Friday, March 18, 2016

How to guarantee failure

If you are the Environmental Protection Agency, the proper political way to get rid of you is to pile on the regulatory tasks you have to perform, cut down the funding to perform those tasks and constantly harp about the shortfalls in performance. The Republicans and some Democrats have perfected this to an art.
The agency’s responsibilities have never been greater, and its resources have never been so strained. Created in 1970 by President Richard M. Nixon, the E.P.A. is charged with writing, carrying out and enforcing regulations under existing laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Its rules impose restrictions on business, industry and agriculture, limiting the amount and types of pollutants that can be emitted into the air and water, as well as where and how landowners can use their property. The regulations can sometimes impose billions of dollars of costs on industry, requiring companies to install expensive pollution control technology and in some cases to shut down polluting facilities.

But President Obama’s effort to combat global warming has transformed that mandate. The president’s climate policies require regulations so sweeping that the E.P.A. has essentially been tasked with transforming major sectors of the American economy, including the auto industry and the electric power sector, over the next decade.

Because those global warming regulations have been issued under the legal authority of an existing law, the Clean Air Act, it could be difficult for a Republican president to simply repeal them outright. But substantially weakening the agency that enacts the rules could effectively hamstring Mr. Obama’s climate change legacy.

Historically, environmental regulations have required polluters to install new equipment like so-called smokestack scrubbers and catalytic converters in cars, factories and power plants. But Mr. Obama’s current suite of climate change regulations, if enacted, would go far beyond that. The E.P.A. would effectively change how automobiles are propelled (with electricity, not gasoline) and how electricity is delivered (via wind and solar, not coal), said Bob Persciacepe, the agency’s deputy administrator during Mr. Obama’s first term.

“We are at a pivotal moment in time, when, in fits and starts, the world is dealing with climate change and every country has to play an important role,” he said. “E.P.A. has been put in the spot to do this. The weight on their shoulders is heavy.”

All of this is supposed to be accomplished under tight budgets imposed by a hostile Congress. The agency’s spending under Mr. Obama has been cut between 10 and 20 percent below the budgets of the previous three administrations, when adjusted for inflation. The agency’s budget has averaged about $8.8 billion annually under Mr. Obama, compared with (in today’s dollars) $9.7 billion under George W. Bush, $10.6 billion under Bill Clinton and $10.4 billion under the elder George Bush. The agency’s 15,408 employees are its fewest since 1989.

As the E.P.A. has taken on more work with fewer resources, problems have proliferated. Last year, after the E.P.A. accidentally spilled three million gallons of toxic wastewater from an abandoned mine into the Animas River in Colorado, a government report found that it lacks the technical skills to handle such tricky projects.

Meanwhile, the agency has also been criticized for its implementation of a regulation known as “Waters of the U.S.,” which would expand pollution controls over the nation’s rivers and streams.

“It’s clear E.P.A. cannot currently handle the issues on its plate,” Representative Scott DesJarlais, Republican of Tennessee, said Thursday.
It is clear that the EPA has been hamstrung by the coalition of polluter owned congressmen. And as anyone who has had to breathe dirty air or drink befouled water should realize, it is well beyond time to replace those bastards.


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