Dethrone the EPA
The choice: Prosperity through liberty, or depression through strangulation.


Robert Zubrin

In carrying out these vendettas, the EPA has acted without any sense of justice or environmental concern. For example, companies that chose to pay a certified waste-disposal firm to dispose of a small amount of waste for them in a certified manner have found themselves hit with huge fines when the EPA decided to reclassify the disposal area as a Superfund site and, regardless of how tiny was the firm’s contribution to the waste collection there, chose to penalize the company with the entire cost of the dump cleanup. Such actions by the EPA can only discourage responsible corporate behavior, since clearly, rather than face the risk of being arbitrarily presented with a cleanup bill for a Superfund site, the companies involved would have been far safer if they had just dumped their waste right out into the street.

The outrageous behavior, threats to liberty, and devastating harm to prosperity done by the EPA are so vast and varied that they cannot be adequately covered in an article of this length. To even get a handle on the problem, a book­length treatment is required. Fortunately, several are available. Three good ones to start with are Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA Is Ruining American Industry, by Rich Trzupek (Encounter Books, 2011), Out of Bounds, Out of Control: Regulatory Enforcement at the EPA, by James V. DeLong (Cato Institute, 2002), and Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty, by James Bovard (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994.) Trzupek’s book is the most up to date on matters of current controversy, but DeLong’s book cuts much deeper into the real nature of the EPA and its subversion of due process; for those with time for only a short treatment (it is 109 pages), it is essential reading. But if you have the time, and want a full understanding of not only the EPA but the total assortment of anti-growth regulatory agencies, read Bovard, whose Lost Rights exposé of the threat posed by an emerging bureaucratic police state remains a true classic. Beyond these, there is my own book Merchants of Despair, which lays bare the roots and consequences of the antihuman ideology that drives the zealots who support and staff the EPA, and that will perforce continue to encourage it to ever more destructive actions.

The problem represented by the EPA cannot be remedied simply by replacing its current administrator, Lisa Jackson, and reversing a few of her most atrocious actions. Much more thorough structural reform is necessary. Some of the required measures include:

1. The EPA’s extralegal system of puppet “administrative courts” must be abolished. Instead, the EPA must be required to pursue all actions through the real court system, where defendants will be afforded the right to a speedy and public trial by a real jury in front of a real judge and afforded all other aspects of due process, as prescribed by Amendments IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII of the United States Constitution.

2. The EPA must be forbidden to seize or destroy the property of any person until and unless such person has been found guilty of a crime in a court of law.

3. The EPA must be required to rewrite its current incoherent mass of confused regulations, amendments, findings, and memos into a single clear coherent, readable, and short code setting forth clear, justifiable, and attainable legal limits to pollutant emissions from stationary and mobile sources, with amendments to said code allowed only with the permission of Congress, and only at regularly scheduled intervals of no greater frequency than once per year; any such amendments must be incorporated into the code in such a way as to maintain its clarity. All EPA regulations, amendments, findings, memos, etc., outside this document must be declared null and void. Furthermore, the code must be restricted in its scope to setting forth limits on actual pollutant emissions; it must contain no assertion of authority over engineering design or other methods by which adherence to the code’s limits may be obtained. 

4. The EPA code needs to set forth a clear, regular, and rational system of penalties for violations of its code, with the amount of the penalty set in proportion to the amount of pollutant released by a given defendant, and no penalties imposed in the absence of any pollutant released.

5. The EPA must be precluded from prosecuting anyone whose actions were legal at the time they were taken, or whose actions were taken on the advice or with the concurrence of the EPA.

6. The EPA must be constrained from asserting authority over how anyone other than the U.S. federal government may use, improve, or alter in any way his own land, buildings, vehicles, or other property, as per Amendment X to the United States Constitution.

In his campaign speeches, Barack Obama has been saying that achieving an economic recovery will involve collective sacrifice. That is the exact opposite of the truth. In fact, what we need to do more than anything else is to stop the practice of collective human sacrifice on the altar of an irresponsible bureaucracy with aspirations to omnipotence.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan frequently mention “streamlining regulations” among their campaign talking points, but they need to go much further. Americans want economic growth. They do not want regulation-enforced stagnation. Americans want freedom. They do not want Big Brother. These are the choices that need to be set before the public: Prosperity through liberty, or depression through strangulation.

If we are to enable growth, we must dethrone the EPA.

— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics, a fellow with the Center for Security Policy, and the author of Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil. His latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was recently published by Encounter Books.