Monday, October 19, 2015
Reiboldt: It's time for Congress to investigate the EPA
Multi-state opposition has been building against the Obama Administration’s recent EPA rulings on both water and energy. Several states have joined together in lawsuits to challenge the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Missouri Attorney General Koster has filed suit on both issues, challenging the EPA’s rulings.
The rule on the Waters of the United States was finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Corps of Engineers in May of this year. The rule intended to clarify which bodies of water would be covered by the existing Clean Water Act. The WOTUS rule has drawn intense opposition from both federal and state lawmakers, as well as agri-business and energy companies. They contend that the rule vastly expands the federal government’s authority over all the waters of the United States, waters which include tributaries, drainage ditches, dry creek beds, ponds, and small isolated bodies of water.
A preliminary injunction was issued in August against WOTUS by a U.S. District Court in North Dakota. Originally, there were 13 states that filed suit (including Missouri) and this order applied only to them. On October 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit granted a nationwide stay against WOTUS. In the Appellate Court’s majority opinion, they stated that the now 20 states challenging the new standards were unlikely to face any immediate harm from the rule. They went on to say, though, that there was no evidence that the nation’s water would suffer “imminent injury” if these regulations were put on hold; therefore, the court’s “stay” will allow for a more “deliberate determination” as to whether this exercise of executive power is proper under the dictates of federal law.
Also in August, the EPA released its final rule for the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The ruling set an emissions target for each state that must meet the federally determined goal—an extremely difficult goal to reach. The Obama Administration and the EPA have been unable to get the approval of the U.S. Congress. Consequently, they are seeking to impose this rule by executive regulation, forcing each state to comply. The main reason congress would not go along with the CPP is because the plan demands cuts in carbon emissions so drastic that thousands of jobs could be lost and the cost for electricity would soar tremendously.
This month Attorney General Koster announced at the Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives meeting in Branson that he would be signing on to the West Virginia vs. EPA lawsuit, challenging the EPA’s Clean Power Plan ruling. In filing suit to stop the federal government’s overreach, opponents have cited that the plan was not approved by congress, is poor policy, and is probably illegal as well as unconstitutional. In addition, they maintain the EPA has no legal authority to compel states to implement these rules. AG Koster states that Missouri has good reason to be suspicious of “sweeping regulatory schemes” the EPA seeks to impose on our state.
In a study conducted by the National Research Association, it was estimated that the cost to implement the CPP over the next fifteen years would be $480 billion in order for the United States to comply. The same study predicts double-digit increases in electricity costs in 43 states, including Missouri. Some estimate that complying with the EPA’s deadline could cost Missouri at least $6 billion—or more.
Harvard law Professor Laurence Tribe, a Democrat and one who identifies himself as a liberal, has called the plan unconstitutional and a clear violation of the EPA’s legal authority, primarily because it does not have congressional approval. In his words, “It defeats political accountability and violates principles of federalism that are basic to our constitutional order.” The final decision on the CPP will now be made by the courts.
In 1988, the U.S. Congress granted the EPA police powers. This past week information appeared showing that a Washington-based government watchdog group just released a forty-page report on the EPA. According to their investigation, EPA spent millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars on military-style weapons over the past ten years. The report states the EPA purchased guns, body armor, camouflage equipment, unmanned aircraft, amphibious assault ships, radar and night-vision gear, and surveillance equipment for its 200 special agents to “fight environmental crime,” with each agent costing taxpayers $216,000 per year. If this report is valid, I must ask why? Why do they need such a formidable supply of weaponry here in the United States, and who is their intended target(s)?
It has been further reported that the EPA has over 1,000 attorneys on their payroll; this makes them the largest law firm in the country. Of their 16,000 employees, 7 out of 10 reportedly make over $100,000 per year and last year, 12,000 of its 16,000 employees were given a bonus, despite national budget cuts. The EPA’s yearly budget is $8 billion.
Protecting the environment has become serious business at a tremendous cost to our nation—and if the reports are indeed factual, to our nation’s citizens. Maybe it is time for congress to do a full scale investigation of EPA.