Replace the Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. Jay Lehr, science director of the Heartland Institute, proposes replacing the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a “Committee of the Whole” whose members are made up of representatives from the 50 state environmental protection agencies. That Committee of the Whole will establish a new headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, well-away from Washington, D.C.

Lehr has recently written a Policy Brief for Heartland, detailing his reasons for replacing EPA. You can read the entire brief at:

Below, are excerpts and paraphrases from that Brief:

The EPA has been taken over by environmental activists so that now “EPA is all but
a wholly owned subsidiary of liberal activist groups. Its rules account for about half of
the nearly $2 trillion a year cost of complying with all national regulations in the U.S.”

“It is tempting to imagine EPA can be ‘fixed,’ that its abuse of power and pursuit of political
agendas without regard to their effect on the environment could be stopped if only the right
people were appointed to run it, or perhaps if Congress passed laws requiring better science or
more cost-benefit analysis.”

“The serious failures of environmental regulation … do not occur randomly or, for that matter, as a result of bad management (although this may occasionally be the case). Rather, they stem from deep-rooted institutional and political incentives that systematically bias the EPA’s decisions. Better science and risk assessment procedures, public participation, and civic education, in and of themselves, do little to counteract these biases, and may exacerbate them.”

Lehr notes that state environmental agencies have 30 years of experience in managing the environment and proposes a 5-year phase-out of the Federal EPA. If states took over, Lehr says we could eliminate 80 percent of the EPA budget and staffing could be reduced from “15,000 to 300, and those 300 would serve in the new national EPA headquarters to be located centrally in Topeka, Kansas.”

Lehr writes that, “Not only would this transition save large sums of money, but the efficiency and quality of environmental protection would be enhanced by placing power and responsibility in the hands of the individual states.”

This will place the regulators much closer to those regulated and, hopefully, be more responsive to those regulated.

Ironically, Lehr served on several advisory councils of the EPA during its first ten years and helped write a significant number of legislative bills that were to make up a true safety net for our environment. Now however, he says that the agency has gone rogue and must be replaced.

Dr. Lehr has a degree in geological engineering from Princeton University and received the nation’s first Ph.D. in groundwater hydrology from the University of Arizona.