Who needs clean water?

Via here we get to see the priorities of the Trump administration:

The proposal would virtually eliminate annual Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding, slashing it from $300 million to $10 million among other cuts that would altogether reduce the EPA’s total budget by a quarter.

The Great Lakes funding cut is the largest total dollar reduction on a list that includes major cuts to climate change programs, restoration funding for Puget Sound and Chesapeake Bay, research into chemicals that disrupt human reproductive and developmental systems, enforcement of pollution laws and funding for Brownfield cleanups.

The plan also includes a $13 million cut in compliance monitoring, which the EPA uses to ensure the safety of drinking water systems. State grants for beach water quality testing would also be eliminated.

Other EPA cuts in the plan include a 30 percent reduction in state and local air grants from 2017 levels, a 24 percent cut to the overall budget, decrease of staffing by 19 percent, elimination of the Indoor Air Radon Program and state indoor radon grants, elimination of the Environmental Justice office and a reduction of environmental justice funds by more than 77 percent from 2017 levels, according to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

Hey, remember when water pollution was so bad that rivers caught fire?

Trump doesn’t want anyone to know what the government does

Well, this is fun:

Emails sent to EPA staff since President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday and reviewed by The Associated Press detailed specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency’s social media accounts.

The Trump administration has also ordered what it called a temporary suspension of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors. The orders were expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide.

Similar orders barring external communications have been issued by the Trump administration at other federal agencies in recent days, including the Agriculture and Interior departments.

Well, if by fun you mean the potential destruction of our democracy. That sounds melodramatic, but a democracy can’t survive without free and open information–that’s why a Free Press is part of the Constitution. Now, we do get this:

Doug Ericksen, the communications director for Trump’s transition team at EPA, said he expects the communications ban to be lifted by the end of this week.

‘‘We’re just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration,’’ Ericksen said.

If true that’s good but since these prohibitions because the Interior Department sent out a Tweet which showed how much smaller the crowds were at Trump’s inauguration than they were at Obama’s in 2009, don’t be surprised if these types of prohibitions become common in the years ahead.

Now that’s an interesting point

Here are a few stories in today’s Boston Globe:

one on the EPA tightening pollution standards:

‘‘The Clean Power Plan is one of the most far-reaching energy regulations in this nation’s history,’’ said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, among those leading the challenges. ‘‘I have a responsibility to protect the lives of millions of working families, the elderly, and the poor, from such illegal and unconscionable federal government actions.’’

Yes, that is indeed someone arguing that he is trying to protect lives by trying to allow higher amounts of pollution.

a second on police:

With his remarks, Comey lent the prestige of the FBI, the nation’s most prominent law enforcement agency, to a theory that is far from settled: that the increased attention on the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals. But Comey acknowledged that there is so far no data to back up his assertion and that it may be just be one of many factors that are contributing to the rise in crime, like cheaper drugs and an increase in criminals being released from prison.

“I don’t know whether that explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year,” Comey said in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School.

Comey is arguing that trying to make sure police follow the law makes them less likely to do their job. He adds:

“Lives are saved when those potential killers are confronted by a police officer, a strong police presence and actual, honest-to-goodness, up-close ‘What are you guys doing on this corner at 1 o’clock in the morning’ policing,” Comey said. “We need to be careful it doesn’t drift away from us in the age of viral videos, or there will be profound consequences.”

Somehow this applies to everyone except the police, who should be left alone.

Bad news

15 years ago NASA launched a satellite to measure Earth and it shows explicitly the terrible work the EPA has done. First, here’s a picture of the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the US (Credit:

NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/T. Schindler):
sequence-01-reduced_2
You might be thinking that this is good news since nitrogen dioxide is a poison, but since this is a result of policies set by the EPA it must be bad news.
The second picture looks at the level of carbon monoxide over the globe (Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory):
14-mopitt_april_2000-2014
Scientists have found that levels have been dropping at a rate of 1% per year since 2000. You might again think this is good news since carbon monoxide is one of the main ingredients in smog and is also a poison, but again this has come about mostly from government regulations so must be bad.

