Environment by Harold Hough

For decades we have been told that only government can solve environmental problems. Of course, the people who tell us that seem to ignore the facts that totalitarian governments and governments with centralized, powerful environmental agencies usually have the worst environmental issues. Just ask the people who lived In the Soviet Union or who have to breathe the toxic, polluted air of China’s major cities.

However, we don’t have to go that far ourselves. Just look at the EPA and its recent disaster in Colorado where an EPA-supervised work crew inspecting the Gold King mine accidentally knocked a hole in a waste pit, releasing at least three million gallons of acidic liquid laden with toxic heavy metals – an accident that would have ended up in fines and maybe even jail time if a mining company had done it.

The Gold King Mine had been closed and plugged since 1923. Behind the plug were several million gallons of tainted water. Among the potential toxins in the mine were lead, sulfuric acid, dissolved iron and copper, zinc, beryllium, cadmium, and arsenic.

Now it appears that the spill could have been avoided if the EPA had listened to experts. In a letter to editor, written by Dave Taylor, in the local newspaper one week before EPA mine spill, the retired geologist detailed how EPA officials would foul up the Animas River. In it he said, “The EPA is setting your town and the area up for a possible Superfund blitzkrieg.” He went on to further say the EPA would cause the spill for funding purposes. “After all, with a budget of $8.2 billion and 17,000 employees, the EPA needs new, big projects to feed the best and justify their existence.”

Worse yet, the EPA threatened the mine owner if it didn’t let them carry out their project. They said they would levy a $35,000 a day fine if the mine didn’t give them access.

The rest, as they say, is history. The plug was unstable, and the EPA crew disturbed it without having a backup plan for holding back the polluted water. The result was an environmental catastrophe that rippled throughout the southwest as the pollution went into New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California.

The EPA compounded its gross negligence by failing to inform city and state officials or residents and recreationists on the river for a full 24 hours after the event. That’s 24 hours farmers were irrigating with tainted water, cities were pumping dirty water for municipal uses, and kayakers and anglers were literally standing or floating in the toxic brew. Some mayors of cities first learned of the danger from news reports, not the EPA itself.

Which brings us to the point – the EPA doesn’t exist to clean up the environment or protect Americans. Its major goal is to justify its existence and increase its budget. In recent years, EPA’s budget and staffing has been stagnant or in decline, and the agency has long wanted an excuse to declare Colorado’s mining region a Superfund site.

That being the case, mistakes and blunders can be a benefit – giving the EPA more money, while trashing the environment. Investors Business Daily was more blunt, “EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's history of managerial neglect, malfeasance and outright incompetence has been capped by her agency unleashing one of the worst environmental disasters of the 21st century.”

The Gold King disaster isn’t the only EPA failure. During the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, toxic radioactive clouds headed across the Pacific Ocean toward the U.S. Although the U.S. has an extensive air radiation reporting network in place, 20% of the agency's stationary radiation monitors were out of service at the time.

The EPA is also failing us with the highly touted Energy Star program that’s designed to provide consumers with a means of assessing the energy efficiency of various appliances. Yet, the program has allowed a broad range of products to receive the energy efficiency seal, even though they weren’t efficient.

The EPA’s Inspector General wrote in a report, “We found that the design and execution of the Energy Star program ensured neither the integrity of the label nor the achievement of greenhouse gas emission savings.” In other words, if you spent more for an Energy Star product, you were likely just wasting your money.

Lest we think that at least all of those EPA officials are at least working hard at their desks, we should remember John Beale, who got 32 months in prison for defrauding the federal government by collecting a paycheck from the EPA while claiming that he was working as a spy for the CIA.

Beale, who was the highest paid employee at the EPA, was a no-show for one stretch that totaled 18 months. The Washington Post, usually an unquestioning fan of the EPA noted, “Indeed, the agency was so lax in its oversight that Beale ostensibly retired in September 2011 — complete with a farewell dinner cruise on the Potomac — only to continue pulling a paycheck for another 19 months.”

But Beale wasn’t just an aberration. A couple of months ago, the EPA Inspector General testified on Capitol Hill about the agency's chronic mismanagement of alleged sexual predators on the payroll. One employee “engaged in offensive and inappropriate behavior toward at least 16 women, most of whom were EPA co-workers,” the IG reported. Supervisors “were made aware of many of these actions and yet did nothing.” In fact, the employee was actually promoted to assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Homeland Security -- a position he used to harass six more women.

Two other EPA workers were caught watching porn during work hours; one was observed by a minor who was at the office during “Bring Your Child To Work Day.” Although they were caught, the EPA allowed one to retire with full benefits; the other is still on leave collecting a $120,000 yearly salary.

The point is that giving a federal bureaucracy so much power doesn’t make the environment cleaner. For 40 years the EPA has focused more on increasing its bureaucratic turf and budget than focusing on the problems that face the US. Let’s hope the next president realizes this and makes some serious changes.