Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA Pushes the Envelope, Again

A long train of abuses suggests an institutional culture that sees the law as an impediment.

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In accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of trying to regulate "water itself as a pollutant," Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not showing an excess of exactitude. But his looseness is rhetorical and harmless. The EPA's is neither.

Last week federal judge Liam O'Grady sided with Cuccinelli when he ruled that the EPA had overstepped its bounds. As a measure of just how far the EPA had overreached, note that Cuccinelli's suit against the EPA was joined by Fairfax County, led by Board of Supervisors chairman Sharon Bulova.

Bulova, a Democrat, is nobody's idea of an environmental menace. A longtime advocate for commuter rail and mass transit, she started a Private Sector Energy Task Force to increase energy efficiency, sustainability, and "green-collar" jobs in the county.  Nevertheless, she and other county leaders objected when the EPA tried to limit the amount of stormwater runoff into the 25-mile-long Accotink Creek, which empties into the Potomac.  "When people talk about federal agencies running amok, this is exactly what [that] looks like," said GOP Supervisor John C. Cook in July. "The EPA's overreach is so extreme that the Democrats on the board realized that, even in an election year, they had to do this for the county."

Concerned about sediment in the Accotink, the EPA had sought to cut stormwater runoff nearly in half—a proposal that would have added perhaps $200 million to the roughly $300 million cost of addressing sediment itself.

But as O'Grady noted, while the EPA can regulate sediment, which is considered a pollutant, it has no authority to regulate stormwater—which is not.

The EPA claimed—notably, "with the support of Virginia['s Department of Environmental Quality]"—that it could regulate stormwater as a proxy for sediment itself, even though it had no legal authority to do so, because nothing explicitly forbids it to do so. As Cuccinelli said, "logic like that would lead the EPA to conclude that if Congress didn't prohibit it from invading Mexico, it had the authority to invade Mexico."

Why would the EPA insist on regulating stormwater, which it has no authority over, instead of simply regulating sediment? After all, it has written rules for sediment literally thousands of times. That insistence makes no sense. But it does look like part of a larger pattern.

Last spring, the Supreme Court ruled against the agency in the case of Mike and Chantell Sackett. The Sacketts owned a piece of land, a little larger than half an acre, in a growing lakefront development in Idaho. They were building a vacation home on the spot when the EPA declared it might be a wetland and ordered them to cease construction, and restore the land to its prior state or face fines of up to $75,000 a day. The agency decreed that the Sackettshad no right to challenge the order in court.

The Supreme Court unanimously call that bunk. It's not easy to get Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the same page, but the EPA managed to do so. The agency also drew the wrath of The Washington Post, which editorialized that "The EPA Is Earning a Reputation for Abuse."  The editorial began by condemning the now-infamous remarks of now-former EPA administrator Al Armendariz, who compared his enforcement philosophy to Roman crucifixions: "They'd find the first five guys they saw and they'd crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years."

Troubling stories about the EPA just keep piling up. In Texas, the agency went after Range Resources Corp. for allegedly polluting two wells. The company racked up more than $4 million in fees defending itself before the EPA grudgingly admitted it had no proof Range Resources had contaminated anything.

In July, the federal district court in D.C. ruled that the EPA had overstepped its bounds regarding Appalachian coal operations. That ruling followed another  concluding the EPA had no business revoking a waste-disposal permit, issued by the Bush administration, for a West Virginia mine.  Judge Amy Berman Jackson—an Obama appointee—called the agency's action "a stunning power for the EPA to arrogate to itself," and accused the agency of "magical thinking."

With the possible exception of a few anarchist cells, nobody questions the need for environmental regulation—or the EPA's authority to enforce environmental laws. But those objecting to the agency's abuses—Bulova, Ginsberg, The Washington Post, Judge Jackson—are hardly anarchists. They aren't even Republicans. That ought to ring warning bells; this isn't just a partisan vendetta. The EPA's long train of abuses and usurpations suggests an institutional culture that sees the law as an impediment, rather than a guardrail. It also offers a reminder that those who wield power tend to push the boundaries of their authority. They will succeed, too—unless others push back.

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  1. The EPA’s government’s long train of abuses and usurpations suggests, … an institutional culture that sees the law as an impediment, rather than a guardrail.

    FIFY

    1. Thank you….this author is one of the most ignorant I’ve ever come across. The reason we even have an EPA is because of the long history of corporations and the government breaking the law.
      Thank you Richard Nixon for creating the EPA and seeing the need to protect ourselves from corporate fascists who gleefully destroy us all in the name of the almighty dollar.

      1. And you are one of the more ignorant posters I have ever come across. And unlike you, I don’t use the word in a derogatory manner.

        1. Thanks for your usual nonsensical reply.

          1. I not a frequent poster, and I dont recognize your handle, so despite your mischaracterization of my comment as ‘nonsensical’, your discription of it as ‘usual’ is patently false.

