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They , whoever they is, say you’ve got to take the good with the bad. In my opinion, most laws are almost all bad despite the often good intentions of their authors and sponsors. They routinely violate the constitution and beyond that, after they go through the legislative meat-grinder, result more havoc and unintended harms than fixes for the problems they were meant to correct.
And end all, be all budget bills, where you’ve got to fund the entire government with one big package rather than examining the merits of each line item as an independent measure, are usually the worst kind of wrong, with present and future taxpayers paying billions in welfare to the well-to-do as industry after industry and special interest after special interest gets their own bit of graft.
The so-called Cromnibus passed last weekend was no exception. Still, while limiting myself to environmental provisions in the bill, rather than focusing entirely on the bad provisions, I want to also extoll the merits of the good parts of the final law.
First, on the negative side of the ledger, the Cromnibus resurrected the wind industry’s primary giveaway, the Production Tax Credit. This boondoggle gives billions of dollars away to wealthy wind developers each year. They are paid not for the electric power actually produced, but rather by the amount of power the wind farms could theoretically deliver in a year. Wind power wouldn’t survive without subsidies. Despite decades of federal largesse, wind has never been able to compete with coal or more recently natural gas on the basis of either reliability or price. House Republicans fought the PTC for years and were finally successful in preventing it from being renewed in the budget last year. I’m just flummoxed, as to why, they would pull the stake out and let this vampire rise from the grave to suck more blood from taxpayers. Especially when they will have an even larger majority in the house and control of the Senate next year.
In addition, most of the EPA’s recent regulatory actions and proposals were funded, including the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emission. This in itself is a huge blow to the economy since regulations of the EPA are a growing as a share of regulatory costs to the economy and studies show that, relative to other agencies, EPA regulations are more cost more per benefit delivered (e.g. lives saved, jobs created, illness prevented) than regulations from almost any other agency. And with the EPA’s carbon and ozone rules promise to be two of the most costly, least beneficial regulations of all time.
There are other provisions that merit thorough critiques, but frankly I’m getting depressed and want to point out some of the nice surprises found in the law.
First, idiotic biofuels programs, experienced a minor cut in funding — $18 million was cut from $694 million in mandatory spending in the 2014 budget bills. Every little bit helps! Better still, the EPA’s budget was cut by $60 million from its 2014 levels and staffing at the agency could reach a 25-year low next year. Budget and the staffing numbers are going in the right direction, at least if you subscribe to my view that fewer people and less funding means less mischief. Also, the law blocks President Obama’s $3 billion pledge to the UN climate fund. I can already see climate treaty’s unraveling. Going further on the climate front, one provision in the Cromnibus blocks the Export-Import bank from denying financing to coal-fired power plants in developing countries. The Obama administration had been denying such funding as a way to prevent poor countries from using greenhouse gas emitting, but life saving coal powered electricity.
In addition, the cromnibus has provisions that: prevent the the administration listing two types of sage grouse, that live smack dab in the middle of oil and gas country, as endangered species; delay the phase out of traditional incandescent light bulbs; block the EPA from regulation methane emissions from livestock and from farm manure management systems; prevent the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineer’s from issuing new Waters of the Untied States regulations that would have restricted certain agricultural practices and allowed the regulation farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act.
In an attempt to end costly lawsuits filed by environmental and anti-gun extremists, the cromnibus blocks the EPA from regulating lead in ammunition and fishing lures – something the EPA has repeatedly and correctly asserted it had no power to do. Still that hasn’t stopped environmentalist from filing costly lawsuits; perhaps this provision will.
There is much to bemoan within the environmental portions of the bill and certainly in the more than 1,600 page monstrosity as a whole. Others will no doubt point out these flaws better than I in the coming days, still to prevent those who like me, care about both a healthy, biodiverse environment and individual freedom and economic prosperity, from pulling out all of their hair or opening a vein, I thought it important to point out at least some of the positive aspects of the bill.