Soon-to-be ex-U.S. Senator Arlen Specter now knows “the same old, same old” (politics) doesn’t fly anymore. This week, Pennsylvania voters opted to turn him out to pasture.
Unfortunately, Uncle Sam’s bureaucrats and the environmental community haven’t gotten the message that they can no longer spend everybody else’s money. Last week, I attended a well-orchestrated press conference in Annapolis, Md., where federal officials and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gushed about a water-breaking lawsuit settlement, that CFB President Will Baker called a "game-changer" – one that will cost U.S. taxpayers billions and ultimately will “trickle down” as higher state and local government costs.
For CBF, it was a high water mark – resolution of its lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. For EPA, it was one of numerous roll-out events announcing new federal mandates to force Chesapeake watershed states – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – to meet federal targets or be punished. In reality, EPA has been ramping up this new mandate for close to a year.
Most irksome was the disparaging attitude of CBF's Baker and the more tactful EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, with no recognition of current and substantial bay quality improvements due to major state efforts over the last decade. And, to contend that the states failed to identify impaired waters was a flat-out untruth.
The previous 2000 Chesapeake Bay Agreement was voluntary – a “carrot” (incentive) program. By many reports, there are many reports of progress – despite being underfunded. Now, whipped on by the environmental community, Uncle Sam seems to be switching to a “hammer (and sickle?)” approach, driven by President Obama’s executive order in May 2009.
For details, check this Web site’s “News” section. And watch for July’s American Agriculturist issue.
Damn the costs???
After pointing out that New York and Pennsylvania are already struggling with major budget deficits and cuts to agriculture and conservation programs and that much of the cost would likely be handed down from the federal level, I asked Perciasepe, “Where will the money come from to accomplish the mandated clean-up?”
Perciasepa conceded “We are in unusual economic times. But there are increased funds for waste water programs under the President’s budget presented to Congress.” (Due to political reality, that doesn’t make it available, does it, Bob?)
CFB’s Baker added that environmental improvements often lead to economic gain. And he cited a Virginia study linking job gains to good environmental policy. (Most job gains were, however, in government-funded positions.)
In other words, they blew off my question and the current economic strife being suffered by the states, only to promise tougher environmental mandates – without secured funds.
And that mentality is one big reason the U.S. economy isn't bouncing back.
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