            For your edification, let me explain to you that the original meaning of ‘ignorant’ was ‘uneducated or unknowing’. It was meant to excuse a persons misunderstandings because, for reasons that may not be their own fault, they were unable to comprehend a complex subject.

            You have used the word in a purely derogatory manner, basically calling the author an idiot.

            My post was meant to imply that you have misinterpreted the meaning of WTF’s post. Please don’t take offence to me or the replies below. Hang out a while and keep coming back. If you have an open mind you’ll surely learn a thing or two. But beware, the snark is thick in the comments.

            1. Got it….so if you don’t remember, it doesn’t exist.
              And I don’t need your help understanding other people’s comments.
              So you can stuff your passive aggressiveness and mock friendliness.

              1. PS ig?no?rant
                /?ign?r?nt/
                Adjective

                Lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.
                Lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular: “ignorant of astronomy”.

                The author clearly lacks knowledge of the EPA’s history.
                So for your edification, my use of the word is completely correct.

                And in case you are too stupid to figure out….the adjective refers to the noun “author”.

                1. So you did understand my comment and you were disingenuous when you said it was nonsensical? You’re such a bully!
                  /runs off crying/

                2. I don’t see where the other discusses that founding history of the EPA, so your argument is an ad homineum attack on a strawman. Congratulations on this rare feat in argumentative imbecility!

                  1. “A long train of abuses suggests an institutional culture that sees the law as an impediment.”

                    long train = history

                    Stick to your personal attacks because you have no grasp of the facts.

                    1. The author lists two cases where he argues that the EPA is overstepping it’s bounds. I’ll give you that this does not constitute a ‘long train’, but you want to argue that the good intentions of the founding of the EPA are it’s guiding principles in the present. You are the one without a grasp of the facts.

      2. Wait…you think the EPA is helping stop the government from breaking the law? Who do you think runs the EPA? Elves?

        1. EPA = Elves Protecting Americans

          1. I laughed.

        2. Who do you think the police work for? The government. The second you give anyone the authority to arrest anyone they become a government worker.
          This is why no body takes you “all government is bad” people seriously.

          1. It’s also why state-fellating cunts like you end up pretty fucking disillusioned the first time you run afoul of a law, rule or regulation you probably didn’t even know existed because you blithely stuffed your head up your ass and delegated your thinking to the beneficent state. It all depends, as they say, on whose ox beach house is being gored.

          2. Who do you think the police work for? The government.

            I am confused. Taking your original post and this one, are you arguing that the police and the EPA exist to protect citizens from a cabal of government and corporate interests?

            Is there anyone here that can explain sonoflound’s posts to me? You would be providing a much needed service.

            1. I’m not certain, but it seems s/he thinks the EPA is just fine and maybe made a mistake or two.

      3. Please tell me this was sarcasm and you’re not that insanely stupid. I want to preserve SOME semblance of faith in my fellow man.

        1. sonofloud – just to be clear, the ‘you’ that Bill is referring to here is you!

          1. What would the world do without H. Reardon to explain everyone’s comments….not that calling someone insanely stupid is a worth while comment to begin with.

            1. What would the world do without sonofloud attacking any dissenters without actually defending his/her original post?

      4. So by your measure, it’s okay if teachers bullwhip their students, because schools were started with good intentions, and it’s okay for the FBI to shoot innocent people for no discernible reason, because the FBI also does some good things to track down criminals.

        Got it.

      5. Did you even bother to read the article? It has nothing whatever to do with evil corporations–or anything else conjured in your fevered mind.

      6. So, you prefer environmental fascists to corporate ones?

        Interesting. How does that preference translate to choice of spouse, pet, etc?

      7. So anything the EPA wants to do is OK,right? No limitations. Anything they decide is needed,they should be allowed to do.

  2. The EPA’s overreach is so extreme that the Democrats on the board realized that, even in an election year, they had to do this for the county.

    I’m guessing the Democrats on the board or elsewhere didn’t make the leap from the EPA menacing them with unreasonable demands to the EPA might be menacing other people similarly.

  3. But those objecting to the agency’s abuses?Bulova, Ginsberg, The Washington Post, Judge Jackson?are hardly anarchists. They aren’t even Republicans.

    As the leftists wake up, the Republicans would be wise to ease back on demonizing the EPA. These people reverting to team would put the breaks on any kind of possible reform of the agency.

    1. Sorry, but the need for elected Democrats to mollify the environmental lobby will “put the breaks on any kind of possible reform of the agency”.

  4. I found this to be an interesting take on the reining in the EPA, but I doubt it would work:

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/a…..he-epa.php

    Best bet is kill them all, Gaia will know them that are Hers.

    1. Simpler idea. Fire anyone who brings action that results in a losing lawsuit twice, and they lose any defined benefit pension time.

