Tag: EPA

Government, Fast and Slow

Here is what government does when it comes to holding itself accountable:

The Environmental Protection Agency never submitted a report due to Congress in 2014 that might have shed light on the environmental problems with mandating the use of ethanol in gasoline.

When the EPA’s Inspector General pointed out this week that the study was nearly two years overdue, the EPA said they’ll get around to finishing it—by 2024.

Congress created the ethanol mandate in 2005, requiring the blending of corn-based biofuels into gasoline and diesel. A 2007 law expanding the scope of the mandate required the EPA to submit reports to Congress every three years detailing the consequences of that policy on air and water quality. After completing one such report in 2011, the EPA says it ran out of money and didn’t have enough time to keep doing them.

There isn’t a lot of doubt that the ethanol mandate is bad policy. It doesn’t cut greenhouse gas emissions at all. It encourages mono-cropping and putting food into cars instead of starving people’s bellies, driving up the price of cereal crops. It increases smog. It damages the ozone layer. A strange coalition of radical greens, conservatives and libertarians have come to the realization that this is a disastrous policy.

But it’s popular with farmers and popular with ethanol makers and popular with both of our Presidential, ugh, candidates. So the EPA is going to sit on one of the most important environmental analyses they are doing.

By contrast, when it comes to restricting our freedom, the government can move with amazing haste:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has filed a notice of intent (PDF) to place the southeast Asian plant called kratom to the most restrictive classification of the Controlled Substances Act. The plant, Mitragyna speciosa, and its two primary constituents, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, will be temporarily placed onto Schedule I on September 30, according to a filing by the DEA at 8:45 am Eastern time today. The full announcement is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, August 31.

Various forms of kratom and teas made from the plant’s leaves are sold in cafes and on the internet. Their primary effect is to provide a short-lived peaceful and calm feeling that is described as pleasant. Consistent with this effect being opioid-like, anecdotal reports indicate that some users have used kratom to successfully recover from physical and psychological dependence on prescription opioids and heroin. Comments on my last report on kratom have also indicated the successful use of teas made from the plant in managing chronic pain without the side effects and addictive potential of prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine.

Makes people feel good? Competes with multi-billion dollar drug revenue streams? BATTLE STATIONS!

The justification for banning this is that poison control centers reported about 600 cases of abuse of the drug … over five years. 600 overdoses is probably a good week with alcohol. The risk is so minimal that the North Carolina legislature recently rejected efforts to outlaw it. Making it Schedule I will not only make kratom illegal but hinder any research into it.

These two stories really illustrate how our government works. They move instantly to destroy our freedom based one a rumor. But they can’t be bothered to check their own behavior despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

SCOTUS vs. EPA

So this happened:

In a major setback for President Obama’s climate change agenda, the Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The brief order was not the last word on the case, which is most likely to return to the Supreme Court after an appeals court considers an expedited challenge from 29 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups.

But the Supreme Court’s willingness to issue a stay while the case proceeds was an early hint that the program could face a skeptical reception from the justices.

The 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, was unprecedented — the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court.

That last part is true. However, it is also true that we have never had the federal government try to enforce a far-reaching rule like Obama’s coal regulations over the objections of Congress, over the rights of the states and through a highly contentious (and likely unconstitutional) reading of the Clean Air Act. Ilya Shapiro:

In June 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new rule for regulating power-plant emissions. Despite significant criticism, on August 3, 2015, it announced a final rule. It gives states until 2018 — it “encourages” September 2016 — to develop final plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, with mandatory compliance beginning in 2022. EPA cites Section 111 of the Clean Air Act as justification for the Clean Power Plan, but that section can’t give the agency such authority. Section 111(d) doesn’t permit the government to require states to regulate pollutants from existing sources when those pollutants are already being regulated under Section 112, as those deriving from coal-fired plants are.

I think global warming is real and reducing carbon emissions is important. But it’s clear to me that the EPA does not have the authority to do this unilaterally. And it’s also clear to me that, with such a bitterly contested rule, the Court is right to stay implementation until the issue has been decided. We’re not just talking about an enormous burden on the states and power plants. We’re talking about a fundamental change in the way the EPA does business. You don’t just start doing that when there’s a very good chance you’ll be stopping it a few months from now.

Update: There are some indications that the White House may proceed anyway in defiance of the Court. What will it take for Congress to act here?