Wednesday, February 22, 2006
What will they GUT Next?
The greens have adopted a label that seems to be helping them frame the debate. Whenever anyone attempts to question or suggest reform of either bill, they are said to be GUTTING the Act. When Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) introduced the Threatened and Endangered Species Reform Act, green groups sent a barrage of email messages labeled “Stop Pombo from Gutting the Endangered Species Act.” Rather than considering the argument that the bill makes: that involving property owners in conservation is intrinsic to recovering species, it saw the Act as nothing short of an attack on it’s most sacred text.
Today, Slate has borrowed the term as well: "Alito and Roberts Gut the Clean Water Act.” In its article about the current cases before the Supreme Court regarding CWA - an article that fails to so much as reference why Alito - or Roberts, for that matter – are “gutting” anything - the arguments on both sides are briefly detailed. It draws little conclusion except that the Court is bound for certain changes now that Alito and Roberts are on the bench. So how exactly did either Justice advocate gutting CWA? Don't expect this article to tell you.
The arguments that were made – or at least suggested by the Chief and Associate Justice's questioning, as well as Justice Scalia’s – was that the government is claiming sweeping authority by saying it has the right to regulate even non-navigable tributaries (areas that may collect water from wetlands and possibly drain into navigable waters).
But what does this mean? Let’s use an example. Let’s say you have a ditch in your garden that fills with rain water, and that ditch drains off of the sidewalk and into the gutter and the gutter eventually drains into a river. According the government, you can be held culpable under CWA because – by some stretch of the imagination - that can be seen as a tributary to a navigable body of water. But – as the Justices in question rightly asked – where does a navigable body of water begin? Does it begin in your garden? Does it begin in the gutter? Is a puddle a "water of the United States"? What about a storm drain? Are they trying to give polluters the opportunity to go farther upstream to avoid being punished (as Justice Stephens suggests) or are they merely asking the right questions? How far does the government's regulatory power go?
Rather than hide behind the argument that even asking these questions is a veiled attempt to GUT CWA, why not consider the questions that are raised? I guess it’s easier to criticize the questioners than it is to answer the questions– as Slate, once again, so eloquently illustrates.
The Clean Water Act has gotten excessive too. It is so overdone that wastewater must be purifeid to a point where it is actually cleaner than waters that have been unsullied by man. It actually makes the water less healthy for the environment by mandating that vital trace minerals be stripped from the water as toxic materials. Farmers like sewage sludge very much because it has so many of these trace minerals in it that when they spray the sludge on their fields thei plants grow MUCH better, healtheir, and produce more than they did before. This is in no small way a direct result of the abundance of vital trace minerals that are found in the sludge.
The fact is that the enviro-nuts have taken good ideas and expanded them to ridiculous proportions. On what authority do I say this? on my own as someone with a degree in Environmental Management with anemphasis in hazardous materials, but with both wildlife and agriculture classes mixed in.
Oh yaeh, and the whole "gutting thing" is just another example of the demagougic scare tactics the left has relied on for decades now.