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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Plans to Tie Its Own Hands (bloomberg.com)
73 points by petethomas 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments





I don't have much opinion about the other stuff they are doing like challenging China on trade but what the EPA is doing seems outright evil. Instead of increasing standards they seem to be hellbent to go back to the glory days of 100 years ago when companies could pollute as much as they wanted. And the whole push for more coal seems incredibly stupid. Instead of taking the leadership with renewable energy they want to prop up an industry that's (hopefully) on the way out.

This administration has found the person who has the most incentive to destroy a particular government agency, then puts them in charge of it.

See: Pruitt & EPA, DeVos & DoE, Pai & FCC.

And now Kavanaugh has been put on the Supreme Court specifically because his view is that the entire idea of Congress delegating authority to government agencies is unconstitutional.


> the entire idea of Congress delegating authority to government agencies is unconstitutional.

Authority? More like responsibility, aka implementation. I happen to believe that congress born agencies should never have been created. Anything Congress creates becomes a self-sustaining, unkillable organization, because...Congress is glacial in deciding anything.

Any government born agency (regardless of branch) has authority. Which is more efficient and reliable, Congressional Agencies or Cabinet Bureaus? The threat that a Bureau can be dissolved at any time is important to their operation.


The official terminology is delegated legislative power.

I'm not sure authority is meaningfully different than power in the context of that comment, but since specifics are important in politics, I'll try to be as precise as possible.


I am not sure what you are trying to say. Do you have any examples?

I believe he's getting at the Nondelegation Doctrine [0].

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nondelegation_doctrine


This would also prevent congress from delegating war making powers to the President. In essence a formal declaration would then be required before military force could be used. I think it would be a healthy change.

Congress seems to have given up on using their powers because they are way too busy fighting each other. So they delegate decisions to the president.

Exactly. They put people in charge of departments they either hate or don't understand like Ross at Commerce or Perry at Energy.

This is exactly what has been done. It appears that the majority of regulatory departments have been captured by the industries they are supposed to be regulating.

To see a historical example of the consequences of this at work, just take a look at the recent financial collapse and the SEC response. 1 person prosecuted, and a majority of the programs that led to the collapse are now back up and running. The collapse in 2008 was dollars and cents, imagine a similar collapse involving the environment and human health.


It’s a big bummer when your kid is a picky eater, loves tuna, but you have to severely restrict it because it’s loaded with mercury.*

One thing I’ve learned about constraints is that they breed creativity. It’s one of the reasons why I think a well-regulated market isn’t a bad thing.

How many of your unconstrained projects withered due to choice paralysis? How many of your tightly constrained problems led to some of the most satisfying solutions?

(* I’ve recently discovered Safe Catch brand tuna which claims to be tested for mercury and safe for athletes, children, etc. Haven’t verified their claims, but looks promising at least.)


Also - if you're talking about canned tuna, the "Chunk Light" is generally made from Skipjack which is a smaller fish and will have less bio-accumulated mercury than any other tuna.

Did not know that, thanks!

1. Rules are good. They force creativity! 2. Did you know that the rules have allowed Skip Jack fishers to call it something else and you have been missing out on this healthy alternative all this time?

Great conversation.

You need to consider also that there is a lot of creativity destroyed because of the rules, and this is difficult to see or imagine. The seen vs the unseen is a Bastiat classic idea, but it is well summarized in Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt (only about 200 pages).


Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll check it out.

Believe me, I think there's too much red tape in plenty of areas of government – I definitely don't see it as black & white.


“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Top coal producing states (Note: only one went Democrat in 2016 presidential election) Wyoming: 297.2 (41%) West Virginia: 79.8 (11%) Pennsylvania: 45.7 (6%) Illinois: 43.4 (6%) Kentucky: 42.9 (6%)

Coal industry job count info: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/03/20/t...

Coal industry political donations: https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=E1210

Pretty clear why the current administration is hellbent on supporting coal in contrast to facts.


When I was in college, my tech-heavy school was about 50% Republican.

No more.

The GOP's descent into anti-intellectualism started with a war on science and has since escalated to a war on engineering.

Unfortunately the GOP seems bound to win that war.


This has more to do with the success of Cultural Marxists in there takeover of colleges than anything done by the GOP.

No. IT doesn't. It has to do with the GOP's platform being at odds with the domain knowledge of engineers.

