|The Week That Was
March 11, 2000 NEW ON THE SEPP WEB:
We bring you a perceptive editorial by Ken Smith of the Washington Times. "Rachel Carson's Curse" led to the drive for zero tolerance for radiation and chemicals that reached its pinnacle in the now-abolished Delaney Amendment ("One molecule can cause cancer"). But its spirit lives on, in EPA and elsewhere
The Week That Was March 11, 2000 brought to you by SEPP
THE END OF THE AUTOMOBILE?
Last October, Al Gore signaled that if elected, he would issue an executive
order to ban any new offshore drilling along the California and Florida
coasts. Never mind that companies have already paid billions for more
than 180 leases. The plan seems to fit in with his grand scheme of phasing
out the internal combustion engine and automobile transportation.
[The irony is that that the internal combustion engine may finally be
on its way out -driven by competition in a free market. Fuel cells, flywheels,
or perhaps other technologies will make possible hybrid electric cars
that have 2 to 3 times the efficiency of the present ones based on the
And how would we get the oil we need for transportation and heating and
electric power. Well, if it can't be piped from offshore wells, we'll
just have to import it from the Middle East in tankers; right?. And then
we will really face oil spills...
It is technology that will make for a better, richer and cleaner world.
Al Gore's approach and that of eco-extremists is counter-productive. We
bring you an excerpt from Jonathan
Rauch's article in the National Journal, writing about Gore's compendium
of environmental scares "Earth in the Balance":
But then there's the long middle of the book, and it is a surprise. I
thought I was prepared, but I wasn't. To begin with, Gore is hysterical.
The environmental crisis is not merely a problem, it is an enemy. The
adversary, moreover, is "nothing less than the current logic of world
civilization," whose assault on the planet is morally equivalent
to Hitler, the Holocaust, slavery, and Communism. "Consumptionism"
and totalitarianism are both "examples of alienation and technology
run amok," and both require the same sort of all-or-nothing struggle.
"Either we move toward the light or we move toward the darkness."
From now on, therefore, "we must make the rescue of the environment
the central organizing principle for civilization." Every policy,
institution, law, and alliance must be directed to that end. Marginal
adjustments and moderate improvements "are all forms of appeasement."
The extremism is troubling, even shocking, but it would be excusable
as overheated rhetoric if not for Gore's attitude toward his own hysteria.
The truth, he says in a characteristic locution, is "almost unbearably
obvious." Why, then, are so many people unconvinced? Those who deny
the obvious are cowardly or corrupt, "seeking to camouflage timidity
or protect their vested interest in the status quo." Or they are
addicts -- of consumptionism -- in a state of pathological denial.
Fundamentalism, in its broadest sense, is the inability to take seriously the possibility that you might be wrong. Gore's book is a casebook example. It elevates hysteria to a virtue and regards doubt as a disease.
EPA OVERSTEPPING ITS AUTHORITY?
Last May, a panel of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals found EPA's proposed new standards for ozone and particulates to be an unconstitutional usurpation of congressional authority. Then another panel of the DC Circuit stayed EPA's nitrogen oxide regulations issued in connection with the dispute between the Northeast and Midwest and South as to who is causing pollution in the Northeast. Frustrated, EPA is trying to get even by suing utilities under another provision of the Clean Air Act. EPA is seeking to impose huge penalties on 23 older power plants that were grandfathered under the CAA, claiming that they made "major modifications." In the 23 years of the CAA, EPA never provided any guidance, nor has EPA released its data supporting its health claims. So now EPA is using blackmail to extort punitive fines, since continued operation could be construed as a "knowing violation" and therefore as criminal. The utilities would either have to shut down or get Congress to fix the situation. In a letter to the Senate leaders, both utility and union officials warned of "brown-outs": "EPA's action has effectively paralyzed the electric industry's repair and maintenance programs...[with] severe supply implications for the future."
The EPA is using similar tactics against oil refineries, pulp and paper companies, chemical manufacturers, and the iron and steel industry. Now the US Chamber of Commerce has requested the data underlying the regulations under the Freedom of Information Act. If EPA refuses, citing White House OMB guidelines, the matter will likely end up in court.
EPA has asked the Appeals Court for the District of Columbia to vacate its proposed rule for a zero chloroform standard in drinking water. Our legal ignorance cannot grasp the full significance of this move. But we think it means that EPA senses defeat after the Court, in December 1999, denied EPA's request for a voluntary remand. Of course, if EPA had listened to its own scientists who told the political types way back that the response is NOT linear (i.e., minute doses do not cause cancer), it would never have switched to a zero tolerance standard. If science prevails, municipalities and others can continue to chlorinate water to protect us from all those nasty bacteria that cause cholera and typhoid and the bubonic plague. And we thought that public health pioneers had settled this issue 100 years ago.
We will keep you apprised