      1. Good approach. But, I’m thinking something involving pay-per-view and either hungry lions or hungry pit bulls.

        1. Start by putting the lions and pit bulls in a ring, and then put the bureaucrats in with the winners.

  5. It’s right there in the name, for crying out loud!

    Environmental Protection Agency

    The ends justify the means.

  6. My favorite is that cunt Lisa Jackson using a shell e-mail account and the alias “Richard Windsor” for her correspondence in order to dodge FOIA request and congressional oversight. She should be brought up on charges.

    1. She should be brought up on charges.

      I’m sure Obama’s DOJ will get right on it.

      1. Right after they get to the bottom of that Fast and Furious thing.

        1. And that pot seller in Oaktown; gotta have priorities.

    2. You know there are no laws for Lisa.

      If you bring that up, you’re racist or mysogenist, whichever sounds better that day.

      All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

  7. “This EPA is my kind of scum: fearless and inventive.”

    1. “Bring me Ginsburg and the Wookiee. They will all suffer for this outrage.”

  8. Dan Aykroyd- ” Everything was fine until dickless here (points to EPA agent) turned off the power to our containment unit”

    Mayor- “Is this true”

    Bill Murry- ” Yes, this man has no dick”

    1. “Well, that’s what I heard!”

      1. I love the “classics”!

        1. You can believe Mr. Pecker, or you can accept the fact that this [world] is heading for a disaster of biblical proportions.

  9. OT, but I was amazed to see a well-reasoned argument for cannabis legalization on CNN of all places. Equally surprising is the percentage of commenters that agree that pot should have similar legal status to alcohol or tobacco.

    Public sentiment appears to be changing. My prediction: In 15 years, pot will have less government restrictions than sugar/sugary products.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/09/…..index.html

    1. Public sentiment appears to be changing. My prediction: In 15 years, pot will have less government restrictions than sugar/sugary products.

      Which will mean that pot will still be just as illegal as it is today, but production, distribution, or possession of sugar will be shoot-on-site.

  10. the EPA can regulate sediment, which is considered a pollutant

    The EPA is sorely mistaken: sediment is one of Mother Gaia’s ways to cicatrisate herself of the wounds inflicted by evil humans.

  11. With the possible exception of a few anarchist cells, nobody questions the need for environmental regulation?or the EPA’s authority to enforce environmental laws.

    So, now Reason’s commenters are an anarchist cell?

    1. Bill, there is no such thing as principled opposition to the EPA, or anything the government does. If you do oppose the EPA, you’re an anarchist-corporatist-polluter in the pay of Halli-Blackwater-Koch and take your marching orders from Emmanuel Goldstein.

    2. According to this author….yes.
      But I’m sure H. Reardon will give us some BS about how no one but him understands what anarchist means.

      1. sonofloud| 1.9.13 @ 5:44PM |#
        “According to this author….yes.
        But I’m sure H. Reardon will give us some BS about how no one but him understands what anarchist means.”

        You need to try posting in English. So far you’ve managed to confuse and piss off most everyone, and I’m leaning toward you’re simply a troll, trolling argument.
        If you have a point, please state it.

    3. Yeah, I noticed that as well. Hinkle is such a twat.

  12. Isn’t stormwater basically water + sediment?

    1. Why do you hate Gaia and want her destroyed?

    2. Pretty much like wind = air plus second-hand smoke

  13. The environment is the new metaphysical altar for human sacrifice, and the left are savages dancing around it.

    1. The post-religion religion.
      Pretty good bet that when anyone yaps about ‘mother earth’, they’re anthropomorphizing and/or worshiping an inanimate object.
      Anyone doing so has immediately given up any claim to logic or science.

  14. “When people talk about federal agencies running amok, this is exactly what [that] looks like,” said GOP Supervisor John C. Cook in July. “The EPA’s overreach is so extreme that the Democrats on the board realized that, even in an election year, they had to do this for the county.”

  15. I’ve worked in the air pollution monitoring field for over 20 years and know to an absolute certainty that the examples in this editorial don’t even scratch the surface. EPA’s primary tool in dealing with the public for the last 10 years has been to use their unlimited financial resources to produce fear and intimidation. Industry must either accept the EPA’s “magical thinking” or go out of business. There is no in between. There is no law. There is only what the EPA wants.

    In a meeting with the permitting head of an EPA region, I was told, directly and in plain English, that what the regulations say is meaningless, that EPA’s goals will neither be defined nor limited by law, and that the only recourse is litigation of which EPA has absolutely no fear. EPA doesn’t mind losing a case here or there as for every case that goes to litigation, thousands are not brought to court for purely financial reasons (it being better to make a little money than none at all).

    The general public has no idea how tyrannical and abusive EPA is to industry and the public nor how dishonest their public relations and press releases have become.

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