EPA Overreach Hits the Poor

Monday, 03 Feb 2014 09:57 AM

By Larry Bell

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New EPA regulations will ban the production and sale of 80 percent of America’s current wood-burning stoves, the oldest heating method known to mankind and mainstay of rural homes and many of our nation’s poorest residents. Among the hardest hit will be off-grid wilderness areas such as in large regions of Alaska and the American West.
 
Whereas EPA restrictions had previously banned wood-burning stoves that didn’t limit fine airborne particulate emissions to 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the change will impose a maximum 12-microgram limit. Most wood stoves that warm cabin and home residents from coast to coast can’t meet that standard. Older stoves that don’t won’t be able to be traded in for updated types, but instead must be rendered inoperable, destroyed, or recycled as scrap metal.
 
The impacts of EPA’s ruling will affect many families. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 survey statistics, 2.4 million American housing units (12 percent of all homes) burned wood as their primary heating fuel, compared with 7 percent that depended upon fuel oil.
 
Local governments in some states have gone even further even than EPA, not only banning the sale of noncompliant stoves, but even their use as fireplaces. As a result, owners face fines for infractions. Puget Sound, Washington is one such location. Montreal, Canada, proposes to eliminate all fireplaces within its city limits.
 
Only weeks after EPA enacted its new stove rules, attorneys general of seven states sued the agency to crack down on wood-burning water heaters as well. The lawsuit was filed by Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, all predominately Democrat states. Claiming that EPA’s new regulations didn’t go far enough to decrease particle pollution levels, the plaintiffs cited agency estimates that outdoor wood boilers will produce more than 20 percent of wood-burning emissions by 2017.
 
A related suit was filed by the environmental group Earth Justice. This appears to be but another example of EPA and other government agencies working with activist environmental groups to sue and settle on claims that afford leverage to enact new regulations which they lack statutory authority to otherwise accomplish.
 
"Sue and settle" practices, sometimes referred to as “friendly lawsuits,” are cozy deals through which far-left radical environmental groups file lawsuits against federal agencies wherein court-ordered “consent decrees” are issued based upon a prearranged settlement agreement they collaboratively craft together in advance behind closed doors. Then, rather than allowing the entire process to play out, the agency being sued settles the lawsuit by agreeing to move forward with the requested action both they and the litigants want.
 
While the environmental group is given a seat at the table, outsiders who are most impacted are excluded, with no opportunity to object to the settlements. No public notice about the settlement is released until the agreement is filed in court . . . after the damage has been done.
 
All too often we taxpayers are put on the hook for legal fees of both colluding parties. According to a 2011 GAO report, this amounted to millions of dollars awarded to environmental organizations for EPA litigations between 1995 and 2010. Three “Big Green” groups received 41 percent of this payback, with Earth Justice accounting for 30 percent ($4,655,425).  
 
In addition, the Department of Justice forked over at least $43 million of our money defending EPA in court between 1998 and 2010. This didn’t include money spent by EPA for their legal costs in connection with those rip-offs because the agency doesn’t keep track of their attorney’s time on a case-by-case basis.
 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has concluded that sue and settle rulemaking is responsible for many of EPA’s“most controversial, economically significant regulations that have plagued the business community for the past few years.”Included are regulations on power plants, refineries, mining operations, cement plants, chemical manufacturers, and a host of other industries.
 
A recent example sets unachievable CO2 emission limits for new power plants. And while compared with huge consequences of this regulatory war on coal, the fuel source that provides more than 40 percent of America’s electricity, a clamp-down on humble residential wood-burning stoves and future water heaters may seem to many people as a merely a trifling or inconsequential matter. That is, unless it happens to significantly affect your personal life.
 
As Alaska’s State Representative Tammie Wilson told The Associated Press: “Everyone wants clean air. We just want to make sure that we can also heat our homes.”Wilson continued: “Rather than fret over EPA's computer model-based warning about the dangers of inhaling soot from wood smoke, residents have more pressing concerns on their minds as the immediate risk of freezing when the mercury plunges.”
 
And speaking of theoretical computer model-based warnings, where’s all that global warming that was promised?
 
Larry Bell is a professor and endowed professor at the University of Houston, where he directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and heads the graduate program in space architecture. He is author of “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax,” and his professional aerospace work has been featured on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel-Canada. Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
 
 

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