Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

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Punk
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

Since I can never get an answer out of certain folks on this site, I'm asking the question to all hoping to spark some discussion.

Why is it the Government's job to protect the environment through laws, regulations, and conservation of lands (parks, etc). Where is it outlined in the Constitution, or what part of the Constitution grants the Government this power?

Jon Reisman
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

That would be the watermelon clause.

Mark T. Cenci
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

Seems to me there is a role for the State, in that the waters of Maine are Public Property. So that is all lakes, rivers and streams and brooks.

While private property stewardship is crucial and under-rewarded, the limits of private property use do not extend to Public Waters.

So if you have a stream flowing through the middle of your 200 acres, I think the State has an obligation to protect the Public Waters from degradation.

How they do that is another matter. Seems to me there is too much emphasis on regulations and permitting. Maybe it is the best way, but I'd like to see some thought going in to rewarding people for good behavior and stewardship.

Editor
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

Punk -

Define [i]protection[/i].

skf

oldfox
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

One word describes it....POWER

Punk
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

skf -

You know, yours was the last post I read before I had to do a bunch of errands and I've been pondering that question the whole time.

Truth is: [i]I don't know[/i].

"Protection" is too subjective, too nebulous, too general a term. My practical usage of a resource and practice of good stewardship (a la M.Cenci) may not be acceptable to another. Too subjective. Are we protecting the Earth from us? Are we protecting us from the Earth?

A great example, in my mind, of the futility practical conservation (versus 'feel good environmentalism') is the whole wind power issue. There are those who will fight to the death to keep a wind farm from being produced because of aesthetics or 'protecting' a tract of land, meanwhile not understanding that it's a step toward saving (protecting) another place (let's say ANWAR). I can say "Think Globally, Act Locally", too, you know. Acting locally and perhaps sacrificing (yes, I said sacrifice) a relatively miniscule piece of land to mitigate the use (ie protect) another seems reasonable to me.

But again, where is the Government (the US Govt in particular) given this power?

Mark, again, I agree that if any sort of power is granted, it should be state to state, *UNLESS* we're talking about something like Striped Bass where they cross several states. And, I'm drawing the analogy from the US Constitution Interstate Commerce model.

And, for all of you Statist-types and hardcore Environmentalists who think I don't give a rat's a$$ about the environment, you're wrong-- I minored in Environmental Studies at a small environmental school that makes Unity College look like a bastion of Conservativism. There *are* practical alternatives to Gov't Totalitarianism with respect to Conservation and Stewardship. I care deeply about the health of people and the direct relation to the environment they live in. I also care about their Liberty. The two (sustainable resources and freedom) need not be mutally exclusive.

I'm just trying to find where the Gov't's role is rooted in Law..?

Sorry for the long post.

MartyGeese
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

THe EPA was formed in the early 70's under Nixon. They snuck it through under the interstate commerce clause of constitution.

Anonymous
Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

What's the "watermelon clause"?
--
Interesting question. PF, what are some of these practical alternatives? The track record of industry has little to do with sustainability, or responsibility, for that matter--a concept that should go hand in hand with "freedom." For example, how many superfund sites are we now sitting on? Company X comes in, does their thing, goes out of business, and schmuck taxpayers are left to pick up the tab.

Dan Billings
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

A state does not need a specific grant of such a power. States have all the powers held by the King that are not specificed limited by the state constitution or the federal constitution.

As for the feds, they have the power to regulate interstate commerce. Though that power is often abused, if we are talking about pollution that goes from state to state and impacts commerce that would fit well within the feds grant of power.

Punk
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

That's a fair assessment, Dan. I'm OK with that (I guess I have to be).

JR1876-- Nuke power is proven. Wind power, proven. Again, what are we really protecting by creating barriers to these proven,[i] practical [/i]technologies?

It seems to me that the Eco-Left (for lack of a better term) is stuck on chasing farts in the wind-- save a cricket here, save a glacier there at a much bigger expense to freedom rather than to embrace real solutions to conserving resources (ie extreme restriction vs rewarding stewardship).

The Global Warming craze seems to be driving a lot of politics right now with no real clear metrics, at least as to the cause. Embracing one (proven)technology over another, is a practical solution (eg Windfarms). I'm not sold that Hybrid vehicles are the universal solution they're touted to be. Certain scenarios, sure.

