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.

Retroactive Laws: A New Assault on Private Property

A retroactive law is a law that criminalizes a past action that wasn’t a crime at the time.  Known as “ex post facto” laws, they are strictly and unambiguously prohibited by Article I, Section 9 (for Congress) and Section 10 (for states) of our Constitution.  They can be used to punish a person and/or to seize their property which is why such laws are banned.  Progressives, however, see the Constitution as an obstacle to their agenda.  I’ll look at one example of how they’re being used and then discuss the very slippery slope of ex post facto laws.

The state of California has passed some restrictive new gun laws.  One bans the manufacture and sale of high capacity magazines; the other (SB1446) prohibits possession of such magazines (hence requires confiscation) that were legally purchased in the past.  The constitutionality of the first law may be under debate everywhere but the second one is clearly unconstitutional.  It’s a retroactive ban, therefore it’s a ex post facto law.  Those who don’t submit to a mandatory “buyback” will be criminalized for what was a legal activity at the time of purchase.  The term “buyback” itself is a misnomer.  The government can’t buy back something it never owned.  If the government asserts ownership of all private property it’s a communist government.  Unless the government is paying full retail value for confiscated items it’s also theft.  Obviously confiscation of items obtained illegally or used for criminal purposes is a different matter that doesn’t involve ex post facto laws.

OK, you don’t care about the Second Amendment, but let’s look at just how slippery a slope ex post facto laws against private property could become.

The EPA has issued increasingly strict tailpipe emission and gas mileage requirements for cars and other light vehicles.  Tier I took affect in 1994, Tier 2 in 2004, and the Obama administration has approved even stricter mileage requirements in the future.  The standards that took effect in 1994 and 2004 effectively banned the future sale of new vehicles that didn’t meet those standards but they didn’t ban the ownership of older vehicles.  Suppose, however, that our progressive government, influenced by the socialist UN, decided to confiscate all vehicles that didn’t meet Tier 2 standards?  Of course they’d pay owners some token sum for surrendering their means of transportation but it would impose the greatest hardship on those who could least afford it.  Do they care?  NO!  Most politicians are rich.  As  I said once before, rich elitists will always live above the messes they cause for the masses.

You don’t think this could happen?  Don’t make me say “I told you so” again!  Over a year ago I predicted that we might someday see an environmental impact tax on meat.  Now the UN is actively recommending such a tax and Denmark is considering one.  Socialists are as relentless as ISIS when it comes to imposing their will on everyone.

The concept that private property that is obtained legally and not used for criminal purposes belongs to individuals, not the government, is fundamental to our freedom and our entire way of life.  Don’t let socialists incrementally deprive us of that freedom.

No Accountability, No Consequences, No Problem.

Here’s a mission statement for all public employees:

The mission of public employees is to serve the people professionally and ethically at all times.

