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The LA Times is reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes to cut federal inspections by one-third and reduce civil enforcement cases 23% in order to focus on the biggest polluters.
The EPA said the shift for fiscal years 2014 to 2018 is not a retreat from enforcement but a more effective allocation of resources.
"It is bewildering why the EPA would pull cops off the beat who've been protecting our air and water from big polluters," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "We urge the EPA to reconsider these proposed cuts."
In the draft strategic plan, the agency cites budget constraints as a factor in reshaping its approach. But Paul Cort, formerly an EPA lawyer, said the agency could have made cuts to other programs that "would have less impact on public health."

"It's a preemptive surrendering by the enforcement division," said Cort, now with environmental group Earthjustice. "It's like they are saying, 'Take our money, and apply it to other parts of the agency.' It's disturbing that they would voluntarily chose to cut money that goes to efforts important to protecting the public."

Whose environment are they protecting, anyway?

Originally posted to beach babe in fl on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 07:59 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well, since the public health has been (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    murrayewv, Willinois

    steadily decreasing, whatever they were doing obviously didn't work.
    Inspections do not reduce output and neither does record-keeping. The idea was that, if companies accumulated sufficient data about their pollution contribution, it would eventually be possible to prove they knew what they were doing and that it was wrong and this "admission," like a voluntary confession in criminal court, would make it possible to convict the miscreants of a crime and levy a big fine, which does not, usually, suffice to clean up the mess.
    Who's going to clean up the carbon we've been spewing into the atmosphere for decades?
    Then too, industries who followed the regulatory regime for years and decades can argue, justifiably, that they were following permit requirements, best practices and were in compliance. So, it is not their fault if what the EPA demanded had no effect. That they were being set up for prosecution down the road does not sit well with anyone. And, it is not a winning argument in court.
    Issuing permits to pollute is and was always a bad idea. The argument that they first had to collect evidence of harm and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt was always problematic. What we should say is that Mother Nature is NOT man's toilet and that whatever toxins man puts together, he has an obligation to take apart.
    Purification and accumulation are inherently dangerous practices because organic existence depends on diversity and variability. Diversity isn't the origin, it's the result of life.

    Obamacare at your fingertips: 1-800-318-2596; TTY: 1-855-889-4325

    by hannah on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 08:46:41 AM PST

    •  TROLL ALERT!!! Professional trolls are (0+ / 0-)

      appearing in my environmental diaries. Please feel free to
      ignore or HR as necessary

      Macca's Meatless Monday

      by VL Baker on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 10:17:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Let me get this straight (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Willinois

        A trusted user, a subscriber, a person who has been posting on this blog four years longer than you, now becomes a troll because they post a comment that you don't like?

        That's odd.

        The premise of this diary is pretty weak, in my opinion. EPA's efforts to regulate GHG is in its infancy, and I suspect enforcement actions about that are w-a-y down the road, after regulations have been promulgated, permits revised and permit compliance assessed in coming years/decades.

        You're hurting your credibility with some of these diaries. I'm sure it's difficult to meet your quota of postings as a designated contributor, but these aren't really helping.

      •  LOL n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Obamacare at your fingertips: 1-800-318-2596; TTY: 1-855-889-4325

        by hannah on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:10:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'd rec if I could (3+ / 0-)

          but since this diary is front paged three days after its initial publication I can't (& I didn't see it earlier).

          So I'll simply thank you.

          •  EPA has little control over its budget (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VL Baker, marina, mrdreked

            Maybe if we (taxpayers) didn't have to foot the bill for Superfund sites where the criminal polluters legally get out of their responsibilities, EPA would be able to protect us better. Love canal being the first that comes to mind - there are many.

            I understand that, years ago (about two decades), emission standards were changed. Industry balked and were given plenty of time to comply. When the time was up, they pretty much said FU.

            Oh, and unlike what Christine Whitman was forced to say, the EPA never said that the air, after the 9/11 attack, was safe to breath. If the truth were told then, many people would not have gotten sick and/or died.

            EPA budget has been cut every year, greatly reducing its ability to enforce standards. Can't have campaign contributors' bottom line affected, now can we.

            The world is my country, all people are my brethren and to do good is my religion ~ Thomas Paine

            by third Party please on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 04:22:02 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Hannah is not a troll. (5+ / 0-)

        Her comments are sometimes obtuse on first read... but when you take the time to read what she says it's usually worthwhile.

