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Crosstalk: Should Trump scale back EPA role?

by RaeLynn Ricarte

Complying with Environmental Protection Agency regulations costs the U.S. economy more than $300 billion per year and kills thousands upon thousands of jobs.

Nevertheless, the media and conservationists are apoplectic over President Donald Trump’s pledge to jumpstart the economy by slashing agency regulations by 75 percent.

On Monday, Trump signed an order requiring agencies to cut two existing regulations for every new rule introduced.

Something’s got to be done to rein in these massive and unaccountable bureaucracies.

The unequalled expansion of the administrative state under Obama has crushed America’s entrepreneurial spirit and productivity.

Trump has rightfully referred to out of control regulations as the “anchor dragging us down.”

There is absolutely no aspect of our lives that is not touched by regulations these days.

The EPA is the most rogue of all the federal agencies — and that’s saying a lot!

In 2014, the Heritage Foundation performed an analysis of the EPA’s proposed regulations on new and existing electricity-generating plants to control emissions of carbon dioxide.

That think tank determined that every household in the U.S. would pay $1,200 a year in increased energy costs, and 600,000 jobs would be lost when coal-fired plants were put out of business.

The EPA habitually hides the extent of its regulatory labyrinth from the public and Congress, and yet receives about $8 billion per year for its 15,000 employees to work a leftist political agenda.

Sound science appears to be routinely discarded by EPA officials to achieve a political agenda.

One of the most egregious examples of this agenda was the rule adopted in 2015 that defined waters of the United States so expansively that even irrigation ditches, small ponds and stream beds that are dry much of the year fell under Clean Water Act protections.

The expanded definition gave the agency more control over land-use activities.

The political agenda of the EPA became clear not long after it was established by President Richard Nixon in 1970. From the onset, bureaucrats tried to suppress research counting the cost of compliance with air pollution standards.

In 1991, a panel of outside scientists reviewed EPA practices and concluded that the agency often tailored its science to justify its actions and shields key research from peer review.

At that time, EPA Administrator William Reilly acknowledged, “scientific data have not always been featured prominently in environmental efforts and have sometimes been ignored even when available.”

In the 1990s, EPA officials refused to divulge how they calculated the cost-benefit analyses of regulations. Then leader Carole Browner blatantly broke federal law by lobbying against legislation designed to stop some EPA abuses, going so far as to destroy records to hide how decisions were reached.

In 1998, a dozen career employees at the EPA went public with charges that people were “harassed, even fired, for protesting illegal or irresponsible behavior by managers who jeopardize the proper enforcement of the law.”

There seems to be no end to corruption within the ranks. For example, one EPA employee watched pornography for up to six hours a day on his computer — and still received performance awards.

And then there is the case of the administrator who hired 17 of her family members and friends as paid interns and sold jewelry and weight loss pills from her office. Instead of being disciplined, she was given a special award in 2010, along with at $35,000 bonus.

It is more than time to clean up this mess!

by Mark Gibson

President Trump has asserted that environmental regulations are “out of control” and nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruit to lead and reform the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pruitt asserted in his confirmation hearing that “My first and primary goal as administrator will be to return the agency to that core mission of protecting the American people through common sense and lawful regulations.”

This approach seems popular. In Gallup polls administered between 2001 and 2016, an average of 49 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “There is too much government regulation.”

However, in a Reuters poll released this month, 60 percent of those responding said they wanted EPA's power strengthened or maintained.

Like many areas of conflict, Americans are not black-and-white in their views: While they are concerned about regulation stifling businesses, they also value clean air and water.

Americans see the balance between these competing issues as being off kilter.

Sara Rinfret, a researcher with the University of Montana, has studied relationships between environmental regulators and regulated businesses.

“In contrast to popular images of bureaucrats tying entrepreneurs up in red tape, I have found that interactions between regulators and the private sector at the federal and state levels typically are collegial, and that both sides work to build and maintain cooperative partnerships,” she recently wrote in a story on the issue circulated by the Associated Press.

She notes that many of the processes by which policy is formed, including environmental regulations, are adversarial.

“The criterion should be whether the process and final rule are fair,” she stated.

When a rule is condemned as unfair by those being regulated — farmers and ranchers facing the new water regulations, for example — those rules should be reconsidered and adjustments made.

Rinfret points out that both regulatory agencies and regulated businesses, when surveyed, report having positive relationships with each other.

That is a goal well worth working toward, as that is what will make those rules effective in protecting our environment.

On Friday, the former head of Trump's transition team at the EPA said in an interview with the Associated Press that he expects the new administration to seek significant budget and staff cuts within the agency.

This should give pause to the business community: Such challenges and budget cuts could mean significant delays for businesses, especially in the near term.

The American College of Environmental Lawyers predicts that “As experienced personnel are replaced by those who are less experienced, or in many instances not replaced at all, these routine business activities [such as permitting] will increasingly be subject to delays which may ultimately have serious impacts on the company.”

Clean air and clean water benefit all Americans. Protecting public health and natural resources can also benefit business in tangible ways — for example, by stimulating innovation that leads to new products and markets that benefit us all.

Yes, we need smart, fair, effective regulations. We have plenty of “superfund” sites right here in The Dalles that bear testimony to the dangers of industrial waste and the high cost of cleanup.

Many of those sites were born out of ignorance, not a disregard for the environment or public safey.

We know better today, and need to get it right.

Gutting an agency, without the “common sense” promised, will be bad for for all of us.


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