- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Americans on their way to work or school may soon be reaching for a new high-tech device as they head out the door - a personal air-quality monitor. That’s the vision of bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who are trying to develop a portable sniffer that measures the body’s reactions to pollution in the air. It’s bound to take fear-mongering to a new level.

On June 6, the EPA announced “My Air, My Health Challenge” in a call for inventors to compete for cash prizes in building the best air monitors. “The system must link air-pollutant concentrations with physiological data, provide geocoded and time-stamped files in an easy-to-use format, and transmit this data via existing networks to a central data repository provided by EPA and HHS [the Department of Health and Human Services],” the agency instructs.

In other words, the gadget must analyze the nasty gases the wearer inhales, measure his vital signs in response to them, and then transmit the data wirelessly to government computers. The monitor must contain a wearable sensor weighing not more than 10.6 ounces - light enough for children to carry.

Contestants have until Oct. 5 to submit their proposals. Four finalists will receive $15,000 awards to fund assembly of working prototypes. The first-place winner will pocket $100,000, courtesy of the taxpayers. Intellectual property rights and royalties from this device, however, will revert to Uncle Sam.

Not content to monitor ground-level pollution, the EPA has also begun deploying eyes in the skies over Nebraska and Iowa to detect water contamination caused by cattle ranchers. The agency recently acknowledged using aerial surveillance and photography to detect runoff from livestock manure befouling streams.

Sen. Mike Johanns, Nebraska Republican, joined with other members of the state’s Washington delegation recently in sending a letter of complaint to EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “They are just way on the outer limits of any authority they’ve been granted,” Mr. Johanns told the Omaha World-Herald. On Tuesday, the senator introduced an amendment to the farm bill that would ban the practice.

EPA defended itself earlier this month by saying the surveillance falls within the enforcement duties of the Clean Water Act, and similar aerial photography has been ruled permissible by the Supreme Court.

It’s unlikely, however, the justices ever imagined their decisions would unleash legions of regulators dedicated to controlling Americans’ behavior. In particular, the high court’s 2007 ruling that granted the EPA authority to treat as a pollutant carbon dioxide - a gas found in nature that is essential to all life on Earth - opened a Pandora’s box of regulations.

Radical environmental schemes like the invention of personal scary-air monitors are sure to inflame the fears of those who have already been rendered hypersensitive to life’s dangers, real and imagined. The fact is the air Americans breathe is cleaner and clearer today than it has been in decades. If Americans buy in to the EPA’s plan to equip us with personal-pollution sniffers, gone from the Land of the Free will be the sweet air of liberty.

The Washington Times