Administrative tyranny has real impacts . . . in Arizona and beyond

| April 12 2012
Christopher Cook

Recently, Marita Noon, Executive Director of Energy Makes America Great, catalogued some of the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency’s overreaches. She describes the EPA as worthy of being considered a rogue agency, but for the fact that they have the president’s blessing for their overreaches:

A couple of weeks ago, March 23, the EPA suffered a setback when US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, DC, determined that the EPA did not have the power to revoke a legitimately approved mining permit once it had been issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, as the EPA had done in January 2011 regarding Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine in WV. In ordering that the EPA’s “action be vacated in its entirety,” Judge Jackson said: “This is a stunning power for an agency to arrogate to itself when there is absolutely no mention of it in the statute.”

The EPA entered dangerous territory when it retroactively vetoed the permit, which had been approved after an exhaustive, approximately 10-year, regulatory process—which included time for an extensive review by the EPA. At the time, Senator Manchin (D-WV) said the “decision is not just fundamentally wrong, it is an unprecedented act by the federal government that will cost our state and our nation even more jobs during the worst recession in this country’s history.” He continued: “it has negative ramifications for every state in our nation.” Manchin called the EPA’s decision “an irresponsible regulatory step” and said it was “a shocking display of overreach,” with “a chilling effect on investments and our economic recovery.”

The permit, issued in 2007, now “remains valid and in full force.”

The following week, April 1, the EPA itself took a step back in its arrogant power grab. Once again, in January 2011, the EPA positioned itself above the appropriate governing body. In this case, the EPA filed a lawsuit against an energy company it claimed had contaminated drinking water in Texas through a natural-gas drilling process known as hydrofracturing—which is currently regulated by states, and for which the EPA wants national standards.

In Texas, oil and gas activities are regulated by the Railroad Commission. The EPA said the Railroad Commission failed to address an “imminent and substantial endangerment” to public health. The EPA then, in January 2011, filed a lawsuit against Range Resources. The Railroad Commission accused the EPA of “fear mongering, gross negligence and severe mishandling.” After an appeal from Range Resources argued that “the agency’s analysis was inconclusive,” and the company pointed to nearby wells known to contain gas long before Range began drilling in the area, the EPA dropped its suit.

Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman responded: “By dropping their court case and enforcement actions, EPA now acknowledges what we at the Railroad Commission have known for more than a year . . .

It goes on like that—a catalog of what De Toqueville was warning us about, even as he praised us in Democracy in America: Democracies can and do become administrative tyrannies. Read the whole thing.

Administrative tyranny is almost always couched in good intentions:

Good intentions rarely make for good economic policy. Case in point: In December, the Labor Department proposed expanding the government’s affirmative action program for federal contractors (a category that includes nearly all of the nation’s largest corporations) to include new obligations in hiring disabled workers.

Once, and if, the proposed rules goes into effect, companies with federal contracts will be asked to have a workforce compromised of at least seven percent of people with disabilities – in addition to two percent with severe disabilities. A Labor Department spokesperson tells Human Events that these numbers are merely “aspirational” — “goals, not quotas” – and that Washington simply wants “to make sure that companies are making an effort to meet those goals.”

Sounds rather harmless. Problem is that even the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs press release announcing the proposed rules uses the word“require” twice in the first sentence. If the Labor Department’s aspirations go unmet, for instance, companies could be denied federal contracts and be barred from bidding for future ones. The Labor Department isn’t targeting a few road-paving crews here, but rather hundreds of thousands of companies, millions of employees and over $700 billion a year in contracts.

We’ve been talking in these pages about Obama’s War on Coal for the last year. Now, a Democratic senator is using the same phrase.  Yeah, it’s that bad:

The notion that President Obama is trying to fire up his “base,” as he prepares for a re-election campaign, raises the question of what constitutes his base. It is becoming increasingly clear that the “workers” he is supposedly concerned about are going to be dismissed or ignored so that wealthy environmental groups can be accommodated.
Consider the words of Cecil Roberts, president of the powerful United Mine Workers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, after EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson made a ruling against coal plants. “The Navy SEALs shot Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and Lisa Jackson shot us in Washington,” Roberts said. Those who missed the news about Jackson shutting down coal plants through executive branch rules andregulations may have been unprepared for the Roberts assault. It was a big story for the media but framed in a way that played down the significance of what is taking place.
For New Generation of Power Plants, a New Emission Rule From the E.P.A.” was the misleading headline over the story in The New York Times. Much more is at stake than just a “new emission rule” that is somehow supposed to affect global warming.
West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, put it another way, saying the EPA “is fully engaging in a war on coal…” Manchin went on, “this ill-advised proposal to prevent new coal-fueled generation will move this country away from using all our domestic resources, and I will fight it every step of the way.”
EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is an environmental zealot who advocates “eco-justice.” In 2010, she received a copy of a “Green Bible” from the liberal National Council of Churches. Her mission is to wage war on the fossil fuel industry in order to build what she calls a “green economy.” She is scheduled to speak at the upcoming Conference on the Scientific, Religious, and Cultural Implications of Global Warming, sponsored by the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care. Jackson received the group’s “Steward of God’s Creation award.”

Also see here for more on the War on Coal.

A hallmark of the tyranny of the administrative state is arbitrariness. Once the legislature has ceded regulating authority to bureaucrats (or once they have arrogated it to themselves), the people of a nation are no longer dealing with laws, they’re dealing with whims. We cease to be a nation of fixed laws, knowable by all, and we become a nation of some men lording over other men, often with little more than arbitrary caprice.

The arbitrary hand of administrative tyranny has reached into Prescott, Arizona; to wit, this press release:

Statement from Senate President Steve Pierce on the USDA’s rejection of winning bid for Yavapai Downs Racetrack

“The horse racing season at Yavapai Downs in Prescott is one of the real economic engines of my district. It brings hundreds of jobs to an area hard-hit by the recession. There was real excitement last week when a bid of $3.25 million for the track won at auction. Gary Miller’s bid meant the track would be open for business this summer. We saw what happened last year when the track was shut down, and now we had reason for optimism.

That optimism didn’t last long, and we have the Obama administration to thank for it. Late Friday the United States Department of Agriculture inexplicably rejected this winning bid, all but shutting down any hope of a racing season this year.

That is disappointing, and I hope the USDA will reconsider its actions.”
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Mike Philipsen, Communications Advisor
Arizona Senate Republican Caucus
Office: (602) 926-3972 Cell: (602) 904-2070
Email mphilipsen@azleg.gov

Real people. Real jobs. Real lives. Families. All of these are trodden underfoot by the arrogant and arbitrary administrative state.

In the end, the administrative state can be reduced, but only by a coalition of the willing, and it must start with the executive branch. In the excerpt above, Marita Noon describes the EPA as worthy of being considered a rogue agency, but for the fact that they have the president’s blessing for their overreaches. Does that mean we also have a rogue president?

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