Dan-- could you site an example of what fits well within the feds grant of power? Just because it fits, does it mean it should be their role? Along that line of thinking, it fits that Government should provide Universal Health Insurance to everyone, however, I don't believe it's the government's role.

Is environmental protection (nod to skf) a[i] moral [/i]obligation of the government?

Roger Ek
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

Government should protect people from unsafe dams that could fail just as they protect the public from elevators that could fail. These conditions are part of our environment and at this time government is probably the best means to ensure their safety. Ultimately, the best means to ensure such safety could be the use of private companies with the latest technology.

The environmental industry has been completely pre-empted by the looney left. The best example in Maine is a paper mill whose discharge water is cleaner than the water they take in from the river. Yet the environmental industry continues to want the paper mill to improve its performance. They are already in effect a giant river filter improving the environment, with the river below the mill better than it was above.

MarkSeger
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

[quote="Mark T. Cenci"]Seems to me there is a role for the State, in that the waters of Maine are Public Property. So that is all lakes, rivers and streams and brooks.quote]

Why should the Gov't have the right to lay claim to the water?

Dan Billings
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

[quote="Punk Freud"]Dan-- could you site an example of what fits well within the feds grant of power? Just because it fits, does it mean it should be their role? [/quote]

Certainly not. The government's legal authority is much greater than the role it should play.

For example, your local government could constitutionally regulate what color you can paint your house. That does not mean it should.

I think people on the left and right are too quick to look for structoral or constututional limits on government authority. While their are such limits, most issues are too be decided through the polical process (though more should be decided at the state level than at the federal level).

Northarrow
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

As mentioned earlier, many of the current environmental efforts we see today has its roots in the early 1970’s with the Clean Water Act and other laws. The impetus behind the growing environmental awareness of that time stemmed from the public’s realization that a hundred or so years of unbridled industrial revolution had begun to leave scars on the landscape that frightened many people and were clearly damaging our beloved natural resources.

I remember going back and forth to college and driving over the Androscoggin River during the mid 1970’s. I can still vividly recall not being able to see the river at all, only a 3 foot thick brown foam stretching from riverbank to riverbank. Absent any ability for private enterprise to collectively deal with such a situation, a vacuum was created that had to be filled with some kind of government intervention.

Fast forward thirty years and we find an entrenched environmental bureaucracy fully sanctioned by the government and popularly supported by a majority of the citizens. Unfortunately, in my view, the environmental juggernaut of today has shifted the pendulum to far to the other extreme. What started as an entirely necessary governmental reaction to the threats witnessed during the 60’s & 70’s has now been infested with burdensome regulations and meddling that go beyond reasonable controls in many, many cases.

I don’t agree with those who believe the government (be it state or federal) ought not to be involved with any type of regulation, that it is a hindrance to free enterprise. I also don’t agree with the radical environmental groups who clearly have no clear sense that some kind of balance is necessary in order to enable economic growth to occur. Being in the middle on this seems to be the right place to be.

Mark T. Cenci
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

Punk: it is a tradition of public ownership of water here in Maine. In Scotland, the salmon rivers are privately owned.

Northarrow: a scummy Androscogin River was not a failure of private industry or capitalism. It was a failure of gov't.

If we had a tradition like Scotland where river front land owners exerted property rights over the water, polluters would not be able to ruin a river, because all the thousands of land owners below them would sue for damages.

As it was, we had a gov't that was allowing people to use Public Property as a sewer, because economic development was what was politically important when the paper mills (and don't forget all the town and city straight pipe sewers) were being built. When prosperity was established, it became politically important for environmental clean up.

Don't blame capitalism, please.

Northarrow
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

Mark:

I did not mean to imply that the government was not somehow a factor in the deterioration of the landscape. [i]“(A)llowing people to use Public Property as a sewer”[/i] turned out to be an inevitable result of the transformation of a largely agrarian society to an industrial one, and the subsequent development of large congested communities that it required.

[i]“(A) scummy Androscogin River was not a failure of private industry or capitalism”[/i], but neither was it necessarily a failure of government. It was merely the unintended end result of an industrial process. Using the term [i]‘failure’[/i] assumes there existed rules & regulations during that period that should have been followed and wasn’t. That was not the case.

Your correct that at some point [i]“it became politically important for environmental clean up”.
[/i]

Mark T. Cenci
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

A modern mantra is that the environmental degradation of the Industrial Revolution was a result of the rapaciousness of Capitalism. And this rapaciousness was only controlled by government, given new powers by an enlightened few leaders of the new environmental movement.