        Accusing someone of being a troll without evidence is bannable here, at least last I checked.

      •  That comment isn't trollish.... (5+ / 0-)

        "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

        by Lawrence on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 08:34:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hannah is far from a troll. n/t (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mike Kahlow, LakeSuperior, NoMoreLies

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 08:44:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Professional as in paid? (0+ / 0-)
        Charging that a commenter is a paid troll or formerly banned user is a great way to delegitimize a user, and is particularly problematic against new users or those who seldom participate. As noted above, extraordinary claims should require evidence. People are too quick to jump to the conclusion that "the only reason anyone would disagree with me is because they're being paid" and such claims are toxic to debate and are as such, now banned.

        “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

        by ban nock on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 09:06:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Your comment assumes that the diary title (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      unfangus

      correctly describes what is going on here, which it doesn't.   These enforcement cuts will have little or nothing to do with control of greenhouse gas emissions.

      You said:

      Well, since the public health has been steadily decreasing, whatever they were doing obviously didn't work.
      Your statement about public health "steadily decreasing" doesn't comport with the reality of emissions control, community air pollution improvement and patterns of geographical compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) across the United States.

      In general, there have been dramatic reductions in NAAQS criteria pollutants across both urban and rural areas of the United States since 1970 passage of the Clean Air Act and subsequent amendments.   Saying that EPA inspections don't work and saying that the Clean Air Act doesn't work is an attempt to ignore reality and bash the now Democrat-only tradition of environmental protection first created by Democrat Senator Edmund Muskie.

      It is clear from your comment that you don't have any practical or realistic understanding of what federal enforcement of environmental statutes and regulations achieves in the United States and a rational assessment of its effectiveness.

      •  Yes,but we have increased incidences so asthma (0+ / 0-)

        And other lung diseases, as well as a drop in longevity and increases in cancers of all kinds.
        Public health refers to the health of people. Air quality has improved from the perspective of visibility. However, that the solution to pollution is dilution and that sending power plant stack emissions higher into the air is going to mitigate the effect of not installing scrubbers has proven inadequate.
        Addressing non-point-source pollution of our water bodies and trying to get homeowners not to fertilize their lawns because upgrading sewage treatment plants is too expensive and Washington has no money for grants has not been effective, either.
        Regulatory regimes only work when they can be instituted up front, not after the fact.

        Obamacare at your fingertips: 1-800-318-2596; TTY: 1-855-889-4325

        by hannah on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:08:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Asthma has indeed been on the increase (0+ / 0-)

          as shown by CDC data....see PDF page three:

          http://www.cdc.gov/...

          However, community air pollution is just one source of causation and exacerbation of asthma.   There are many other triggering, causative and exacerbating factors other than air pollution, including:

          -Exposure to indoor air pollution that is not related to outdoor air pollution exposure

          -Allergen exposure (including dust mites, roaches, molds, etc)

          -Atopy [genetic predisposition to allergic and inflammatory reactions]

          -Medical failure to address underlying inflammation and just treat broncho-constriction with rescue inhalers.

          -Poor access to health care/poverty.

          There isn't any valid medical case to be made saying that air pollution is solely responsible for the increase in asthma when all of these other factors will necessarily be present and when air pollution in most communities has dramatically decreased in the past 40 years.

          Similarly, other lung diseases, such as bronchitis, chronic pulmonary obstructive disease and lung cancer all have other causative and excerbating factors in addition to air pollution.   Most lung cancer is from cigarette smoking or radon exposure and lung cancers from all other causes are only a small fraction of the total lung cancer causation.

          You said:

          Air quality has improved from the perspective of visibility.
          Visibility impairments from air pollution have dramatically declined because PM-2.5, ozone and other photochemical oxidants, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions have all been dramatically reduced in the United States.   More needs to be done, but pretending like there has been no air quality improvement in the United States in the last 40 years is not a reality-based contemplation.
          However, that the solution to pollution is dilution and that sending power plant stack emissions higher into the air is going to mitigate the effect of not installing scrubbers has proven inadequate.
          The "solution to pollution is dilution" is explicitly prohibited by Section 123 of the Clean Air Act which explicitly prohibits EPA from granting credit in ambient air quality demonstrations for excessive stack heights exceeding good engineering practice and from other disallowed "dispersion" techniques, such as supplemental environmental control systems dependent on weather conditions.
    •  Yeah, and about those GMOs... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VL Baker, Maverick80229
      The argument that they first had to collect evidence of harm and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt was always problematic.
      European nations have refused to allow GMO food. The law there is, prove it is safe.

