Letter in Gardner News by Hodgev – Some environmental laws do more harm than good

Some environmental laws do more harm than good

By Benjamin Hodge

Last year, Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius became the first American policymaker ever to deny the construction of a power plant due to the theory of man-made global warming through carbon dioxide. Two coal-fired power plants were scheduled to be built in Holcomb, Kan., and they met every legal requirement in order to be approved by Rod Bremby, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). But Gov. Sebelius illegally instructed Bremby to deny the construction due to do a stated concern for man-made global warming.

Short-term, the decision damages the economy of western Kansas, whose citizens would receive greater employment opportunities and whose local governments would receive an injection of tax dollars. Some permanent economic damage may have already been done, as a result of private companies world-wide who may decide not to move their businesses to Kansas after deciding that Sebelius’ activism is evidence of a hostile business climate, – one with regulations that change without notice.

If the decision stands long-term, it is certain to result in a stunted state economy, and it may result in higher energy prices for Midwest residents (even outside of Kansas).

The Holcomb power plants will again be a major focus in Topeka during the 2009 legislative session, and you’ll continue to hear about coal plants and carbon dioxide in the news. It is important to recognize four things about the Holcomb decision.

First, Gov. Sebelius acted illegally. KDHE obtains its authority from the law, and Kansas law does not provide the governor with the authority to reject a power plant’s construction because of carbon dioxide concerns.

Second, KDHE has a long history of ignoring laws that it doesn’t want to follow. Kansas’ 1998 late-term abortion law has never been enforced by KDHE, resulting in Kansas being the only destination for elective late-term (22 weeks and beyond) abortions in the entire Western hemisphere.

Third, in 2008 Sebelius was being considered by then President-Elect Barack Obama for EPA secretary. The citizens of Kansas came in second to the base of the Democratic Party and the personal goals of Kathleen Sebelius.

And fourth, our state’s entire energy policy is now being litigated and will end up in the hands of the most radical state court in the nation – the Kansas Supreme Court. Unlike the 49 other states, the panel of self-described legal experts that selects Kansas Supreme Court justices is majority-controlled by unaccountable lawyers. As a result, the law is of little importance to those chosen for Kansas Supreme Court. State energy policies will be decided by leftist, activist judges.

The Holcomb decision contrasts with a recent program addition at Johnson County Community College – the Energy Performance and Resource Management Program. This program is an example of energy-related government policy based upon consensus and facts.

In fall 2009, JCCC will offer new classes focusing on improving the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances.

Nobody wants to pollute, and it’s understood that natural resources are limited. Improving the efficiency of major appliances, making sure buildings are properly insulated: these are ideas that are universally accepted.

As the business market demands it over time, a variety of courses will likely offered at JCCC, perhaps in wind, solar, and nuclear technology.

Like 50 to 60 percent of Americans, I am a skeptic toward the theory of man-made global warming, but I consider myself to be quite “pro-environment.” When NASA scientist James Hansen recently warned that President Obama only has four years to save the earth from man-made global warming, my reaction was, “Tax dollars are paying this guy’s salary?”

Al Gore may prove to be correct, or he may not – we don’t have enough information right now to know. All we know for certain is that Gore is an accomplished entrepreneur, having made millions of dollars promoting the environment.

So many tax dollars and opportunities are wasted in the name of the environment, even though intentions are usually good.

Some policies negatively impact national security by making nuclear power impossible, and increasing our reliance on fossil fuels. Laws put into effect long ago by former president Jimmy Carter still prevent the U.S. from fully exploiting the potential of nuclear-based energy. Nuclear power plants produce 75 percent of French electricity but less than 20 percent of American electricity.

Some laws result in more harm than good to the environment (and our wallets). I’ve yet to be shown evidence that legitimizes the corn-based ethanol mandates for gasoline, and that justifies the annual transfer of billions of dollars from taxpayers to the private industries that produce ethanol.

Energy conservation is a worthy goal. The same goes for the use of proven alternative sources of energy. It is a great thing when new technologies are developed – usually by private companies, not through government programs – that both help the environment and improve our overall quality of life. Economist Mark Perry points out that it took 1.5 days of work time to purchase a solar-powered calculator in 1975, but only 33 minutes today.

The community college’s new Energy Performance and Resource Management Program is an example of consensus-based environmental legislation. It is legislative policy that does not use taxpayer dollars to promote a political agenda, and it does not interfere with the role of private industry to create jobs and develop new technologies.

Benjamin Hodge is a former state representative and the online editor of the Johnson County blog at http://www.redstate.com. He currently serves on the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees and lives in Overland Park.