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The little guys are easier marks. There’s not as much money to be made of course, since one can only squeeze so much juice out of a turnip, but all the Agency has to do is point at the monster settlement it made with the big boys in the target industry and the rest of the peasants are as sure to fall in line as any ancient Turk facing the might of Roman legions.
Need an example? Consider the electric power industry. Starting in 1999 and continuing through present day, the EPA went after coal-fired power plants for allegedly violating certain portions of the Clean Air Act. These complex cases were, in many ways, without real merit in my opinion but it was easier for the big guys to pay what amounted to a tax for daring to operate a coal-fired power plant than engaging in a long, costly legal battle. These cases affected large utilities who operate plants that generate hundreds and thousands of megawatts of electricity.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are the little guys – the local co-ops and municipal utilities that operate small power plants that generate a couple dozen or so megawatts per facility. Some of these local players burn coal. The Obama administration doesn’t like coal. And so, like the heavy in 1930s gangster movie, EPA officials have been calling on these small, environmentally insignificant coal-fired power plants and presenting them with a simple choice: shut down or switch to another fuel, because if you don’t we’re going to come after you, and you’ve already seen what we can do to the big guys. It’s like one of Capone’s boys showing up and darkly observing: “nice power plant you got there pal – it would be a shame if anything happened to it.”
Almost none of this racket is about actual environmental protection. The United States is one of the most environmentally pristine nations in the world and continues to get cleaner every year. No matter. The more we reduce pollution, the more outrageous EPA enforcement becomes. How can it be otherwise? The Agency, the environmental groups whom it answers to and their leftist supporters in Congress use enforcement activity as the primary metric by which the EPA’s successes and failures are judged. As a result, to bastardize Churchill, never in history have so many been fined so much for so little.
Republican Senator James Inhofe announced that he’s launching an investigation into EPA abuse as a result of Armendariz’s all-too-honest comments. Here’s hoping that something comes of the senator’s efforts. There are a few million of us in the private sector ready, willing and able to bear witness to what has been going on, and the nation will be far better off if Inhofe can help rein in this out-of-control agency.
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