A Look Inside the EPA’s Assault on Common Sense

A Look Inside the EPA’s Assault on Common Sense
November 21, 2011

Jay Lehr, Ph.D.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. (jlehr@heartland.org) is science director at The Heartland Institute, an... (read full bio)

Review of Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA Is Ruining American Industry, by Richard Trzupek (Encounter Books, 2011), 160 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1594035265

When Richard Trzupek asked me to write the foreword to Regulators Gone Wild, little did he know the personal guilt I feel for aiding and abetting the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Forty years ago there was a pressing need for an organization to gather environmental data and distribute it to the states and the public. The EPA filled that role beautifully, raising the nation’s environmental awareness. Unfortunately, the EPA asserted incrementally more power and has unnecessarily strangled innovation and economic output with overly burdensome, often unjustified environmental regulations.

The EPA has become one of the biggest obstacles to economic growth and job creation in the United States, and Richard Truzpek explains exactly how this came to be.

Changing Motives, Moving Goalposts

Forty years ago environmental regulation was about protecting and preserving nature, but for at least the past decade it has become something very different, Trzupek notes. Modern environmental regulation is a game that has little or nothing to do with preserving our resources. We have largely cleaned up the developed world, transforming the average American and most business persons into environmentally concerned citizens in the process.

This was once the goal of the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resource Defense Council, and the like, but that is not the case today. The transformation in corporate ethics and improvement in environmental quality no longer seem to matter to these groups. They demand more and more action and create more and more crises in order to raise funds, either by creating fear where none should exist or by shamelessly exploiting real human tragedies like the summer 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

No nation has a more exemplary record of cleaning and protecting its environment than the United States, but today’s environmental groups are determined to hide these facts so they can keep the money flowing and expand their power even further. Whenever we achieve reasonable air and water quality goals, they convince the EPA to lower the standards further, so they can claim our environment is declining, so that more air and watersheds are defined to be out of compliance by rule, not by reality. 

Environmental activists and their EPA coconspirators reached a new level of intrusiveness by floating fallacies about man’s impact on a misleadingly described “ozone hole” and then hit a grand slam when they discovered the entire world could be held captive over the completely unsubstantiated idea that carbon dioxide emissions could substantially harm the planet.

People Caught in the Crosshairs

Trzupek tells the poignant stories of well-meaning people caught in the web of a regulatory machine that no longer is a net benefit to society. The small-to-mid-size businesses that form the bedrock of our economic strength pay most dearly, he explains. While they struggle to do the right thing, the system is so complex that it is difficult to know what the right thing is.

They are trapped in fine print by regulators who are not protecting the environment but, as Trzupek observes, “have grown skillful at creating the kinds of pointless profitable snares that personal injury lawyers would envy.” The initials EPA at the federal level today more aptly stand for Enterprise Prevention Agency, for that is the sole result of their efforts. 

Disband EPA

It is my very strong personal opinion that as radical as it may seem, the EPA should be disbanded and its duties and responsibilities returned to our 50 state environmental departments. They are more than capable of doing the job and are far more sensitive to the needs of their citizens. If recent experience is any guide, the states will by no means be lax in fulfilling their mandate to protect our natural resources.

One reason the EPA now causes more harm than good is the incredibly poor science it purports to use to set standards for chemicals in our environment. The EPA relies on badly designed rodent studies which in turn depend on the ability to draw strong comparisons between mice, men, and mathematical models based on single experiments that are never repeated and do not at all replicate realistic human exposure levels or impacts. 

The EPA’s real money machine is its enforcement of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) Trzupek explains. This act holds everyone involved in a pollution case wholly liable for all the cleanup of any pollution found, even if an individual or firm contributed but a thimble full of contaminant. It’s called joint and severable liability in legal terms, and it has sent many a company into bankruptcy.

Things have now gone from bad to worse as President Obama has installed a triumvirate of environmental policymakers—Lisa Jackson, Carol Browner, and Steven Chu—whose radical approach to power over the public goes beyond anything we have seen before. 

This book should be read by everyone concerned about making America prosperous again, especially in light of the unprecedented radical environmental agenda that the current administration is pushing. Once you have read it, carry its message to your friends and neighbors and associates. Environmental regulators have indeed gone wild.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. (lehr@heartland.org) is science director of The Heartland Institute.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. (jlehr@heartland.org) is science director at The Heartland Institute, an... (read full bio)