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Environmental Protection Agencies: Federal and State Versions Under SiegeRoger E. Bütow ODD MAN OUT for Salem-News.com
Reducing Power and Lowering Standards of Environmental Oversight Is Fiscal Stupidity.
(LAGUNA BEACH) - This battle is being pitched as the environment vs. jobs, a phony argument that uses economic recovery through ecological laxity as the key to our nation’s fiscal woes. This type of “Zero Sum Game,” is a winner-take-all scenario that will create more jobs---More jobs in the remediation and restoration career sectors after we’ve destroyed our country’s ecologies. Cleaning up the messes will not always be successful, but it will be quite the back end stimulus package.
They say that the longer you tell a lie, especially a big and grossly preposterous one, the more apt the listener is bound to believe you. The one I’ll deal with here is that by reducing the enforcement powers of the state and federal agencies, combined with the reform or restructuring of the protection acts and regulations these jurisdictional agencies implement, we will stimulate business growth hence create more jobs. That’s a half-truth, the work will be short-term employment opportunities, but potentially there will be long-term, irrecoverable harm.
This algorithm, this recovery formula or recipe is the big lie personified. It’s being broadcast in very convincing and sincere tones by trained voiceover actors in energy cartel and campaign ads, plus trumpeted very loudly as a rally cry by political candidates right down to the local municipal level.
Its evil siblings are the mega-corporations like Waste Management®, Exxon/Mobil®, Shell®, Chevron®, BP®, Halliburton® and of course their friendly cousins in the Great White North, the Canadian consortiums like Enbridge®.
The tsunami of TV commercials the energy and political PR flacks are posting, the ones we’re being deluged with, claim that by eliminating, or at minimum neutering, the ecological administrative structures that we’ve so carefully crafted will result in America once again being THE idyllic capitalist refuge, the dominant economic world power it once was. You know, all of that return to good old glory days and Manifest Destiny BS.
I am definitely no fan of our President Obama, but how is this, promising things that won’t or can’t be delivered any different than that Hopey-Changey thing? Hope is the refuge of fools and thieves, I’ll leave readers to decide which scenario is being played out---Perhaps it’s a sailing ship crewed by fools AND thieves.
As Americans, we need to face reality, to deal with what John Lennon so succinctly said about the Beatle breakup: The dream is over. In our case, we are still a great nation, we just don’t need, and can’t afford to bully and/or invade every 3rd world country we don’t agree with. We need to learn to cooperate or we’ll go under as the beacon of democracy. Unless you’re Dr. Strangelove, bombing people into oblivion is not a good strategy.
Basically, this insidious cabal, a tag team of political and conscienceless corporate forces, allege that loosening things up will lead to a reversal of our economic woes, create well paying jobs and re-inflate the shriveling numbers of the decimated middle class. An example of these masters of deceit in their propaganda campaign is the XL Pipeline. I stand by what I wrote about 15 months ago. . 'Oil, Canada': Enbridge Sings Proudly (http://www.salem-news.com/articles/october072010/canada-pollute-rb.php)
What the Keystone XL Pipeline really portends is the USA as a traitorous Judas to its own conservation core values (take that Republican President Teddy Roosevelt!), ignoring the states right’s concepts that have kept things balanced----allowing a large international petrochemical corporation from another nation to take a money-saving shortcut across our country’s middle….
And finally it’s become public knowledge that there’s no guarantee that we, the USA, will be the beneficiaries of the Canadian sleeping arrangements once those Houston, good ol' boy monopoly refineries turn it into gasoline. They’ll sell it to the highest bidder, that’s still their prerogative as of now. How that insures our immediate or future energy needs is beyond dopey.
The Chinese, the largest probable customers and recipients, are hedging their bet by purchasing entire tar sands fields and refining infrastructure on Canadian soil just in case. You won’t see them or another big client like India giving up on the combustion engine any time soon. They’re committed true believers for now.
And if you actually believe less regulation and oversight, hey, move to a major city in one these emerging industrial nations. Now try to (a) Breath deeply or find blue sky, (b) Drink the local water, whether from a stream or out of the tap, or (c) Eat the food grown in ewaste, or a toxic, hazardous waste dump equivalent soil.