I say we need to look at that anew.

It was government who always [i]allowed[/i] mills and local communities to dump untreated wastes into the waterways [i]gov't was always responsible for.[/i]

This happened because government was responding to political pressures then, just as they do now. Early on, it was important for gov't to encourage economic development. That's where the political pressure was. So they allowed Public Property to be used as sewers. Later, it was important for gov't to force the clean up of the sewers, because the political pressure changed.

But it is naive and incorrect to look at gov't as some sort of Superhero who saved the day.

Today, the common, incorrect assumption is that only gov't can keep things nice and clean. But a tradition of real private ownership of the waters would not have allowed rampant pollution in the first place. That is what we can learn from Scotland.

Anonymous
Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

[quote="Mark T. Cenci"] a scummy Androscogin River was not a failure of private industry or capitalism. It was a failure of gov't.[/quote]

Are you serious? Forgive me for thinking that if company X dumps S$*# into a stream, IT is responsible for that pollution. I suppose you could say that the polluter bares no responsibility because govt allowed it to happen, but this would seem to me to be an argument for the necessity of stringent and proactive government regulation.

Mark T. Cenci
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

[quote="johnross1876"][quote="Mark T. Cenci"] a scummy Androscogin River was not a failure of private industry or capitalism. It was a failure of gov't.[/quote]

Are you serious? Forgive me for thinking that if company X dumps S$*# into a stream, IT is responsible for that pollution. I suppose you could say that the polluter bares no responsibility because govt allowed it to happen, but this would seem to me to be an argument for the necessity of stringent and proactive government regulation.[/quote]

You are using 21st century thought processes to evaluate actions of the 19th century.

And you also thrust all sorts of preconceived notions upon me, which are not justified.

What I am saying is that the failure of gov't in the 19th century is that it [i]did not [/i]prevent the spoiling of the Public Property from the start. It bent to political pressure and traded away it's stewardship role.

Then it fooled naive people like you into believing it saved us all from the polluters.

Northarrow
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

It is naïve to believe that the government is some kind of Superhero here. Their actions only represent a pragmatic reaction to external pressure brought on by the people that said something needed to be done. If a louder chorus of people implored them to stay out of it, they would have done that.

But saying [i]“a tradition of real private ownership of the waters would not have allowed rampant pollution in the first place”[/i] strains credibility in my view. I don’t know much about Scotland, but given your comments about private ownership of its waters gives me the shivers. I can only imagine that in this country that it would lead to having more lawyers roaming around than flies at a picnic, and eventual gridlock.

Bottom line for me is that I maintain a healthy distrust for the ESRI jockeys in Augusta as well as the Armani suited bean counters on 5th. Avenue and elsewhere. Equilibrium is needed.

Mark T. Cenci
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

Northarrow: Scotland's salmon streams are legendary. They remain clean. My point is that private owneship also works to keep the environment clean. It is not our tradition in Maine. I am not advocating it to replace our tradition. I am defending private property as responsible system. Hordes of lawyers? Maybe. But not hordes of regulators. And not ever increasing volumes of regulations which serve to expand their fiefdom.

Mark T. Cenci
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

[quote="johnross1876"]. I suppose you could say that the polluter bares no responsibility because govt allowed it to happen, but this would seem to me to be an argument for the necessity of stringent and proactive government regulation.[/quote]

That is exactly what I am saying. That is [i]exactly[/i] the role of gov't, as our agent, in the proection of our Publicly owned waters. It is the role. [i]It always was the role.[/i] And that is their failure.

Only we never hear the story told that way. Which is why you reacted so negatively.

Anonymous
Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

"All sorts of preconceived notions"? I don't get it. Like what?

How would you address these Superfund examples, given your stance on private property? What role should the government play/have played in these cases? Private ownership can lead to really nice rivers (that the riff-raff can't access), but it can also lead to environmental disaster--especially given the fact that these "private" owners are not individuals responsible to their community, but corporate entities that can duck long-term consequences.

Anonymous
Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

Typing at the same time.

Personally, I'd prefer that more of the onus of responsibility go to the polluter. "I'm going to screw things up, unless you prevent me from doing so" (forgive the loose but essentially accurate philosophical paraphrase) doesn't sound like a very attractive course of action. A bar patron shouldn't need a law or the threat of jail time to keep from getting S*&$faced and getting behind the wheel.

