Economy / Energy / Regulation / U.S. Domestic Policy

EPA Budget Hearing: More Theatrics than the Academy Awards

The Oscars happened Sunday. I say the event “happened” as the actual event was quite underwhelming, with a group of artists patting each other on the back at artistically expressing the views they saw pertinent, while the true underlying issues of society were poked, joked, and unfocused. Very similarly, representative members of the Energy and Commerce committee held a hearing to examine the federal budget for 2013 for the EPA this morning; this being said, members criticized the rules of EPA, and applauded their own findings in bringing up mostly unrelated points. The same song and dance occurred today when Lisa Jackson was forced to testify on the Congressional Budget for EPA. The hearing felt like an inquisition. Representative Haper summed up the meeting, stating people generally want clean air and clean water, and though bipartisan support is really for this, cost-benefit is the concern by all groups in the meeting.

The hearing consisted of generally a Republican representative attack on EPA regulation, followed bed a personal thank you by Democratic representatives toward the health saving impacts of EPA. This being said, this was not the case of this meeting. Coal Ash Findings, Hydrofracking questions, and MACT rulings seemed to dominate the meeting’s topics. Though funding of the EPA is certainly impacts these rulings, the direct point of this hearing was the question the validity of EPA spending.  One question addressed that 22.6% of fuel consumption and pollution come from transportation and time wasted. “Is only regulating private industry only attacking only the job creators?” asked the Representative. With this attack, Mrs. Jackson pointed the Representative to the Department of Transportation for a cost-benefit analysis of action. EPA has no dictation on local traffic stops, or the cost of regulation to the benefit of safety precautions.  Similar questions and responses plagued the hearing.

Two major questions seemed to actually arise from the hearing though. The first question being Lisa Jackson’s travel budget, and the second being foreign grants abroad. The first question focused on Lisa Jackson’s recent travel to Brazil in order to attend an Urban Sustainability seminar. To place this in to perspective, Lisa Jackson got on a plane to travel to Brazil to attend the Urban Sustainability seminar. This emitted 3,644 lbs CO2 by round trip flight with one stop from Washington D.C. to Brazil. Remember, as noted earlier, the sustainability and reduction of carbon emissions is the 1st priority of the EPA. Perhaps staying in the United States and attending via Internet would have been a better gesture. In conjunction, her budget for travel has a questionable impact. Granted, the EPA MUST work cross lines of international borders, as pollution is a worldwide issue,  the necessity of Urban Sustainability in Brazil, though pertinent to EPA, does not follow the goals asserted by EPA in the agency’s mission statement. Second, the attack of foreign aide given via grants was a hallmark of the seminar pertinent to the issues at hand. Why are hundreds of thousands of dollars going to reduce pollution in China? Yes, China is now the largest emitter of Carbon Emissions, and it seems fitting for EPA to donate funds to attempt to mitigate these ideas. This being said, after taking loans from China to cover our debt, it seems insane to simply donate funds to fix their issues. A major hallmark of the seminar was that Ms. Jackson admitted to never having heard of some of these projects, and that more investigation would be gone to complete this problem. This is a severe problem – why would EPA not know about foreign entanglements? How would these funds have been allocated for these programs if EPA administrator Jackson did not approve them? Why are we not using this money to cut our debt to China, to both improve the public health of that country, thereby reducing our debt? Why are we simply giving away this money?

Finally, a standout performance by Representative Markey illustrated the emotion associated with domestic drilling for energy production. When addressing the problems of public health, he literally began screaming about problems of non-bipartisan efforts of Republicans in the legislature. If I had to select a new best supporting actor, Representative Markey may have made the cut, for this was acting; the next Representative attacked him for the hypocritical notion of legislature he had pioneered which Markey had rejected. Overall, the meeting hosted a variety of interesting notions not focused on the task at hand, thus forcing a reconvening of the members at a later date. Unless bipartisan support is found, it’s questionable if more will be accomplished at the next meeting, or if more Oscar-worthy performances will be for your consideration.

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