Andrew langer_ the price of radical enviornmentalizm – washington times

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Where did America’s regulatory state go “off the rails?” By the best measurements, modern-era America’s air and water have never been cleaner, yet you have radical environmentalists screaming for ever-increasing amounts of regulation. Worse, despite a regulatory state that, by the U. S. Government’s own estimates, cost the American economy just under $1 trillion in 2005, those same activists have driven a massive amount of new regulations over the last decade — driving up regulatory costs by an additional trillion dollars in those 10 years alone.

This had been allowed to happen for a number reasons, but not the very least is an environmental policy that is and has been developed with a complete disregard for actual, scientific, comparative risk assessment (CRA). CRA is a tool that policymakers can and should use to compare and contrast risks across the spectrum of public health, safety, and environmental policies-to help us, as a people, prioritize public policy problems, assess whether something is, in fact, a problem, and to determine when or even if action is warranted.

Disregard the proper assessment of risk and America faces an exploding regulatory state. Worse, real problems (like water quality in Flint, Michigan) is ignored in the face of phantom risks … like those in North Carolina.

While the national political spotlight focused on North Carolina’s presidential primary, another critical development in the state went largely unnoticed when radical environmental activists and overzealous state regulators were dealt an embarrassing setback. After more than a year of issuing unnecessary, even frightening warnings to North Carolina residents about the quality of their drinking water, state health officials were forced to walk back their warnings and end one phase of their attack against a major energy producer in the Tarheel State.

In a classic example of ready, fire, aim state environmental and public health officials tried to use the water quality issue as leverage to unfairly vilify and embarrass the state’s largest energy producer — Duke Energy. That effort failed, leaving North Carolina health officials with a large amount of egg on their faces.

Last year, the North Carolina Health and Human Services department issued a “Do Not Drink” order for residents living near coal ash storage sites run by Duke Energy. Coal ash is a by-product of coal after coal is burned to produce power-one that can and is recycled to be used in a variety of industries. Duke Energy has several coal ash storage sites across the state. Health officials were convinced the drinking water in wells near these coal ash storage sites was polluted and they produced tests to back up their claims. Then they issued warnings to residents about their water.

These actions by state officials were clearly part of a plan to attack Duke Energy and wage a broader war on coal as a reliable energy source.

A year later, the state has been forced to lift the “Do Not Drink” order after additional tests revealed how water quality near Duke Energy’s coal ash sites was really no different than water taken from municipal run water supplies all across the state, including municipally-managed water supplies nowhere near Duke Energy coal ash sites.

Such fear-mongering isn’t limited to North Carolina. This pattern of attacking oil companies, natural gas and other energy producers such as Duke Energy occurs with regular frequency across the country. Extreme environmental groups team up with the EPA in Washington and then with state and local regulators to make unsubstantiated allegations that grab news headlines, but are seldom based in fact.

Look at the multiple year effort we have seen waged by radical environmentalists to attack hydraulic drilling for oil and natural gas. These radical environmental groups claim ground water pollution where none exists. The wild claims about alleged harm to drinking water have been widely debunked.

The environmental organizations and the individuals who make these baseless allegations should be exposed by the news media for what they are — anti-fossil fuel extremists who will stop at nothing to demonize our energy industry. Government regulators have an obligation to protect the public and ensure health and safety, but they also have a duty to perform their duties in a responsible way, free from reckless actions that will needlessly alarm state residents and drive up energy costs for every household.

The environmental left, their allies within the EPA in Washington, and state regulators across the country must end these campaigns to attack the fossil fuel industry and reliable energy producers who create tens of thousands of jobs.

State regulators in North Carolina owe the residents more than a new notice of safe drinking water, they should apologize to residents for needlessly frightening them into thinking their water was tainted. Further, state health officials — obviously working at the behest of activist environmental pressure, should be outed and punished for unfairly demonizing an energy producer like Duke Energy in order to advance their own political agenda.

When the true facts emerge, the unfounded claims made by the environmental left fall apart. It’s a shame the residents of North Carolina were forced to endure for more than a year before the truth was told.

• Andrew Langer is president of the Institute for Liberty.

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