That’s right. Public employees work for the government, but since the government represents We the People , they work for us, and we have a right to expect integrity. It’s time to revisit the subject of responsibility with respect to recent events. There’s a lot going wrong and no one is being held accountable. All government employees receive procedural training, security training, and some form of ethics training. Technical employees are supposed to know their profession. Those who break the rules are subject to disciplinary actions ranging from pay cuts or days off up to removal and filing of criminal charges, yet this isn’t happening. Let’s look at a few cases where the objective seems to be protecting a corrupt administration rather than serving the public.
Let’s start with the problems at the VA. The President acknowledged there were problems at the VA in 2008, but didn’t take ownership of the issue until public outrage forced him to. The long delays in providing treatment to our veterans are medically and morally unacceptable. Whistleblower retaliation is legally unacceptable. Equally unacceptable are cover-up efforts, including falsified records and destruction of records. Any employee, regardless of level, who falsifies official records is subject to disciplinary action, yet there has been none. The issue of overpaid administrators and excessive non-medical purchases must be addressed too so that the money can be used to hire medical providers.
Now turn to the IRS and its “lost” emails. Anyone who buys the hard drive crash story is computer illiterate. When a email is sent it goes to an agency server where addresses can read it at any time. Servers have three levels of protection against data loss: fault tolerance, backup power, and periodic backup copies. While a copy of the email may reside on the sender’s computer it is hardly the sole backup. Suspicion is also raised by an email that said to be careful what was sent in email because Congress might want to see them. As liberals love to say when defending surveillance of honest citizens “why should you care if you’re not doing anything wrong?”. The supervisor in charge could have been fired (at least) but instead was allowed to take retirement with an unblemished record.
The State Department had serious problems under Hillary Clinton. Where are the missing 6 billion dollars? Was it poor accounting practices or is the money really missing? What about the lies surrounding the Benghazi attack? No one believed the movie protest story from the start, so why did our officials keep repeating it and threaten to jail a film maker in violation of the First Amendment? Who authorized the lie? What about using personal email accounts to avoid Federal record keeping and security requirements? The average Federal employee would at least lose their job and probably face charges. Again no one has been held accountable.
The Department of Justice isn’t immune to criticism either. The “Fast and Furious” operation allowed 2000 “assault weapons” to be transferred to Mexican drug cartels. One was used to kill a US border agent. How many Mexicans have died is unknown. Who’s accountable? No one. Incidentally those are the same guns Democrats say honest citizens shouldn’t be allowed to own.
Now look at the last “crisis” on our southern border involving “unaccompanied minors”. Why the secrecy? Why were doctors told not to discuss possible public health threats? Why was a US Congressman denied entry into a US base housing “undocumented immigrants”? Why aren’t “immigrants” with violent gang tattoos being turned away? Again, where’s the accountability at Immigration and the CDC for failing to protect our nation and it’s citizens?
Finally let’s look at the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA wants to control “ephemeral” water, i.e., every puddle in the country. Those same scientists and engineers managed to poison an entire river system with three million gallons of toxic mine waste. Has anyone been fired?
Ethical and procedural lapses are pervasive, and ethical behavior cannot be restored at this point without a purge. Managers who directed or were aware of illegal activities must be fired. Any employee who falsified or destroyed records must be disciplined. Incompetent employees must be dismissed. Any contractor that participated in records “loss” must lose the contract and be barred from Federal contracts for 10 years. Employees must then be retrained, making it clear that illegal or unethical actions will not be tolerated. Without an example of real consequences they won’t believe it.

The long term future of the USA depends on security.

There are three levels of security that determine the future of a nation, physical security, economic security, and emotional security.  Without physical security the others aren’t possible, so I’ll begin there.

Physical security starts with secure borders.  It’s easier to keep the bad guys out than to recover from the damage they can do.  Any immigration reform must include improved border security.

It includes a strong military so that any hostile actions can be overwhelmingly crushed.  It doesn’t mean using the military to be “world police” or to try to impose our political system on countries where it simply wouldn’t work.

It includes law enforcement at Federal, state, and local levels to fight crime and maintain order.  They must communicate with each other.  It doesn’t mean having a “secret police” that can be used to suppress honest citizens.

It includes emergency response agencies that can quickly deliver aid in the event of natural or man-made disasters.  Health responders must have a supply of drugs critical to epidemic control.

It requires a strong, modern, and secure infrastructure that supports reliable  communication and the movement of resources within the country.

It includes a strong manufacturing base and a strategic materials stockpile.  Any total loss of a capability, such as the recent closure of the last lead smelter by the EPA, could become a weakness during a global conflict.  Don’t count on other countries to look out for us.

It requires cities to be prepared for the types of problems they might experience in their area such as flooding along a river and to take actions to mitigate risk before a disaster occurs.

Even a prepared population contributes to physical security.  That doesn’t mean everyone should be a “prepper” but everyone should have the basic emergency preparations we hear about all the time as well as any specific to their region.

“Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.”

That quote by the late Admiral H. G. Rickover, the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”, points to Department heads and upper management.  There seems to be an epidemic of “Not me!”, “They did it”, “I didn’t know” and so on in Washington these days.  Where does the buck stop?

Department heads and managers must be knowledgeable of and responsible for the actions of their departments.  If someone buys a thousand bucks worth of unneeded office supplies it’s low level stuff, but if someone mismanages millions of taxpayer dollars, violates the legal rights of people or organizations, or gets people killed then that someone and possibly his or her immediate boss should lose their jobs.  Why was no one fired when the State Dept. failed to protect the embassy in Benghazi, or the Justice Dept.’s “Fast and Furious” operation sold weapons to drug cartels, or the IRS targeted conservative political groups?

To paraphrase John Donne, “ask not at whom the finger points, it points at you”.

2016 Update:  Why were no EPA officials or EPA contractors fired after polluting the Animas River with millions of gallons of toxic mine waste?  Heavy metals that settle out on the bottom will be there for a long time.