Go to this website, scroll down and you’ll see what the Chinese have done to their own country in the name of cutting environmental corners. Make sure that your food’s settled: http://www.chinahush.com/2009/10/21/amazing-pictures-pollution-in-china
What the proponents of this two-pronged strategy (less enviro-agency oversight, roll back eco-ordinances) never mention is quite simple: All of that groundbreaking federal legislation some 40+ years ago was intended to reverse the obvious existent excessive abuse of our native ecosystems. It was supposed to percolate down through the state’s governance structures too.
Historically, our country’s natural resources and eco-systems were severely mistreated, had entered an acknowledged death spiral of entropy, our water, air and land becoming increasingly contaminated. Every biologist asked felt that panic was in order, if we didn’t act immediately there’d be no fall back position. Our nation’s build-out was predicated upon ignorance and neglect, the benefits to business trumped everything else, a runaway train run out of unbridled growth track. Scientists were pretty much adamantly convinced.
Native species of flora and fauna were becoming extinct in alarming numbers, most of them due to environmental stress. Science supported that, few doubted or argued. 90% of the federal legislation was signed by Richard Nixon, certainly no flaming tree hugger or Birkenstock-wearing, tofu-munching Druid.
Think of our nation as a spousal abuser, a drug addict or alcoholic---One that finally admitted that it needed an immediate and extreme intervention. All of the federal acts and regulations necessitated oversight agencies, hence US Fish & Wildlife, EPA, et al. The US Forest Service, founded in 1905 benefitted directly because now they had more help in managing, in protecting our national treasures.
The states were left to create, to fund structures that mimed these federal ones and tailored to their own internal conditions, their particular, burning, endemic issues and funding capabilities. In California we have Cal Fish & Game, plus our own USEPA-counterpart, Cal/EPA, which also umbrellas our Water Quality Control boards. The state versions could then experience both delegated authority powers for federal laws but generate ones that addressed their own regional unique problems. Here in California our own State Parks system, funded in 1928 via an initiative, also benefitted from a broader, more thoroughly protective family of interactive eco-agencies.
No one seemed to think that these ideas were bad when created. If anything, the increased protection equaled assurances that future generations wouldn’t live in an avoidable dystopic, systemically- polluted world. The one where drinking the water, breathing the air and eating healthy soil-supported food wouldn’t become a Russian roulette of risk factors.
To make implementation more practical, to lessen the Draconian specter of instant enforcement and 100% compliance that no one could achieve, these laws and their attendant agencies agreed to slowly ratchet down via increasingly prescriptive enforcement regulations.
I’ll beat the drum again: No one disputed that we were in dire environmental straits. These entities, both the agencies and the decrees, were created to stop or curtail the abuse, to reverse the entropy and degradation.
Perhaps another metaphor that works for S-N readers is an old, weathered, semi-abandoned family house. It’s a mess inside, plumbing in fatigue, electrical system dangerous, heat and vent kaput, never been properly cleaned up and was getting worse due to the sloppy habits of the previous generations. The outside fared no better, becoming dilapidated, everything antiquated and crumbling, a visual and physical ruin.
Rather than the onerous burden of a complete rehab, not expecting a magic wand to revert it to its original condition, the jurisdictions agreed to let the owners clean up incrementally, to gradually restore the home. What we have now are directives, instructions that get more specific as we winnow down to more scientifically established compliance goals. We’re trying to clean up this old house so that our children will have something safe and worthwhile to inherit.
Here in California, our Cal/EPA Water Quality Control Boards issue storm water permits for surface water discharges that reflect compliance with USEPA’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System parameters. These NPDES Permits are on an approximate 5-6 year cycle. They do demand or require increasingly more in each subsequent incarnation because that’s what everyone agreed to, that’s the gradual ratcheting down.
No one expected instantaneously beautiful clean skies, pristine purple mountain majesty wilderness area, or fruited plains with no pesticides. Incrementally, the goal, the legislative collective will was that it would happen gradually yet eventually.
In that light, this most recent press release by USEPA is disturbing. At a time when falling back from hard-fought ecological gains or recovery is clearly unwise:
“The amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment nationwide in 2010 increased 16 percent over the year before, reversing a downward trend in overall toxic releases since 2006.”
