Of all the agencies maintained by the Executive Branch, few have proven to be as detrimental to the United States as the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has touched everything from the food we eat (from over-the-top dust regulations to clean water rules that strip property rights) to the energy we use (telling oil and gas companies where, how and when to extract much-needed resources, creating a dependency on foreign sources) to the air we breathe (instituting utterly insane emissions standards for things as simple as portable fuel tanks). All of those rules and thousands more add to the cost of doing business and therefore the cost of living. The actual negative impact on the American consumer is in the hundreds of billions per year as we end up paying for these regulations at the market, fuel pump, and department store.
The EPA’s modus operandi is unconstitutional. The federal government is not authorized to legislate environmental issues within the states. Truthfully, there is no agency that better understands the uniqueness of, say New York, and its various habitats and the creatures that inhabit them than the state’s environmental arm, the Department of Conservation. It is that agency and New York’s state and local lawmakers (along with citizen participation) that should decide what are permissible levels of development and non-standard inputs into the environment as well as what may be taken from it. The federal government doesn’t have the ability or jurisdiction to understand the intricacies and interrelatedness of the natural world, the businesses, and the people within a given state.
The preamble to the Constitution describes the limited purposes of our federal government and among them is the provision of common defense. Under that, the EPA would actually have constitutional justification if it didn’t focus on the internal and instead focused on the external, like invasive species at the point of entry. These animals and plants don’t belong in our country but, through global trade, end up taking root, destroying our resources to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in perpetuity. Among them is the emerald ash borer, a beetle that came from Asia in the 1990s and has so far killed 100 million ash trees. 7.5 billion more are threatened by this unstoppable beast. The ash is incredibly important to our economy and were it to be erased from our forests (which looks likely), the lumber industry would lose $25 billion in output per year, setting off a domino effect across other industries. And then there’s the matter of the Asian carp, a large bottom-feeding fish currently making its way to the Great Lakes where it will be certain to disrupt the system’s $7 billion fishery. These invaders represent only the tip of the iceberg. Many more are here. More are coming.
With the vast amount of exports we bring in annually, it’s no wonder that we’ve opened our borders to such a pestilence. More than 4 million shipping containers come to America every year, filled with unchecked product of questionable integrity from questionable sources. If the products themselves are suspect, imagine the skids upon which they are shipped (what insects do they carry?) or the craft that carry them (what do their ballasts hold?).
If the EPA were serious about living out its mission, it would set strict rules and conduct numerous inspections to protect our nation from these outside factors that will compromise our environment and health more than any domestic factors will. So, rather than harassing a locally-owned gas station that hopes to upgrade its pumping station, the EPA should instead hold accountable the foreign firms and governments that don’t care the least about America’s wild lands and natural resources; after all, corrupt trading partners — like China — would prefer to see our resources expunged because it means more exporting business for them. Our losses are their gains. Invasive species represent a sort of economic warfare.
The EPA’s negligible approach to securing of our borders from alien creatures is eerily similar to Washington’s efforts when it comes to another invader: the human aliens who come to our nation unabated from Mexico. It’s obvious that protecting our borders and ensuring our common defense are an afterthought by design. That’s a major point of frustration, for it is one of the very few things for which our federal government is actually obligated and empowered to do.
Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column originally ran in the 04 June 2012 Greater Niagara Newspapers