Almost two years into the Biden administration, the need for regulatory relief becomes more apparent each day. The economy has failed to grow for two consecutive quarters – an event that used to trigger talk of us “being in a recession” – in large part because the bureaucracy’s knee is, in the metaphoric sense, pressing firmly down on the throat of American industry.
That’s the way the president and his allies, in and out of Congress, want it. They want to make critical decisions about the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services to ensure they’re put to the best possible use as they and they alone see it. This is clear in many sectors of the economy, especially those that are broadly termed environmental management.
In that vein, It’s a welcome development to see West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelly Moore Capito appearing to back away from her previous support of efforts to define all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law.
Her voice on such matters is an important one. She’s in line to chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. Her style concerning regulatory matters, which can be described as reasonable, rational, and risk-oriented suggests a balanced approach to environmental matters is in the offing after the next election if her party regains its majority in the U.S. Senate
As the lead senator overseeing the efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she’ll be in a position to ensure the agency, which has a habit of going rogue on regulatory matters, doesn’t exceed the limits of its authority as granted by Congress – something the United States Supreme Court recently affirmed in West Virginia vs EPA.
If, on the other hand, the gavel remains a possession of Senate Democrats, we can look forward to an expensive agency push to expand the scope of its activities on an exponential scale that raises the costs of Superfund environmental cleanups that don’t produce anything like the substantial benefits the amounts of money being spent gives taxpayers the right to expect.
The effort to ban PFAS has kicked up in recent years, spurred on no doubt by the trial lawyers who expect to reap huge windfalls by suing the companies that manufacture and use them. They’re not the most important issue by far but, for the conglomeration of environmental groups and pseudo-science organizations, and others involved in the effort, they are a potential gold mine.
The counterargument, that the science on PFAS is settled and that they are dangerous in all regards, is sophistry. The proposed ban on their manufacture and use may play well in some quarters but, like the other “all or nothing” demands coming from the green movement, the inevitable harm capitulation will cause outweighs the good that might be done. Just look at the record.
In December 2003, the first case of mad cow disease was discovered. Panic and confusion fed by irresponsible reporting followed. Major U.S. trading partners including Japan and South Korea moved quickly to ban the importation of American beef at a cost of billions to U.S. farmers and ranchers. Some put the losses at as much as $14 billion – yet there have only been six confirmed cases in the U.S. in the time since.
Was it worth it? The all-or-nothing crowd would enthusiastically agree it was. Just like they’d still agree the arrival of COVID-19 on our shores was a reason to mask everyone up, close the schools, and bring commerce to a halt. People like this are incapable of balancing what is gained against what is lost. They see only one side – which leaves those of us out of the decision-making loop poorer, helpless, and unable to choose for ourselves.
Most Americans don’t want to live in a Nannystate. We want, in the words of Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Freidman, to be “free to choose” The PFA abolitionists are up there with the other coercive utopians who think they know everything and should, like the philosopher-kinds envisioned by Plato, empowered to choose for us.
The current legislative proposals like the one Sen. Moore-Capito has lost enthusiasm for, are examples of the Nannystate at its worst. We live in a world where volumes of information are available at our fingertips almost instantaneously. People can and should be allowed to make their own decisions about buying products that use PFAs. It’s not the EPA’s job to make that decision for them.