landmark's request. Either scenario reflects poorly upon EPA and surely serves to diminish the public's trust in the agency.

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake released a report on the EPA's misuse of taxpayer money called the Science of Splurging. “For an agency keen to regulate every puddle from a rainstorm, the EPA has proven itself remarkably inept when it comes to managing its own affairs,” said Flake. “After years of handing out blank checks in the form of omnibus appropriations bills and continuing resolutions, it’s time for Congress to return to regular order and restore accountability at the EPA.”

The IRS-Lois Lerner email and hard drive destruction has received a lot of attention. Less so another possible scandal at the EPA, regarding the alleged destruction of documents requested by the Landmark Legal Foundation, with which Mark Levin is affiliated.. Fox News covered it in late June, but most of the mainstream media is absent, More missing emails, crashed hard drives, this time at EPA:
The Internal Revenue Service isn’t the only government agency dealing with missing emails or faulty hard drives. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy on Wednesday cited a similar cyber snafu during a House Oversight Committee hearing. “Another missing hard drive?” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, asked McCarthy. She responded, “We are having trouble acquiring the data.”
It's not just a problem of Congressional oversight. The Landmark Legal Foundation served a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the EPA regarding attempts to influence the 2012 election by delaying damaging environmental regulations until after the election. We reported on that delay in 2013, which concerned not just environmental regulations but Obamacare also. Landmark alleges that it has met stonewalling and missing documents, and now it's seeking sanctions, as described in a press release today, Landmark is seeking sanctions:
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