by Rod D. Martin
October 20, 1997
Bill Clinton returned from South America Sunday with an agenda. Fresh off the signing of a “greenhouse gas” treaty with Argentina and getting ready for a world summit on the issue in Kyoto, the President made clear that he would tolerate no hold-outs: all the world must now board the green bandwagon.
Is this wise? Maybe; maybe not. Scientific theories cover the spectrum, from the belief that man-made CO2 emissions will shortly cook the Earth to the increasingly well supported (though by no means proven) idea that a new ice age is soon to be upon us. The truth is, the scientists just don’t know. And this fact raises the question: why is the Environmental Protection Agency so adamant that they do?
The Clinton-era EPA, headed by Carol Browner, is on a crusade, and greenhouse gasses are just a part of it. The agenda includes direct federal authority over all of the more than 2000 watersheds in America (which is to say, nearly the entire country) and an elimination of many private property rights therein, the handing over to United Nations control of large areas of the country as part of a “Biosphere Reserve” program, and an ever thickening maze of regulations on industry and private individuals costing hundreds of billions of dollars more than the EPA’s already enormous $7 billion budget.
Perhaps most questionable of all these is Browner’s personal vision of “environmental justice,” formalized into a permanent division of the EPA in 1993. “Environmental justice” is rooted in the rather dubious notion that industrial pollutants disproportionately affect blacks. Just four weeks ago, the EPA indefinitely delayed the permit for a $700 million chemical plant in Convent, Louisiana on this theory, despite the fact that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality found there to be little if any health risk, and despite the fact that the plant would have brought lots of high-paying jobs to a town with 60% unemployment. The company is now considering locating abroad.
Without question, Browner and her gang of regulators are sincere in their zeal for the environment. What is less clear is whether they are concerned about the methods they use. In fact, their blatant politicization of supposedly neutral environmental issues is so great as to call into question everything they say. Taking the power Congress and a string of Presidents have delegated to them to make and enforce law, they are rapidly building an empire, and you better hope you’re not in the way.
Take the awarding of EPA research grants as an example. The Natural Resources Defense Council received more than $1 million from the EPA in 1995 to study clean air issues. NRDC then sued the EPA to “force” them to enact tougher standards. Once the court expanded the EPA’s regulatory authority, Browner then directed that NRDC’s legal fees be paid out of public funds. There is a string of similar suits, all brought by Browner allies, and all expanding the agency’s authority. This week’s Forbes magazine reports on a whole stable of supposedly independent scientists pushing the EPA line on global warming and other issues to the media. None, however, bothered to disclose their big dollar EPA research grants.
In another interesting use of taxpayers’ dollars for propaganda, the EPA recently distributed newsletters to the National Parent-Teacher Association, promoting Browner’s view of the EPA as the guardian of children’s health. An internal EPA memo read in part: “The PTA could become a major ally for the Agency in preventing Congress from slashing our budget.” Thus tax money is spent openly for lobbying, in a year when campaign finance reform is on everyone’s tongue.
This same cavalier attitude toward other people’s money is further evidenced in items such as Browner’s claim that new standards for ozone and particulate matter would cost roughly $8.5 billion; once President Clinton approved the standards, the agency revised its figure to a whopping $47 billion.
Browner often likes to brush off her critics as male chauvinists; but just as the permit delay in Convent, Louisiana has nothing to do with race, the problems at the EPA have nothing to do with gender. A close friend and protege of Al Gore, Browner is a true believer in a paternal Washington, centrally planning what is best for all of us and enforcing its diktat at the point of a gun. She is, in short, a socialist, wearing green rather than red. And like the rest of the administration she serves, she isn’t terribly particular about telling the truth.
This is important. A greenhouse gasses treaty in Kyoto would cost hundreds of billions of dollars in lost economic output and a million and a half lost jobs in America alone. The Biosphere program is already removing control of large areas of the country from Congressional and state authority to UN control, and numerous other EPA programs are eroding private property rights beyond recognition. That’s a high price to pay for nothing. And if the EPA’s facts and figures are false — something they themselves don’t even know — nothing is exactly what we’re going to have.