      The law here is that we have to prove it is unsafe to be protected.

      We will be screwed as long as campaign financing is unfettered.

      The world is my country, all people are my brethren and to do good is my religion ~ Thomas Paine

      by third Party please on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 04:26:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Public health is deteriorating largely (0+ / 0-)

      due to things we are doing to ourselves (horrible diet, decreasing amounts of exercise, too much internet, a society's puzzling tolerance of Celine Dion, etc).

      So while the environment should and could be "cleaner" - the main challenge (at least in the USA) has more  climate change ramifications and less of a public health focus.

  •  Not surprising given (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unfangus

    the budget cuts.
    Another report came out recently that most of the nation's CO2 emissions come from the top 100 or so biggest polluting coal plants. I hope EPA focuses on them.

  •  Under capitalism -- (0+ / 0-)

    everything is a "free gift" for capital, so it's their environment, unless you belong to the investor class, in which case it's your environment.

    "I wish I could change the ways of the world/ Make it a nice place/ Until that day/ I guess we stay/ Doing what we do, screwing who we screw" -- Lily Allen

    by Cassiodorus on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 09:05:42 AM PST

  •  Guess whose budget has been cut (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, TJ

    ...as a part of the sequester and will be cut more with the Murray-Ryan deal?

    It isn't the national security and intelligence community boondoggles.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 09:33:56 AM PST

  •  Your diary title attempts to make this (0+ / 0-)

    federal enforcement reduction a "crucial" matter
    of "climate change" when the federal enforcement activity in question has little or nothing to do with control of greenhouse gas emissions.

    This illustrates the proclivity of the diarist to substitute the diarist's spin as commentary instead of providing an accurate descriptive report of what is going on.

    Saying that these enforcement cuts have much if anything to do with the practical control of greenhouse gas emissions isn't being candid with the readers.

  •  Writ large ... (0+ / 0-)

    other than unemployment, the public discussion of the budget deal seems to assert that only (ultra) "conservatives" have anything to complain about ...

    This

    cites budget constraints
    is an excellent example of the damage that is occurring due to focusing on budget deficit above focusing on needs of nation.

    And, of course, kowtowing to 'no revenue' side which could enable proper funding of enforcement division along with a myriad of other necessary things for advancing climate mitigation and (climate science, clean energy, ...) research (and, sigh, adaptation).

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 05:01:17 AM PST

  •  In related news (5+ / 0-)

    White House delayed enacting rules ahead of 2012 election to avoid controversy

    The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials.

    Some agency officials were instructed to hold off submitting proposals to the White House for up to a year to ensure that they would not be issued before voters went to the polls, the current and former officials said.

    The delays meant that rules were postponed or never issued. The stalled regulations included crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act, what bodies of water deserved federal protection, pollution controls for industrial boilers and limits on dangerous silica exposure in the workplace.

  •  You Might Peruse the Ohio EPA History Starting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, VL Baker

    in Reagan times if not earlier.

    Obviously, the answer to your question would be, the environment for the global nobility.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 08:17:03 PM PST

  •  I don't really have a problem with the EPA (4+ / 0-)

    focusing on the biggest polluters.  Of course that will also mean less inspections in general, unless their budget is increased, as focusing on large polluters requires more manpower per inspection and per court case...

    That L.A. Times article that this diary is based on is some pretty damn incomplete reporting, imo.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 08:40:52 PM PST

  •  11DC entrapment? (0+ / 0-)

    Lulling polluters into letting down their guard and committing gross violations?

    Yeah, right.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 08:47:18 PM PST

  •  I trust Gina McCarthy to make the best use of what (0+ / 0-)

    funds she has to reduce air pollution the best she can. She's better informed than us I'd think.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 09:12:16 AM PST

  •  What's happening with drones ??? (0+ / 0-)

    Seems a sensible use for them. No cameras.

  •  I wrote the original "Return to Compliance" study (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Naniboujou

    at EPA.  I devised a 4x4 matrix, ranking resources needed to address by scale of environmental problem.  States prefer to go after the easy ones w/ low problems because it requires so fewer resources and political will.  EPA is right to go after the biggest problems first.

    My best guess was a reflection that did not look back, an image lost in every mirror.

    by Zacapoet on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 10:49:25 AM PST

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