Mark T. Cenci
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

[quote="johnross1876"]"All sorts of preconceived notions"? I don't get it. Like what?

How would you address these Superfund examples, given your stance on private property? What role should the government play/have played in these cases? Private ownership can lead to really nice rivers (that the riff-raff can't access), but it can also lead to environmental disaster--especially given the fact that these "private" owners are not individuals responsible to their community, but corporate entities that can duck long-term consequences.[/quote]

Like implying that there is no other way to prevent pollution and that I favor it.

Pollution is a trespass. Ground water flows to another's property. No one has a right to trespass. It is a tort. We have a centuries old tradition of tort resolution via the courts.

Where did you get the notion that private owners are not [i]responsible to their communities [/i](a term I'd like you to define BTW).

"Corporate entities that can duck long term consequences" is another loaded phase.

If they can do it, it is only because they have political power. Something you are defending here, ironically.

Punk
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

[quote="Northarrow"]
Bottom line for me is that I maintain a healthy distrust for the ESRI jockeys in Augusta ...[/quote]

LMAO! "ESRI jockeys". I can probably guess, but which GIS'ers are you referring to?

Punk
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

[quote="johnross1876"]How would you address these Superfund examples, given your stance on private property?[/quote]

Remember this: The Government is one of the greatest offenders of wetlands loss/pollution. Additionally, I did two internships, and several groundwater studies to support clean up efforts on 3 Government owned airports that couldn't seem to keep their JP6 jet fuel contained. These weren't tiny little 'oopsy' oil leaks from autos. We're talking major aquifer contamination.

Northarrow
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

[quote="Punk Freud"][quote="Northarrow"]
Bottom line for me is that I maintain a healthy distrust for the ESRI jockeys in Augusta ...[/quote]

LMAO! "ESRI jockeys". I can probably guess, but which GIS'ers are you referring to?[/quote]

You probably know, Punk. The ones that hunch over OGIS maps to digitize wetlands, vernal pools, coastlines etc. and recommend to their superiors the areas that ought to be somehow [i]“protected”[/i]. Technology now drives the administrators ability to define projects that need attention. Technology drives the ability of desk bound scientist to [i]“see”[/i] everything that they believe will fall victim to misuse or exploitation unless they act in a decisive way.

ESRI software and the greater GIS industry has transformed the environmental movement. Not only because it allows for quantifying whatever it is the administrators find important, but also because beautiful maps can be created that serves to convince the general public that there is [i]‘real significance’[/i] to their findings.

Punk
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Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

True (re: GIS). And on many other fronts as well with quasi-gov't organizations. I saw a GIS presentation recently where a municipal planner halted a subdivision by creating a 3-D 'fly-through' to show what the subdivision would look like. The local board was frightened by the lack of trees and boxy houses.

But, this very valuable and useful tool, in the hands of government, is used to create and justify regulation (eg DEP and shorezone bird habitats, etc).

From what I've read so far, the impression is that the Government's role IS or SHOULD BE to regulate the use of resources (ie to 'Protect' the Environment from ourselves).

Let me ask this another way: Is it better for land and resources to be protected (regulated, owned, etc) by the Government or by an non-govt entity like The Nature Conservancy? While I have no love for the Government, in that case I think it's the lesser of two evils.

Anonymous
Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

"Where did you get the notion that private owners are not [i]responsible to their communities [/i](a term I'd like you to define BTW)."

Sorry, I was not very clear. Not private owners, but corporate entities. A corporation has limited liability and is responsible only to its shareholders, whereas your non-corporate neighbor has a body to kick and a soul to damn, as they say. There's a big difference between private corporate ownership and private ownership by an individual.

Anonymous
Government's Role in Environmental Protection?

Let me ask this another way: Is it better for land and resources to be protected (regulated, owned, etc) by the Government or by an non-govt entity like The Nature Conservancy? While I have no love for the Government, in that case I think it's the lesser of two evils.[/quote]

The Nature Conservancy doesn't protect or regulate anything. It can't. It uses the term in its literature, etc., but all it is doing is what everyone else is doing--buying land or easements with particular purposes in mind. I'd probably say that I'd rather the government own land outright, because at least then I have a theoretical chance of influencing how it's regulated, whereas if the NC or Roxanne Quimby or Ted Turner buys something, I'm out. On the other hand, an organization like the NC isn't the worst option for me, because it buys its lands without public money (for the most part), and it allows for activities like logging and hunting on some of them.

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