Tag: EPA

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The Obama Administration’s EPA moved today to seal the fate of automotive manufactures by sticking firm with CAFE fuel mileage standards. Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE, requires the average to be 51.4 mpg by 2025, 8 years from now. The 2015 requirement is 33.2 mpg. Auto companies have lobbied for years that the standard […]

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The Environmental Permit Menace

 

Government Red TapeThere is wide bipartisan support to take immediate steps at all levels of government to improve America’s aging and dilapidated infrastructure. The challenge of infrastructure design is to move people and goods rapidly and efficiently from one place to another, while minimizing adverse environmental impacts.

Private firms can, of course, do a great deal of the legwork in putting this infrastructure together. But private enterprise cannot do the job alone. Long and skinny infrastructure elements, like railroads, highways, and pipelines, typically require the use of the government power of eminent domain to assemble the needed parcels of land. In addition, much infrastructure has to be built across government-owned land. The cooperation of government is thus needed for the completion of these projects. And there is always the risk that any major construction project could cause serious physical damage to the larger environment.

There is a need, therefore, to balance environmental protection with efficient and cost-effective infrastructure development. But it is at this critical juncture that the environmental movement has run off the rails. The passage of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in 1969 signaled the dawn of a new era in environmental law—the age of non-stop permit-process. NEPA itself contains no substantive requirements intended to enhance overall environmental protection; but it does introduce an elaborate system of “permitting” that must be satisfied before any particular project can proceed.

Sanctuary House

 

On Thanksgiving Day, I stopped by the palatial home of my longtime friend and lawyer, E. Hobart Calhoun, a fellow Mensa member, bon vivant, and part-time oenophile. He was burning leaves in his front yard. I jumped out of my reconditioned hybrid Ford Falcon and raced to stomp out the flames, feverishly checking for any sign of the EPA death squads routinely patrolling our neighborhoods these days.

“Have you lost your mind?” I asked E. as I stepped out of my rugged Duluth steel-threaded overalls, which had caught fire in spite of Duluth’s guarantee that they were flammable or inflammable, whichever word is right.

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According to an article in “Watts Up with That” (https://wattsupwiththat.com), Trump is planning on naming Myron Ebell, the head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute as his EPA transition manager.  That would be great news, he is a well known climate skeptic and among other credentials, he has been included in GreenPeace’s “Field Guide to Climate […]

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The past week has been rough for the EPA—the Supreme Court’s stay on the Clean Air Act, continuing complications from that toxic mine spill, the screw-up in Flint, MI, etc.  My question concerns the Flint fiasco. The EPA says it should have jurisdiction over drainage ditches, puddles, etc., because they contain water, occasionally, that would […]

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Supreme Court Puts the Clean Power Plan on Hold

 

clean-power-planOn February 8, the United States Supreme Court issued a terse order that by a five-to-four vote enjoined the Environmental Protection Agency from taking any steps to implement its Clean Power Plan. That most ambitious plan sought to impose a comprehensive long-term set of limitations on the use of coal, and indeed all energy sources, inside the United States. The order itself was a black box, which in its entirety reads:

West Virginia, et al. v EPA, et al.

The application for a stay submitted to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted. The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units,” 80 Fed. Reg. 64,662 (October 23, 2015), is stayed pending disposition of the applicants’ petitions for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and disposition of the applicants’ petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is sought. If a writ of certiorari is sought and the Court denies the petition, this order shall terminate automatically. If the Court grants the petition for a writ of certiorari, this order shall terminate when the Court enters its judgment.

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“You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!” James Pethokoukis wrote another in a series of articles pointing to the disturbing downward trend in new business start-ups.  Preview Open

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SCOTUS Smackdown of EPA: Top Takeaways

 

Stroke of the pen. Law of the land ... (record screech!)The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) did something remarkable on Tuesday: It momentarily respected the separation of powers and finally shouted “Enough!” to the lawless rule of the Environmental Protection Agency. SCOTUS issued a stay on Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” which is a radical, law-by-decree scheme to do nothing less than put this nation’s enormously complex energy-delivery system into the hands of central planners on the Potomac.

It was Clinton advisor Paul Begala who once said: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.” Not any more … at least for now in this case.

Here are the top three take-aways of this historic moment in SCOTUS history.

The Flint Fiasco

 
shutterstock_366517343

National Guard distributes bottled water in downtown Flint, January 23. Linda Parton / Shutterstock.com

The details of the Flint, MI, water scandal are all too well known to require more than a brief summary. For many years, Flint obtained its water service from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, which acquired its supply through both Lake Huron and the Detroit River. But with Flint in receivership since 2011, its city council decided to switch its water service to the Karegnondi Water Authority, which was in the process of constructing a pipeline to carry water to Flint from Lake Huron. Once Detroit realized that it could not keep the Flint account, it terminated its contract with Flint on 12 months notice in April 2014. Unfortunately, the KWA water pipeline was not scheduled for completion until sometime in 2016 and the Flint River was identified as an interim water source. The water from the Flint River contained many more impurities than the Detroit water. These chemicals leached the lead out of aging pipes, which worked itself into the water supply.

Jeb?

