Suggestions for Restoring Liberty   Leave a comment

So, how do we fix the broken environmental system we have in the US today? It won’t be easy, but it can be done.

First, we need to require legislative approval to enact major regulations at both the state and federal levels.  No regulation having an annual economic impact of $100 million or more on the American economy should take effect without congressional approval. Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, if passed, would require such approval. States should consider passing their own versions of the REINS Act to govern their regulatory activity, giving their legislatures an opportunity to deliberate prior to an up-down vote on regulations with large and potentially negative economic effects. This approach would shift political power away from unaccountable bureaucrats and back to lawmakers who are directly accountable to the American people.

Second, we should ensure that costs of environmental regulations do not outweigh benefits. Congress and the states (there are states like Alaska that exercise non–federally delegated regulatory authority) should clarify that no regulation may be issued without an administrative finding that the costs do not outweigh the benefits. Regulators must be directed not only to consider the intended benefit, but also to explain whether the regulation will destroy jobs, infringe on personal property rights, or vastly increase the costs of goods and services.

We should establish a mechanism to compensate landowners for regulatory takings. Congress should provide greater protections for property rights and other civil rights than even the Supreme Court claims Constitution requires. It is unfair for the government to take your property without paying for it. It’s also unconstitutional. Congress could establish a simple mechanism for compensation of regulatory takings that, among other things, would define the “trigger” mechanism that will determine whether a regulatory taking is compensable and require that regulatory agencies specifically define what they will and will not allow on regulated properties. The Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act in particular are two laws that would be obvious candidates for incorporation of such a provision.

Speaking of which, we need to clearly define federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Under the CWA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency assert jurisdiction over virtually all waters in the United States. As a result of its broad reach, as well as the severity of its penalties, the CWA presents an unparalleled risk to individual freedom and economic growth. A delineation of which waters are covered will remove regulatory uncertainty and reduce enforcement costs. For such reform to be successful, federal officials must acknowledge that there are limits to federal power and that relying on state and local governments to protect local waters (including wetlands) is not only sufficient, but legally required to protect America’s natural resources.

We need Congress to deny the EPA authority to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act. Regulation of CO2 imposes high costs on both the economy and the environment. Proposals to restrict CO2 emissions lead to higher energy costs and fewer jobs. The Clean Air Act, which was designed to limit toxic emissions, is unsuitable for CO2 regulation. CO2 is generated by living beings breathing. Obviously it is not a toxic substance. When applied to CO2, the extraordinarily broad scope of the CAA could place millions of additional businesses under costly and time-consuming EPA regulations—with little or no accompanying environmental benefit.

We need Congress to rescind the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA’s intended goal of environmental stewardship is thwarted by the project delays and higher costs imposed by its regulatory regime, which leads to the politicization of science and the influence of special interests. Ultimately, NEPA should be rescinded. In the interim, Congress should mitigate the harm it causes by limiting NEPA reviews to major environmental issues that are not dealt with by any other regulatory or permitting process, mandating time limits, and limiting the alternatives studied to projects that involve multiple agencies.

Congress should shift responsibility for the protection of endangered species to the states. The Endangered Species Act, as currently implemented, is not working: Polar bears, for example, are listed as potentially endangered, but they’re so numerous they’re hunting people in Barrow, Alaska. Regulatory costs are immense and growing, and its record of saving endangered species is weak. Shifting species management to the states is the most preferable course of action. Where species migrate across state borders, any remaining federal endangered species program must be altered to fundamentally change agency behavior and program focus while ensuring protections for property owners.

Congress needs to open access to federal lands and natural resources for development. The federal government owns nearly one-third of the United States, and access to this public land is becoming more difficult because of a flawed system of restrictions, regulations, and litigation. Much of this land is not suitable for parks, wildlife refuges, and the like and is home to some of our nation’s richest natural resources. Congress should return responsibility for many of our federal lands to states and private owners. Such reform would give responsibility for managing the lands to those with the most knowledge of the land and the most to gain from its productivity. Short of devolution, the federal government should make some of its lands available for wise use and defend those who use it properly from special-interest groups that would bar such development. This would provide direct economic benefits to citizens and the government and result in better-managed assets.

Congress must preserve and defend the treaty process. Environmental advocates have long been frustrated by the inability of various international environmental agreements to pass Senate muster, so they advocate avoiding the supermajority requirement by substituting executive agreements. This ploy undermines the system of checks and balances in the U.S. government and mocks constitutional intent. By entering into treaty commitments, the US government cedes some level of sovereignty, as well as the checks and balances of the U.S. constitutional system. Pursuing treaties is a serious responsibility, a fact further evidenced by the Founding Fathers’ requirement that two-thirds of the Senate must consent to a treaty prior to ratification. We should not allow our representatives to cede that authority.

Our Founders mistrusted government. They didn’t find any of it to have a lot of redeeming qualities. They trusted the legislature more because it was divided and deliberative. They originally thought they could do without an executive. When it became obvious that they couldn’t do without one, they set up a system whereby the executive is fettered by checks and balances, mostly by the legislative branch. In this way, they hoped George Washington and his successors would not become King George. They would be completely flabbergasted by how strong our executive branch has become. They would demand that Congress stand up on its two legs and rectify the situation. They would be even more flabbergasted by the fourth branch of government — the administrative state. They would probably scream at us “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” They understood that the bureaucracy was a danger to self-government. They didn’t understand this in a vacuum. Some of them had been to France and England. This was not a mystery to them.

So why is it to us?

It’s time we demanded from our elected representatives that they take control of the government once more. The REINS Act is a good place to start. Do you know the emails of your Congresspeople and Senators?

You should!

What's Your Opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

The Libertarian Ideal

Voice, Exit and Post-Libertarianism

CRAIN'S COMMENTS

Social trends, economics, health and other depressing topics!

My Corner

Showcasing My Writing and Me

The Return of the Modern Philosopher

Deep Thoughts from the Shallow End of the Pool

WordDreams

Jacqui Murray's WordDreams

Steven Smith

The website of an aspiring author

thebibliophagist

a voracious reader. | a book blogger.

cupidcupid999

adventure, art, nature, travel, photography, wildlife - animals, and funny stuff

Republic-MainStreet

The Peaceful Revolution Liberate Main Street

%d bloggers like this: