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How White House Kept EPA From Socking Your Neighborhood

Friday, 24 May 2002 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON – Federal bureaucrats in the Environmental Protection Agency wanted to impose regulations that would have lowered the quality of life and increased expenses for American homeowners. Bush administration appointees stopped them in their tracks. But be aware. They will be back.

The measure, supposedly resulting in an 80 percent cut in sediment (mud) from stormwater drains, would have cost each homeowner an extra $3,500, driven more than 1 million potential home buyers from the housing markets, and dearly cost lower-income renters in expenses passed along by the landlord.

Home buyers who shell out the extra money would have been rewarded with fewer or no sidewalks; narrower streets; fewer, shorter or no driveways; and dangerous open swales instead of underground storm sewers.

To this attack on your quality of life, add the burden of building and maintaining the required retention ponds or silt traps.

Fortunately for all home buyers and renters, Al "Earth in the Balance” Gore was not in the White House to give a pass to anything that calls itself "environmentalism.”

The Environmental Protection Agency dreamed up this proposal to march the federal government into your neighborhood and, in effect, punish you for living the American dream of owning a decent home in a nice neighborhood.

But the realists at other agencies and in the Bush White House blew the whistle on this flight of fantasy. They forced the EPA to backtrack. EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman went back to the drawing boards to undo the mischief put forth by her underlings, probably career bureaucrats or Clinton holdovers.

At the White House, the Office of Management and Budget blew the whistle on the proposal and circulated it to Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Small Business Administration and the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). Each effectively gave the scheme what amounted to a report-card grade of F.

The proposal "could seriously affect the housing of lower-income and moderate-income families,” wrote HUD Assistant Secretary John C. Weicher. "The effect on the rental market is likely to make it harder to achieve the national housing goal of a decent home for all families, and the effect on single-family homes is likely to make it harder for young families to buy their first homes.”

Weicher then shot holes through the original EPA argument that the downgrading or disappearance of sidewalks and driveways and the shortening of streets would save money.

"Homebuyers are likely to regard the change as a reduction in quality of the housing in the community rather than a savings in cost. The reduction in quality may cause the sales prices of homes in the developments to fall below the actual infrastructure savings realized,” the result would be "little or no use of [the infrastructure changes in the lower quality of life] or other techniques that would generate infrastructure savings.”

Speaking from the standpoint of its constituency, SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy Thomas M. Sullivan expressed "serious concerns” with the proposal and its "questionable water quality benefits,” and added that previous stormwater regulations had already increased the price of a new home "by $5,000 at the current time.” Adding an additional $3,500 on top of that would be too much.

The EPA’s projections were "optimistic,” according to Sullivan, with benefits failing to "fill the gap.” The rule would substitute "federal standards for local standards,” "could cause havoc with local and government planning,” is an "intrusion of federal authority,” and "could result in a substantial impact on local government funding which the federal government is not proposing to provide.” This makes it an unfunded mandate, an order from Washington to change zoning and planning rules in your own backyard.

Mary Peters, federal highway administrator at DOT, said the plan would impair needed highway construction, for which EPA "has not provided sufficient justification.”

These objections obviously caught the attention of EPA Administrator Whitman. The result is that the options now being considered for public comment include:

This is a victory for every home buyer in America but vigilance is still required. Low-level entrenched bureaucrats know the Bush administration won’t be around forever.

Hillary Clinton’s monstrous health plan went down to ignominious defeat in 1994, and ever since then, its advocates have been trying to slip it through in bits and pieces. The same leftists will do whatever it takes and however long it takes to grab the $3,500 that the Bush administration saved home buyers.

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WASHINGTON - Federal bureaucrats in theEnvironmental Protection Agency wanted to impose regulations that would have lowered the quality of life and increased expenses for American homeowners. Bush administration appointees stopped them in their tracks. But be aware. They...
Friday, 24 May 2002 12:00 AM
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