Climate Panelists Call for Far-Reaching EPA Reforms

Published May 12, 2017

The speakers on the “Climate Politics and Policy” panel at The Heartland Institute’s 12th International Conference on Climate Change said the election of Donald Trump as president opened the door for fundamental changes to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and climate policy in general, to reflect a realistic assessment of the benefits and costs of climate and environmental policies.

Saying EPA’s recent regulations “provide no actual environmental protection; that is all done by the 50 state agencies,” Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, called for a radical restructuring and downsizing of EPA.

Lehr, who helped found EPA, said returning scientific integrity and regulatory accountability to U.S. environmental policy requires dismantling many of EPA’s programs and devolving most of the agency’s functions to state environmental agencies.

Cites Agency Bloat

Lehr noted there are 14 separate offices within EPA, each with its own staff and budget. Lehr says only five of the offices actually address environmental issues: the Office of Water, Office of Air and Radiation, Office of Chemical Safety and Emergency Response, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, and the Office of Research and Development.

Lehr said two EPA offices, the Office of American Indian Environmental Affairs and Office of International and Tribal Affairs, properly belong in the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, and seven offices do not address science at all, such as the Office of General Council, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Management, and the Office of the Administrator.

EPA has 15,000 full-time employees and a current annual budget of $8.2 billion. Yet with all these resources, EPA has engaged in only one actual field project in recent years: an attempt to clean up the abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado in 2015.

“They botched it and polluted the Animus River for over a month,” Lehr said.

Characterizing the status quo as intolerable, Lehr laid out a five-year plan to transfer almost all of EPA’s responsibilities and authority to a Committee of the Whole, which would made up of the 50 states’ environmental agencies.

Says States Are Ready

Lehr’s call for devolving federal environmental responsibilities to the states found a receptive ear with Dennis Hedke, who served in the Kansas House of Representatives for six years, four as chairman of the state House Energy & Environment Committee. He is a consulting geophysicist conducting research on the climate and policies on energy and the environment.

Hedke told the audience the 50 states know the environmental problems most pressing in their states better than EPA and are capable of handling them.

Hedke also said federal agencies impose more regulations on the fossil-fuel and electric-power industries than any other sector of the economy. For instance, the coal, oil, and natural gas industries combined face more than 37,000 regulations, and the electric-power industry must comply with nearly 21,000 regulations. The next-most regulated industry is motor-vehicle manufacturing, which deals with more than 16,000 regulations.

“The U.S. Department of Energy aided and abetted the war on fossil fuels as much as any federal department except EPA,” Hedke said.

Hedke suggested the Trump administration begin reducing EPA’s budget by ending funding for EPA’s Environmental Justice and Environmental Education programs.

Perils of Government-Funded Research

Scott Armstrong, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, called for slashing EPA’s research funding because government funding corrupts scientific research.

As a sign of how far the quality of government research has fallen, Armstrong pointed out the projections made by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change violate 81 percent of the 89 basic principles of forecasting.

Armstrong said the problem is government grant recipients know what results it will take to continue receiving funding for further research, and they produce the desired results.

“Research grants lead to advocacy,” Armstrong said. “Even after the current climate scare has run its course, something else will take its place, … so government has no business in research.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.


Jay Lehr, “Replacing the Environmental Protection Agency,” The Heartland Institute, July 15, 2014: