How EPA Abdicated Responsibility for Flint but Pursues CO2 Emission Reductions at All CostsAlan Carlin | March 18, 2016
As discussed here in recent weeks, it is abundantly clear that the Obama Administration has shifted sharply leftward on energy and climate issues in recent months. A similar shift is also evident by the two remaining Democratic Presidential candidates, Clinton and Sanders, who have announced opposition to fracking and even continued use of fossil fuels.
The Administration has cancelled a proposed drilling lease auction off the SE Atlantic Coast, decreed a moratorium on Federal coal leasing, referred the question of whether Exxon Mobil should be criminally prosecuted for their climate views to the FBI, and discussed a civil referral concerning climate. Finally, the Administration has sent $500 million taxpayer dollars to the UN Green Climate Fund without any appropriation by Congress. These aggressive positions contrast sharply with EPA’s attempt to abdicate any responsibility for the drinking water problems in Flint and its decision to avoid taking any action on the issue during 2015.
The FBI referral could be a particularly aggressive development. Previously the Administration policy has effectively been to attempt to muzzle or push out anyone with negative views on the scientific merits of the Administration’s energy or climate policy from Federal employment. If criminal or civil litigation should be undertaken, it could lead to intimidation of anyone not accepting their “science,” perhaps because extensive propaganda has not been successful in bringing the skeptics into line or getting agreement from most Republicans for the Administration’s regulatory CO2 emissions reductions.
EPA’s Response to Flint Has Been Very Different
Although many institutions share responsibility for the Flint water problems, EPA’s actions (or lack thereof) to protect residents from lead leached from lead water pipes and other water quality problems using existing law contrasts sharply with their CO2 actions. An EPA scientist had identified the problems as early as March 19, 2015, and by June 24 had prepared detailed written documentation of his concerns and an exhortation for EPA to intervene. but EPA’s then Regional Administrator claims that EPA was worried about possible lawsuits if they acted, and accordingly did not invoke EPA’s oversight authority in 2015.
So the Administration has effectively rewritten parts of the Clean Air Act in order to impose very costly regulations to reduce human emissions of CO2, a major food for plants with no proven adverse effects. These revisions appear to contradict current law but EPA was afraid of a possible lawsuit if it carried out its clear legal oversight responsibilities for drinking water quality control in Flint.
As in the CO2 emissions regulation case, the primary victims are less affluent members of the public since higher electricity costs primarily burden them, as does the costs of avoiding the effects of excessive lead in the public drinking water supply. I find this contrast in EPA’s actions very troubling since it suggests gross misjudgments concerning priorities for environmental protection and an apparent willingness to shortchange the less wealthy to achieve their misguided objectives.