President-elect Donald Trump has an unprecedented opportunity to get the economy moving again while protecting the environment in a reasonable and practical manner.
While Republicans have been in charge of the White House and Congress before, there are three major differences between now and then.
First, President-elect Trump campaigned on a platform of rolling back unnecessarily burdensome and economically harmful climate and EPA regulations.
Second, since EPA was formed in 1970, we have gained an awful lot of scientific knowledge about the environment and public health. We have an excellent understanding the health risks that “pollutants” and chemicals in the environment do and do not pose.
Third, we have made great strides in environmental protection since 1970.
Our air is clean and safe. Our water (with the limited exception of spots like Flint, Michigan) is clean and safe. So the task ahead then is to keep the environment clean and safe and to make improvements where it makes sense — versus spending inordinate sums senselessly returning the environment to Garden of Eden status.
Here are 10 things President Trump could do help jump-start the economy while keeping our environment clean and safe.
- Climate. Hysteria over greenhouse has emissions has so proven to be scientifically baseless and economically harmful. Making energy less affordable and less available is a greater actual threat to the environment and public health than climate change at its imaginary worst. President Trump should pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate deal and rollback the Obama Clean Power Plan. This would remove the government boot from the throat of the coal industry and allow the miners to work and compete fairly in the energy marketplace.
- Air Quality. EPA has grossly abused air quality science and cost-benefit analysis to impose unnecessarily draconian air quality standards on states. EPA’s recent ozone rule is reputed to be the most expensive EPA regulation of all time – one that will produce no public health or environmental benefits but cost as much as one trillion dollars. These regulations cause states to forego economic opportunities and impose heavy compliance costs in Pyrrhic efforts to satisfy EPA standards that accomplish nothing of value.
- Water. EPA and environmentalists have long abused the Clean Water Act in an effort to stop economic development. While the Clean Water Act provides EPA with jurisdiction over “navigable waters,” EPA has arbitrarily extended this jurisdiction even to cover drainage ditches that are dry most of the time. The Obama administration issued the so-called “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule and other usurpation of state authority to formalize even greater EPA power over land use. WOTUS and efforts like the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load program should be rolled back and, ideally, prevented from happening again by Congress. Land use is almost entirely a state issue and states should be allowed to determine what is best for them.
- Permitting. Historically, EPA has often wielded its permitting process as a weapon to be used in bringing industry to heel to the agency’s political will. The Obama EPA took this to a new level in disregarding permitting decisions made by states and other federal agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers. Permits granted by states and other federal agencies should be deemed valid by the EPA unless the agency can make a clear-cut showing of significant legal deficiency
- Fracking. Fracking is local activity that should be left entirely to the states. The Obama EPA has been angling for regulatory authority to control/shut down fracking. These efforts should be ended.
- End the War on Coal. Much of this can be done by reversing Obama actions on climate and air quality. But there are also a host of actions take by other agencies including the Department of Interior and Mine Safety and Health Administration that have weighed heavily on the industry, while failing to protect/improve miner safety or the environment.
- Energy Exports. With all our coal, oil and natural gas, America enjoys practically limitless energy supplies. We can’t possibly use them all so we should facilitate exports to an energy-thirsty world. The Obama administration has slow-walked permits for natural gas export terminals. These should be greenlighted. Environmental groups have harnessed friendly state governments to block West Coast export terminals for coal. That should also end.
- Regulatory Reform. Twenty years ago regulatory reform of EPA was a bipartisan issue. The all of a sudden when Republicans moved to require EPA to make its risk assessment process more science-based and to require EPA to use realistic cost-benefit analysis, Democrats screamed bloody murder at the effort to rein in EPA’s lawless arbitrariness. Sound regulatory reform would prevent EPA from making arbitrary anti-business political decisions that masquerade as environmental protection.
- Stop funding enemies of the economy. EPA doles out hundreds of millions of dollars per year to activist groups, universities and to allied states and local governments. The American Lung Association, to name just one, received over $22 million during 2000-2010 and always backed EPA to the hilt. While the money saved won’t balance the federal budget, choking off the life support system for the anti-business mafia is a must.
- Change EPA’s culture. EPA has become a left-wing political bludgeon versus an agency that reasonably protects the environment without unduly hindering economic activity. Part of changing the EPA culture involves devolving responsibilities back to states where they belong. A smaller EPA will be less prone to abuse. Remaining EPA duties should be managed to produce actual benefits to the economy and our society. The ideologically anti-business element among agency staff should be shown the door.
EPA has become the most economically destructive regulatory agency in America. President-elect Trump has a unique opportunity to change this. He talked about this during his campaign. Voters expect it from him.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com.