 

Jeb BushI am an admirer of Jeb Bush. He was a first-rate governor in Florida. Unlike Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio, he would not have to learn all that much on the job. He has executive experience. He has dealt with emergencies. He knows where the buck stops, and I am confident that he would handle foreign policy well.

This is no small matter. Foreign-policy competence is the sine qua non for everything else. Defending the national interest is the main reason we have a federal government. Paul, Cruz, Rubio — none of them has ever run anything larger than a medical practice. They would make freshman mistakes, and you and I would pay dearly for their blunders.

That having been said, I am wary of Jeb. He is too close to the Chamber of Commerce. He is too sympathetic to illegal immigrants. I would not trust him to put an end to the mass influx into the United States from abroad, and I do not like his stance on Common Core. He is a big-government Republican who is perfectly happy to encroach on state and local prerogatives. There is no way that he would cut back on the administrative state. With the right folks running the show, he would think, all will go well.

The Libertarian Podcast, with Richard Epstein: “The Uses and Abuses of the Clean Water Act”

 

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve just read this terrific Richard Epstein post on the Clean Water Act (see below), but where I can get some sweet Epstein environmental protection podcast action?” Well, friends, look no further. In this episode of The Libertarian podcast we endeavor to give a layman’s explanation of the Clean Water Act and explain how a well-intended law has obstructed genuine environmental protection while snagging innocent landowners in a needless regulatory morass. Listen in below or subscribe to The Libertarian podcast via iTunes so that you never miss an episode.

How the Clean Water Act Went Off the Rails

 

shutterstock_121109029Late last month, a federal district judge in North Dakota took the rare step of questioning the scope of the EPA’s jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, holding up a new agency rule that includes a capacious definition of the “waters of the United States.” As I note in my new column for Defining Ideas, we wouldn’t be in this mess were it not for a long string of judicial decisions that have consistently increased the EPA’s authority and muddled the legal landscape:

… The massive nature of this new regulation is made plain in the introductory paragraph of Justice Antonin Scalia’s 2006 plurality opinion in Rapanos v. United States:

“In April 1989, petitioner John A. Rapanos backfilled wetlands on a parcel of land in Michigan that he owned and sought to develop. This parcel included 54 acres of land with sometimes-saturated soil conditions. The nearest body of navigable water was 11 to 20 miles away. Regulators had informed Mr. Rapanos that his saturated fields were “waters of the United States,” that could not be filled without a permit. Twelve years of criminal and civil litigation ensued.”

Indigo Labor Day

 

shutterstock_87947731The front-page headline caught my attention: “Tide may be turning for working-class Americans.” Really? We just learned on Friday that a record 94 million Americans are not participating in the labor force. How can this be good news seven years after the Great Recession? Bloomberg columnist Al Hunt explains why we are in fact on the verge of Morning in America, Obama-style:

On the surface, this Labor Day holiday caps another dark year for U.S. unions and many working-class Americans.

Union membership in the private sector is 6.6 percent; it was 16.8 percent 30 years ago. Union members account for 35.7 percent of public sector workers, down slightly from a decade earlier.

Oil, Oil, Everywhere But Not A Drop To Burn?

 

imageIn the last few decades — indeed, in just the last few years — a combination of demand and technology has greatly expanded the amount of oil and gas reserves that can be economically extracted. Unfortunately, cars and industry can’t run off crude oil anymore than freshly-fracked methane, so those raw hydrocarbons are essentially useless until they’ve undergone a myriad of available processes to refine them into useable fuels. The whole reason for the Keystone XL pipeline, after all, is to bring heavy Canadian crude down to the Gulf Coast for refining.

A little over a year ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that American refineries — already the largest in the world — were pushing to increase their capacity at their existing plants, while others energy firms were trying to get into the business, often at a small scale. The results sounded impressive:

American refiners are set to add at least 400,000 barrels of oil-refining capacity a day [current world-wide refining capacity is about 17 million barrel per day] to existing plants between now and 2018, according to information compiled by The Wall Street Journal and the consulting firm IHS. That is the fuel-making equivalent of constructing a new, large-scale refinery.

The EPA’s Flawed Clean Coal Plan

 

shutterstock_296570639“On August 3, President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan – a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change.” So begins the Environmental Protection Agency’s homage to the President and itself. The harder question is whether it is true. On this point, there is a sharp division of opinion between the traditional supporters and traditional detractors of these sorts of measures, with few (if anyone) occupying a middle ground that finds some merit but expresses real concern over the structure and function of the plan. Nonetheless, it is better to back off for the moment from extravagant claims that the end is near if we don’t (or do) embrace this particular plan.

Let’s put aside the EPA’s shaky legal authority and concentrate on the plan itself. A sensible approach divides the regulatory inquiry into two halves. The first asks about the best institutional framework to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), most notably carbon dioxide. The second asks how to assess, on empirical grounds, the severity of the carbon dioxide problem that the EPA purports to tackle. The EPA falls short on both counts. I shall take them up in order.

The first point to note about the EPA’s clean coal initiative is that, given its inability to secure any congressional action on the subject, the agency is working solely within the existing statutory framework. That is a big mistake from the get-go. The pollution control scheme put into place under the Clean Air Act of 1970 (CAA), as modified by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, is the wrong way to deal with any form of pollution.