*their

The political drive to intentionally limit the arguments for well established chemistry and science is absurd to say the least. But it remains true:

Lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and other chemicals do not have a political leaning. They dont selectively impact the democratic left more so than the right. They dont hang out at coffee shops or read Marx. These are chemicals that are regulated, arguably, because plutocrats began to realize they could not use their boundless wealth to escape them. They are regulated ultimately because they have been scientifically proven a unilateral threat to human health if uncontrolled.


> Lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and other chemicals do not have a political leaning. They dont selectively impact the democratic left more so than the right.

Yes they do, unfortunately.

If you look at state-level regulation of industrial activities in the South, you'll notice that the cavalier attitude towards pollution only applies when it's the poor and the dark skinned who live downwind or downstream.


I'm not sure that is true. When I read Arlie Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land it focused on a largely white community in Louisiana, where practically everyone had first-hand experience of harms to people and the environment from local chemical industry pollution. The town and its leaders were nonetheless very supportive of the old polluting businesses and their new expansion plans. The residents also opposed federal regulations that would limit industrial pollution more than Louisiana's extremely lax state laws.

In Washington state, the Hanford facility that made plutonium for weapons was also largely staffed by prosperous white workers. Before the end of the Cold War, that community of workers knew better than anyone the risks that they and sometimes neighboring communities were exposed to by time pressures and lack of oversight. That same community was also fiercely protective of their employers and resisted health/environmental oversight by "outsiders." (See Kate Brown's Plutopia for a fascinating history.)


I wish this kind of topic would draw more attention and discussion. Greed is absolutely infuriating. I have similar "poison people to save money" energy project in the making in my country. Engaging in activism and crowd funding.

It's pretty unfortunate, especially in light of the recent UN Climate report that the US is using its power to prop up the fossil fuel industry. Given current cost trajectories, coal was going to have a hard time competing against renewables. But if the health and safety regulations that coal operates under are greatly reduced or removed, coal may become very competitive again, to the detriment of pretty much everything and everyone else.

Mercury is a known harmful substance, and while the coal companies state they don't plan on taking advantage of any reductions I find it hard to believe that if a plant found itself not in compliance with old standards that it would voluntarily disclose and correct the issue if not required. Changing the way standards are calculated will also go a long way towards changing the standards on other pollution limits. The end result is more poison in our air, rivers, and bodies.

Add to this the Trump administrations draft plan to use the Defense Production Act to mandate the purchase of coal power and you have a pretty stark narrative.


depressing.

Expected this to happen when you have EPA administrators who are former lobbyists and whom previously opposed the EPA


Whether you agree or disagree with the current administration's policy, PLEASE VOTE. Voting is how you change the country towards the direction you want. If you want to know who is up for elections, you can visit https://www.ballotready.org/ .

I don't think that Trump style Republicans will be in power long, so in addition to worrying about the short term consequences of gutting the EPA, I that the blowback when they aren't in power will be so extreme that we'll go to far in the other direction.

Until Gen X and younger are in political power, things will continue as they are. I'm sure there are outliers, and admit it is difficult to make generalizations about an entire generation, but it's pretty evident that Baby Boomers are in support of anything that keeps their taxes low, yet ironically supports their Medicare, Social Security, and defense industry spending.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2016/11/09/the-20...

https://theweek.com/articles/627505/how-baby-boomer-psychodr...


Trump won by around 80k votes in 3 states. Very small changes would have produced a dramatically different outcome. For example, if you'd had the same election with the projected demographics of 2020 (remove all of the people who died between 2016 and 2020, add in voters who were [14,18) in 2016, naturalized citizens, greater proportion of gen x and millennials etc..), its likely he would have lost (note this isn't the same thing as saying he's guaranteed to lose in 2020). If you had the 2016 election with the demographics of 2024, he definitely would have lost.

As it stands, Trump has absolutely abysmal approval ratings for such a strong economy. If we have a recession sometime before he leaves office, I think a complete Democratic takeover of the House Senate, and Presidency is very likely.

Right now 538 is showing around an 80% chance that Republicans lose the House next month.


Another way to visualize how close the last election was;

If the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan were part of Wisconsin and if the Florida Panhandle were part of Alabama, Clinton would've won. These odd little geographic quirks have an enormous impact on our national politics.




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