Readers can then see that we were beginning to achieve what was inherent in our original enviro-protection goals. As the federal government under Bush, and the increasing laxity by Republican governors and state legislators continues, a backsliding fiasco is taking place, a de facto regulatory coup d’etat. All in the holy name of assisting business and creating more jobs. The profits usually go to tax saving or sheltered off-shore banks, is this a great country or what...
And to prove that USEPA isn’t without its schizophrenic moments, they’re proposing rolling back water quality requirements for recreational use by returning to 1986 standards. Presently, when certain bacterial pathogen concentrations surpass standards 10% of the time, then enforcement actions and possible fines or sanctions are mandated.
USEPA is now willing to let states lower that standard or trigger point down to 25%...dare I typify that as delusional diluting of the Clean Water Act (CWA)? It’s pro forma that state regulations can be MORE stringent, not LESS that federal ones. By making it 1 out of 4 instead of 1 out of 10, our own federal government is “backsliding”…..Which by the way is also expressly forbidden under the CWA!
Strategies that ultimately have cumulative, unmitigated negative impacts are also prohibited under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and here the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), yet no one is addressing that either. The accumulation of adverse impacts through lowered standards, enforcement and increased laxity will only increase the velocity of the death spiral down.
Swaddled in misleading verbiage like “over-regulation,” (actually just simple compliance) even California’s own Governor Jerry (Moonbeam) Brown seems to be waffling, pitching his tent on the non-regulatory side of the bridge to the Elysian future he championed back when. Now we’ll have our own Bridge to Nowhere, ‘cause that’s where my beautiful state is headed.
Just like a state version of USEPA (Cal/EPA) or US Fish & Wildlife (Cal Fish & Game), all states have their own specific form of the federal parents. They’ve been under siege before, but now they’re hunkered down in the enviro-bunker. Their budgets are being butchered, staff have no oversight time for any but the largest, most grossly violating projects.
Jerry Jerry Quite Contrary, perhaps to placate the Republican wolves at the door, maybe appearing to be reasonable to the middle ground, undecided folks who have imbibed of the Republican/Energy cartel kool-aid, and perhaps looking ahead to secure his anticipated 2nd term victory, is leaning towards the previously unthinkable: The same insane, self-destructive, sabotaging mindset. Set CEQA aside for priority projects---Just who gets that fast track euphemism “priority” and how much they’ll need to contribute to his next campaign is uncertain at press time. We were betrayed by Arnie the Groppenführer, and this flip-flopping space case is an improvement?
Not far behind our whacky Uncle Jerry, the LA Times posted an editorial piece on January 30th of this year. Titled “Sensible CEQA Reform” (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-ceqa-20120130,0,2131695.story)
This is not sensible, it’s another “S” word: It’s environmental suicide. It invokes another objectionable and irrational phrase that’s become an anti-oversight mantra: STREAMLINE, as in make the process faster, cheaper and out of control. Eliminate most of the legal objection potential to insure that questionable projects are never properly analyzed for their long-term negative impacts.
Now guess who owns the LA Times, via his ownership of the Tribune Corp.®, and also just happens to donate major bucks to that über-right wing, anti-environment Super PAC American Crossroads co-founded by Karl Rove and others of its ilk? Sam Zell, that’s who.
It’s no hermetic secret that many of these people are End-Of-Times evangelical Christian folks, so think of what they’re supporting as a Planetary Reverse Mortgage Package: Irrevocably draining down non-renewable resources isn’t repugnant or to be avoided. They’re “eating up the house,” that is destroying or burning it one piece at a time when we were supposed to be rehabilitating it.
They postulate that the Rapture is at hand, so our life-sustaining, limited rations on this lifeboat can get used up during our generation because we’re on the verge of being the last one.
Sure, let’s be defenseless and let our environmental guard down, let’s leave the future of our environs in the greedy hands of these wealthy nut-job elitists. Mandate less oversight by empowering the local government domains as lead agencies where development cartels who’ve already paved my state over with cookie cutter subdivisions, asphalt and concrete galore can then lobby, buy off officials, then rule and reign supreme undisturbed by our judicial system. If you can’t fine someone, if you can’t take them to court, you have no options, no recourse. No laws, no police, no problem.
Great trickle down economics: They rob you, your family AND your nation of that rightful heritage, and when dead leave this world with more smog, more fouled undrinkable water, more gridlocked traffic, dead eco-systems, and amber waves of housing tracts on your hills but their ancestors coffers ARE filled to over-flowing.
