Rein in the EPA – Carefully

We have to protect the environment.  Our lives and the future of the human race depend on it.  No one wants US cities to look like Beijing during high smog events.  No one wants to drink contaminated water or see rivers full of garbage.  The EPA has a valid function so it shouldn’t be abolished.  I think it has gotten “drunk on power” under the previous administration and needs to be reined in somewhat.  It seems to have morphed from basing actions on scientific studies and cost/benefit analyses to basing actions on bureaucratic authority.  That’s often a problem with agencies that can make rules but have no accountability to the voters.  It’s particularly noticeable in that the EPA rushed through some new rules in the last few days of the Obama administration.  Was that really enough time for a thorough analysis?  The EPA’s job is protecting the environment, not bureaucratic jobs.

Rather than delve into the controversial topic of climate change I’ll discuss a local matter that can really hurt taxpayers, and that’s wastewater treatment, a subject that’s very localized.  Suppose a city has wastewater treatment plants that meet current discharge specifications.  A company develops a treatment method that is more efficient, i.e., can better clean the water, and suddenly the city gets a notice from the EPA that they must meet this new “standard” or face ridiculously high fines.  Does the EPA have to provide scientific evidence that this new standard is necessary or are they working to “as low as achievable”?  That’s not science, it’s pandering to industry.

Another issue that involves local water is the EPA effort to exert control over virtually every body of water in the country, including small privately-owned ponds and “ephemeral” water (streams and puddles that only exist seasonally).  This extension of the EPA’s original mandate along with its power to levy fines has made life miserable for some farmers and other landowners.  Unless the landowner is using those small waters to dispose of toxic materials (which is illegal anyway) this is nothing but a bureaucratic power grab.

I’m offering the following suggestions to “bring the EPA down to earth” without destroying the earth:

  1.  Temporarily freeze all regulations that were issued between January 1, 2017 and January 21, 2017 until they are adequately reviewed for necessity.
  2. Establish a “show me the science” policy for cities faced with sudden revisions to local requirements for matters like wastewater treatment that would require costly upgrades to plants that meet current specifications.  Explain to the community why the change is needed in plain English, and allow a reasonable implementation time.
  3. Reexamine the EPA authority to levy very high fines, specifically in cases involving changes to standards that are currently being met (as opposed to willful violators).  This is a power that is subject to abuse and that drains money needed to make the changes.
  4. EPA officials need to understand that with authority comes accountability.  Fire employees involved in the Animas river disaster and bar involved contractors from Federal contracts for 10 years.
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