By Keith Mauck
Nearly every day there’s a new story about government intrusion into the lives and conversations of American citizens, but one particularly troublesome example has received scant attention. It is the release of personal information belonging to 80,000 ranchers and farmers—including addresses, phone numbers and email addresses—given to environmental groups by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to a published account, the EPA has acknowledged its mistake and has asked the environmental groups to “return the information.” But one has to wonder whether this breach of trust could endanger livestock producers and their families.
As Cattle farmer J.D. Alexander said, “This information details my family’s home address…the only thing it doesn’t do is chauffeur…extremists to my house.”
The EPA’s actions have prompted questions about the agency’s ability to perform its duties in a fair and unbiased manner. At a congressional hearing on May 16, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said, liberals “get a pass” at the EPA in keeping with the “culture of anti-conservative attitude from the Obama Administration.”
A study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) documents the EPA’s pattern of bias in dealing with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. CEI says the agency waives the fees associated with FOIA requests for liberal and green groups such as the Sierra Club, but “systematically denies waivers for groups on the right. Since January 2012 FOIA fees were waived for green groups in 75 out of 82 cases, but requests filed by CEI’s Christopher Horner were denied in 14 out of 15 cases.
More importantly, the EPA’s rule-makings tend to support the liberal green agenda rather than rely on science and common sense. Consider the agency’s actions on ethanol, the corn-based fuel added to gasoline to create E10, a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol. Federal law requires refiners to increase the amount of ethanol in the nation’s gasoline pool every year until they reach the goal of 36 billion gallons in 2022, but it also gives EPA the authority to reduce ethanol volumes on an as-needed basis.
Last year when a severe drought and record corn prices were pushing up food costs, EPA refused to exercise its authority, and more than 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop was used to produce ethanol. As a result, families around the globe paid more to eat. Higher food prices caused by the U.S. ethanol mandate also were blamed for the unrest in Egypt and elsewhere.
The agency’s support for ethanol also led to a decision allowing the sale of E15, a blend of 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol. By expanding the market for ethanol producers, the EPA put millions of vehicles and by extension their owners at risk. Tests show E15 can damage car and truck engines, and several automakers say using the fuel can void warranties. An industry coalition has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the EPA’s decision.
Some of the EPA’s additional missteps have provoked the ire of Congress and raised serious questions about whether the agency can legitimately fulfill its mission to “protect human health and the environment…based on the best available scientific information.” There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the EPA puts politics ahead of science and the law.
Consider the following: The former EPA Administrator used an alias and an external email account to keep some of her communications off-the record despite federal law. A regional administrator was hired by an environmental group after saying he wanted to “crucify” oil companies. Recently the agency issued a proposal to force refiners to remove more sulfur from gasoline although there is little evidence suggesting that the environment will be improved. The proposal will increase the price of gasoline by up to 9 cents per gallon and actually increase refinery carbon emissions.
Members of the U.S. Senate have been reluctant to confirm the appointment of Gina McCarthy, the President’s pick for EPA Administrator, until they are assured that the agency is working transparently and for the welfare of the American people. Perhaps it’s time to consider another option: Getting rid of the agency entirely and replacing it with a smaller, fairer organization.