Yes, loosening up oversight might create some short-term, probably low paying jobs to semi-skilled slaves working for disembodied, zombie rapist corporations. Fracking for natural gas will become a gold mine eventually, a cash cow for remediation companies after they’ve used your locale like a $20 meth hooker-----but sorry, your bucolic pasture will be a veritable Chernobyl dead zone. Don’t be so ungrateful, you had a few laughs, you were secure for a few years, had a few jobs along the way, right?
Readers might want to reacquaint themselves by perusing my “Freaking Fracking” column for S-N back in July of 2010: http://www.salem-news.com/
The long-term ramifications offer even more promise, especially for skilled technicians, consultants, attorneys and middle management employment by remediation firms, I wonder why they don’t mention or boast about that? Talk about job creation, think of all of those class action lawsuits!
For every $1 they pay to their help, it’ll take at least $2 to remediate, to clean up the mess they leave behind after they’ve used your locale like a pimp. Bio-remediation IS an emerging industry, no doubt about that. Think of it as similar to personal health care, an acknowledged growth industry.
So let the bulldozers rev up, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, drive America off the proverbial cliff of a healthier and safer environment. Those same corporations that we’re about to let have the wheel? Well, whattyaknow, they have entire sub-division departments created to do just that, clean up the nightmare they’ve left on your doorstep! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs galore, that ought to turn this economy right around. Them that’s got shall get.
And lucky you, the taxpayer, will probably foot the largest portion of the bill. Google BP or Halliburton or Enridge, they’re all being sued somewhere for horrors wrecked upon this planet’s ecologies but will settle for 10 cents on the dollar. The other 90 cents will come out of the indigenous people’s pocket, the corporations just write it off as the price of doing business. Now that’s what I call a good subsidy!
When I was a tyke, for the first time in my life Dad asked me (and not my two older brothers) to mow the lawn for money. I came back filthy, tired but anxious for the pay. He held out his hand, and in the palm a weather-beaten old dime and a brand-new glittery nickel. Unknowingly settling for less, I took the nickel, it was polished and looked inviting, it seemed superficially to my ignorant eyes and mind to have much more value. When I found out that the dime was worth twice that of the nickel from my laughing older brothers who once fell for the same trick, I went back to him whining that I’d been cheated and he gave me a valuable life lesson:
“Roger, you can’t turn back the clock, you made a choice and must accept the consequences…..you should have figured that out BEFORE you chose the nickel.”
That’s what’s happening now. Yes, America, these corporations and politicians are front-loading pure drivel, and their bombarding media shills are offering you a big, bright, shiny future, a recovering fiscal wet dream. The back end will be a country you won’t want to live in, but they always tell you that life is about trade-offs, right?
So there’s good news and bad news ahead: The bad news is that the boomerang consequence effect, the job stimulation via less eco-protection will come back to haunt us. The good news is that we as a species won’t be here to be haunted unless it’s inside of pressure treated, controlled environment domes!
FYI: If a project near you has some interesting enviro-aspect(s) that you think is/are worthy of Salem-News.com coverage and our readers attention, feel free to contact me with a very brief synopsis. Water-related “Blue Interventions” are my specialty!
Launched in 2010, Odd Man Out is the creation of Roger von Bütow and his OMO columns are written exclusively for Salem-News-com. Born and raised in the LA Harbor area, son of a German immigrant father, he moved to Orange County in 1965 and has lived in Laguna Beach since 1972. In 1998, he began his professional career in environmental review processes (CEQA, NEPA, MND, MND and EIR/EIS). He's a rare mix of cross-trained builder, writer and consultant as he brings his extensive construction experiences dating back to 1972 into his eco-endeavors. He has tremendous field and technical expertise in successful watershed restorations, plus wastewater, urban runoff, water quality monitoring/improvements and hydrologic mechanisms. He's built everything from commercial spas to award-winning private residences, and provided peer review and consultant analyses for single homes, subdivisions and upscale resorts.
His resumé is extensive, try an online GOOGLE search of his personal journey and historical accomplishments. His consultation fees are reasonable and if you've got a major project that alarms you, that needs creative intervention, then he's your man. His credentials and "CV" can be provided upon request.
Contact him at his office: (949) 715.1912 or drop him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org /edit.php?storyid=21913
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