Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Going Rogue, Part IV:
Guess what the EPA is going to regulate now?

Maybe you’ve seen that email that tells you about a harmful chemical and asks you to sign a petition to ban it. The email tells you that the chemical – dihydrogen monoxide – is the main ingredient in acid rain and is capable of causing suffocation if too much of it is ingested. Some of the email readers are horrified, sign the petition and forward it to their email list to warn others of this threat.

The email is a joke, but the non-chemists among us may not realize that. You see, dihydrogen monoxide is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, or H2O: water!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing stricter standards on another pollutant, particulate matter, which can foul air and water, cause breathing problems and impair visibility. What horrible substance is the EPA trying to protect us from now? Dust.

This may seem as much a joke as that H2O email, but the EPA is deadly serious about this one, and is at it again, indulging in rogue behavior that punishes businesses unnecessarily, makes life both more expensive and less enjoyable, and is generally over-stepping its bounds in the furtherance of its highly ideological agenda.

Kelsey Huber, writing for “The Foundry,” a blog of The Heritage Foundation, explains that “when EPA regulations were first applied to particulates in 1971, they were created to target soot,” which consists of carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of coal, oil, wood and other fuels, and soot actually is harmful, in sufficient quantities. “Dust,” on the other hand, is merely soil that has gone airborne.

Apparently, soot is no longer a problem, or perhaps the agency just realized that it wasn’t creating enough turmoil for the country. We can’t be sure. In any case, the EPA now wants to regulate dust. Why?

Well, the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to reassess national air quality standards every five years, and new regulations are scheduled to be in place by 2011. A federal agency under statist control cannot let that deadline pass without imposing new regulations and increasing control over its subjects.

Mr. Huber continues: “From this regulation, several problems arise. First, while human activity can create dust, it is also … a natural occurrence. How can it be effectively regulated?” A fair question.

Dust occurs pretty often, like when a car drives down a gravel or dirt road, or when kids play baseball, or when the wind blows across dry ground.

Further, Mr. Huber notes, the people most affected by dust clouds are those who cause them, and they already try to minimize dust out of a sense of self-preservation. He believes that regulating this natural phenomenon will stifle farm productivity and cause wasting of other resources. These regulations mean that people could be fined for not meeting particulate matter standards while still practicing good land management on their own property.

Of course, anytime some government body imposes new requirements on businesses, one result is an increase in the cost of doing business, and in this case the cost of domestic food products will rise accordingly. When a farmer works his fields producing the food we eat, that may stir up some dust. Is the EPA going to fine farmers for planting or harvesting food if in the process of doing so they kick up some dust? Does that mean that farmers will have to water fields before working them? How much is that going to cost in additional water use and time? Some crops, like corn, cannot be harvested that way.

Tamara Thies, chief environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the regulations under consideration would prove twice as stringent as the current standard.
"It would be virtually impossible for many critical U.S. industries to comply with this standard, even with use of best management practices to control dust," she said.

In an attempt to forestall this ill-conceived initiative a group of Senators has written to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, suggesting she replace the EPA’s seemingly manic desire to regulate everything we do with a little common sense, and to recognize the harm the agency will do if it pursues these regulations.

Whether this effort will succeed depends upon whether it is possible for the statist ideologues at the EPA and in the Obama administration to put their ideology on hold and allow common sense to rule the day. History is not on our side on this one.

The liberal and statist policies that got us where we are cannot get us where we need to be. What the EPA proposes will be just as effective as the measures the White House and the Congress have put into effect to stabilize the economy and get unemployment down, which is to say, it will impede private sector activity and may well worsen an already bad situation.

Years ago the US resisted and defeated the threat of communism because we had leaders who recognized the threat. The threat today is statism, and instead of resisting this threat, today’s leaders embrace it.

As Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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