EPA's popularity possibly waning
WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - President Barack Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency has managed to antagonize not only its foes but now might also be alienating its friends.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has pledged "to focus on seven priorities for EPA's future: taking action on climate change; improving air quality; cleaning up our communities; protecting America's waters; assuring the safety of chemicals; expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice; and building stronger state and tribal partnerships."
During the past several months, though, the EPA has received vitriolic criticism from all sectors of society. Federal government departments, private industry, politicians and the courts are among those that have voiced opposition to not only what EPA does but how it is conducting business.
An EPA Inspector General report released Sept. 28 said that it failed to follow guidelines of peer review for its endangerment finding. The report said the EPA did not make the results of their study on climate change public.
During an Oct. 14 EPA hearing in Bismarck, N.D., the CEO of a rural electric cooperative said, "EPA is improperly impinging on the state's authority by proposing to impose unjustified burdens on those who pay for electricity."
A bipartisan coalition of senators introduced legislation Nov. 9 to thwart implementation of the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the agency's mercury and air-toxics rule for power plants, known as Utility MACT.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted a stay on Dec. 30 of the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule pending the court's review. Fifteen states had asked for this review.
But the greatest invective has come from the courts in 2012.
This past January, during oral arguments, some U.S. Supreme Court justices criticized the EPA's attitude in the case of an Idaho couple trying to build a vacation home. One justice characterized the EPA's conduct as outrageous. The Court eventually ruled against the EPA, issuing its opinion March 22.
The next day, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reversed EPA's denial of a mine permit which had been issued by the Army Corps of Engineers three years earlier. The judge said EPA exceeded its authority and its action was extraordinary.
The Fifth Circuit said March 26, "the EPA had no legal basis" to invalidate Texas environmental emission regulations." It said the EPA's reasons for doing so were "created out of whole cloth."
Robert Gordon also thinks the EPA is taking extraordinary measures. He is with the D.C.-based think tank the Heritage Foundation. He once worked for the House Committee on Resources, helping to craft the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act.
"The EPA is clearly aggressively implementing an agenda. I think there is more in store. They have things in the pipeline that are aggressive that do not have a scientific rationale," he said.
"They are pursuing a philosophical rationale. The agency has grown in terms of budget. They have definitely been given a green light to pursue a dogmatic agenda."
Criticism of the EPA has been bipartisan. The March 28 edition of the State Journal, a West Virginia newspaper, said that Nick Rahall, the Democrat Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, noted he was once an EPA booster but now says it has "not been reasonable in their approach."
Rahall was quoted saying, "(I)t had long been my belief that the EPA could be a positive force in the permitting process for surface coal mining in West Virginia. After years of battles in courtrooms that left coal miners and coal communities in a long, tenuous limbo, this EPA had an opportunity to help achieve a center point that would provide for both energy development and environmental preservation. But it has utterly failed."
U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., issued a statement Wednesday about the EPA's emissions limits. He said, "We have known since the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that greenhouse gas emissions would be cut to meet environmental standards, and we know that coal faces intense competition from other energy sources, as investments are increasingly moving to cheaper natural gas.
"In the near-term, EPA has exempted all coal-fired plants that are operating today or under construction. But for the future, the key question is whether the new emissions standard is set so high that even the best known clean coal technologies can't meet it."
Dr. Kenneth Green thinks the EPA is redefining its mission to include things far outside of its Congressional mandate to simply protect human health and prevent major ecosystem damage. He is the resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for environmental issues.
He was a designated expert reviewer for two reports by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He believes the EPA is doctrinaire.
"Jackson is an acolyte of Carol Browner," Green said. "I don't think the EPA ever had a more aggressive, more partisan, more environment-uber-alles administrator. Browner, of course, was an acolyte of Gore, whose extreme environmental fixations rendered him little more than a joke among serious people.
"He is a bit like a televangelist for environmentalism now, giving crazy speeches that have no connection to reality for megabucks, and living like a prince while telling others to embrace life as paupers for the sake of the environment."
Green believes that the Jackson administration has continued Browner's policies. These policies have made the EPA uncontrollable and expansionist, he says.
When the EPA uses terms like "sustainability" and "environmental justice," it is asserting its right to do virtually anything it wants to, from educational opportunities to the rich/poor income gap, Green argues.
"They are single-value zealots with a zero-risk, zero-impact mentality that has cost as no option, and treats concerns about individual rights, personal responsibility and scientific caution as mental illnesses," Green said.
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