Regulations

One of the problems with President Obama is framing. In some sense, he is correct that we should always review regulations to get rid of outdated or useless ones but when he says:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday pushed back against GOP charges that he is saddling the nation with costly and overly burdensome regulations. In fact, Obama argued, he has led the way in trying to reduce the federal government’s regulatory costs on individuals and businesses across the country.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Obama said his efforts to reduce the government’s regulatory burden will save $10 billion over the next five years, adding that he hopes to find billions more in additional savings. Earlier this year, Obama issued an executive order imposing a series of requirements designed to reduce burdens and costs and called for a government-wide review of rules now on the books.

“A mere fraction of the initiatives described in the plans will save more than $10 billion over the next five years,” Obama wrote. “As progress continues, we expect to be able to deliver savings far in excess of that figure.”

then he’s arguing in Republican terms and he’s going to lose. Republicans will be willing to get rid of a lot more regulation than Obama. The point should be that you don’t get rid of regulation to save money, you get rid of regulations that don’t work. Regulations have made the US a much better place: the air and water are cleaner; businesses don’t outright lie to us; food and drugs are safer and better; the economy is more stable. Boehner goes on about how much EPA regulations cost (and the cost of new regulations is almost always overestimated) but says nothing about the lives it will save.

Better regulation

John Judis has an article in the New Republic talking about how President Obama is changing the mentality of the regulatory agencies:

Obama’s three Republican predecessors were all committed to weakening or even destroying the country’s regulatory apparatus: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the other agencies that are supposed to protect workers and consumers by regulating business practices. Now Obama is seeking to rebuild these battered institutions. In doing so, he isn’t simply improving the effectiveness of various government offices or making scattered progress on a few issues; he is resuscitating an entire philosophy of government with roots in the Progressive era of the early twentieth century. Taken as a whole, Obama’s revival of these agencies is arguably the most significant accomplishment of his first year in office.

The basic idea is that Obama is appointing people who are actually qualified for their positions, as opposed to putting in politicians, and putting money back into the agencies. It all sounds good, especially compared to the Bush administration. I don’t really know enough about all these people but this makes me doubt a bit:

In addition, Bush put a political appointee in each of the regulatory agencies whose job was to make sure they were following OIRA’s dictates. From July 2001 to March 2002, Bush’s OIRA killed 20 regulations, more than Clinton’s OIRA had killed in eight years.Now Obama has put a liberal proponent of cost-benefit analysis, Harvard law professor (and former TNR contributing editor) Cass Sunstein, in charge of the super-agency. He also revoked Bush’s executive order allowing OIRA to intercede at the start of the process and called for reframing cost-benefit analysis to take account of “the role of distributional considerations, fairness, and concern for the interests of future generations.”For his part, Sunstein has stated that he wants to make sure “environmental regulations … are attentive to the interests of future generations and those who are least well-off.” These might seem like general ideas, but they are a clear signal that Obama and Sunstein plan to purge cost-benefit analysis of its conservative bias.

It is very probably true that Sunstein will use a more balanced cost-benefit analysis, but he still thinks that cost-benefit analysis is better than any type of precautionary principle (I look at that here–there are links there to more discussion). This means that he is really a mainstream regulator, he only looks liberal when compared to the reactionary practices of the Bush administration, which may be why:

Four analysts from the Center for Progressive Reform recently wrote that the administration deserves a “B-” for regulation during its first year.

The Obama administration has done a lot of good, but it’s far from progressive in many areas.

Bush: Please Ignore the EPA

I can see why the Bush administration refused to open the email from the EPA. Here are a couple of its statements:

  •  
    • Technology is readily available to achieve significant reductions in light-duty vehicle GHG emissions between now and 2020 (and beyond);
    • The benefits of these new standards far outweigh their costs;
    • Owners of vehicles complying with the new standard will recoup their increased vehicle costs within 3-7 years, and;
    • New standards would result in substantial reductions in GHGs.

and:

Assuming gas prices in the range of $3.50 per gallon, “the net benefit to society could be in excess of $2 trillion” through 2040

But, but don’t environmental regulations hurt the economy?

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