Tuesday, December 20, 2011

EPA and the New "Little" Green Book

EPA Ponders Expanded Regulatory Power In Name of 'Sustainable Development'
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to change how it analyzes problems and makes decisions, in a way that would give it vastly expanded power to regulate businesses, communities and ecosystems in the name of “sustainable development,” the centerpiece of a global United Nations conference slated for Rio de Janeiro next June.

The major focus of the EPA thinking is a weighty study the agency commissioned last year from the National Academies of Science. Published in August, the study, entitled “Sustainability and the U.S. EPA,” cost nearly $700,000 and involved a team of a dozen outside experts and about half as many National Academies staff.

Its aim: how to integrate sustainability “as one of the key drivers within the regulatory responsibilities of EPA.” The panel who wrote the study declares part of its job to be “providing guidance to EPA on how it might implement its existing statutory authority to contribute more fully to a more sustainable-development trajectory for the United States.”

Or, in other words, how to use existing laws to new ends.

According to the Academies, the sustainability study “both incorporates and goes beyond an approach based on assessing and managing the risks posed by pollutants that has largely shaped environmental policy since the 1980s.”

It is already known in EPA circles as the “Green Book,” and is frequently compared by insiders to the “Red Book,” a study on using risk management techniques to guide evaluation of carcinogenic chemicals that the agency touts as the basis of its overall approach to environmental issues for the past 30 years.
IMO, "sustainability" has become one of those words whose meaning is sufficiently slippery that it becomes the ready excuse for doing what you would like to do for other reasons.  Want to stop nuclear power? Call it "unsustainable".  Yes uranium and thorium are finite resources, but for practical purposes they are nearly infinite.  But that wasn't really why you wanted to stop it.  Want to kill agriculture in the Bay region? Call it unsustainable.  The world is and has been full of shifts in usages of resources as time goes on.  The ability of people to see into the future and manage those shifts is negligible, and having an enormous, bloated, political and sclerotic bureaucracy deciding how we should best manage our resources indefinitely far into the future is ludicrous.

If this goes forward, it is simply a power grab by the EPA to regulate the US according to it's ideological predilections (and yes, they have them).  This could make the power grab in the name of the commerce clause seem like a polite request.

The EPA is an agency designed to protect the environment of the United States particularly as it affects the human inhabitants, not direct it's development (or more likely, the reversal of existing development) in the name of an abstract and essentially undefinable ideal.

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