Much of the talk lately has been about duplication of government programs that could be combined or eliminated to save billions of taxpayer dollars and begin to reform the government, as we all know should be done. But one colossal duplication that could save billions of dollars has not been mentioned. Essentially all of the work done at USEPA is duplicated and in fact done far better by the collective wisdom of our 50 state environmental protection agencies.
When USEPA was formed in 1971 — with this author playing a forceful role promoting the need for such an organization — its primary role was to do research to determine environmental regulatory needs, then promote legislation in the Congress, and then turn the regulatory programs over to the newly developing state agencies. It worked quite well.
Today, however, USEPA has become a wholly owned subsidiary of environmental advocacy groups and serves primarily as a police force that impedes progress in society wherever it can. USEPA’s budget, now $10 billion annually, could readily be reduced by 80 percent — some of which could be eliminated, and some of which could be distributed to the 50 state agencies in accordance with a formula based on those states populations.
The states can do (and are doing) all in their power to protect their state’s environments and the health of their populations and they are doing it in a stringent manner. An indication of this is that in my continuing travels across the US I have yet to meet a single individual in an industry that is a waste emitter that does not claim their state to be overbearing in their efforts to protect the environment. But we all know — regardless if this be true or not — the best government is local government, by the people and for the people who are their neighbors.
The steady expansion of the federal government has reached a crisis point as it intrudes deeper into our lives. The threat to our liberty is now obvious to all. The federalist system established in our constitution and the 10th Amendment — giving the states the powers not delegated to the federal government — has withered under the authority the power-hungry agencies in our federal government has grabbed.
Federalism is important not because state governments are the repository of all wisdom, but because it keeps government within reach of the people. There could be no better way to begin turning our government back to the intentions of our founding fathers than to begin a major alteration of the USPS.
The agency could and should remain only as a high-level research arm, much like the still-excellent United States Geologic Survey. Twenty percent of the existing USEPA budget could be used to strengthen the research laboratories, which were once the focus of agency. And it could put out outstanding work. Too often today, the laboratories do the bidding of regulators to find data to support the laws they wish to enforce.
Congress could still pass environmental legislation if they so chose. But they would be forced to define (in detail) what those regulations require, instead of as is the case now — allowing the USEPA to decide what the law says, defined by the aforementioned influential environmental advocacy groups.
The need for environmental regulations should be left up to a committee of the whole of our outstanding 50 state environmental protection agencies. It would then decide that regulations can vary by state — which is the case with so many other regulatory issues — and which regulations need to be universally enforced, perhaps by a vote of a two thirds majority of the states.
Most reasonable people agree that USEPA is no longer acting for the benefit of society in general. Creating the agency was a great idea in 1971, but it bears no resemblance to that fine organization of long ago.
The current Congress is looking to make major changes to the federal structure. Reforming USEPA is a good place to start.