Archive for December, 2012

EPA Jackson’s Email Scandal

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

My recollection is President Obama promised the American people the “most transparent government ever.”  How could I have missed this story?

While West Virginia coal miners are providing an honest day’s work to provide the energy that fuels the Internet, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has been using an alias email account.

An article in Human Events claims, Jackson has been clandestinely sending and receiving thousands of emails in making decisions and conducting business.  It has been reported “there are at least 12,000 recently discovered but as yet undisclosed emails…that has prompted two congressional inquiries and an inspector’s general (IG) investigation.”

According to various news reports Jackson’s secret identity email account’s name is “Richard Windsor.”  The name is part family god (Richard) and part hometown (East Windsor, N.J.).

On Friday the Chinese issued new rules requiring Internet users to provide their real names to service providers.  The United States government may want to follow this example and require government employees to use their real identity.

 [Editor’s note:  Here is a link to several stories, congressional and government letters about this development.]

Is It Good News?

Friday, December 28th, 2012

[Editor’s Note:  Guest commentary is welcome on PHILLIPSBILLBOARD.  Bob Harris grew up in Charleston, WV and sent the piece below following our post about the EPA Administrator’s planned departure.  Harris is based in Washington with extensive Capitol Hill experience.  He is a principal in the firm of Nutter & Harris.]

Is it good news?  Yes and no.  While Administrator Jackson has been an aggressive leader with an aggressive environmental agenda, the Agency still must implement the laws as written and that means that the Courts will enforce the laws no matter who is the Administrator.

Much of the action taken by EPA during Ms. Jackson tenure was taken in response to decisions and orders from the courts.  Congress has shirked responsibility for decades now in reviewing and rewriting the basic environmental statues under which EPA operates — Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery (RCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA or Superfund) and Safe Drinking Water Act.  By and large, our national environment laws were written two or three decades ago, reflecting an economy where America competed mostly at home, not abroad, and when politics was less partisan.

The politics of pollution was more regional in nature than partisan.  Now, like all politics, the environment is seen more through the prism of partisanship and struggles between Democrats and Republicans.

No matter who is President the laws must and will be implemented.  Suits will be filed in courts throughout the country — and EPA will be forced to implement whatever the court decides.  And, the courts often will defer to EPA’s scientific knowledge and regulatory authority.

When administrations change party, what does change is the negotiation between litigant parties and the EPA.  Many “negotiated settlements” are negotiated under one administration with the environmental community or under another with the regulated community.

EPA is the “environmental protection agency,” it purpose for being — established under a Republican President and his Administration — is to protect the environment.  It is not charged with determining cost effective regulation, the least expensive path forward; it is charged with implementing the US environmental statutes.

I was once told by a good friend on the Senate Environment Committee — under John Chafee’s leadership — “Bob, this is the environment committee.”  Those of us who represent business and industry and the regulated communities need to remember that very thought.  We are dealing with people whose job is to do something different than what believe to be the best interests of our side.

If we approach the environment under those terms, respecting the legitimate role of the other side, we will have better results.  Much like everything else today, we want our side to win everything and the other side to get nothing.

I am old enough to remember Charleston (and Wheeling and Pittsburgh and more) when the Kanawha River was merely a place to dump our wastes.  The multitude of chemical plants in the greater Charleston area simply dumped whatever the waste was, in whatever color it flowed, into the river.  And, the river’s role was simply to dilute and carry products up and down the river.  Weren’t all of our rivers much the same?

The Clean Water Act set up a process to clean up our rivers and streams — to make our rivers “fishable and swimmable.”  That has been accomplished — and America is a better place today because of that.

The heavy air pollution that stagnated the Kanawha Valley when I was a child is gone today — except under the most extreme circumstances.  The Ohio River Valley and others throughout the state have a skyline of tall stacks that disperse pollutants above the valley walls — unfortunately carrying whatever pollutant being released to another state and another region.

What can be said about the Clean Water Act can be said about all of our environmental statutes.  We are better off today than we were 15, 20 or 40 years ago.  This year we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act; in 2010 we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Air Act.  And, even as I work to help my clients shape environmental responses and advocate policy responses under these two and other statutes, I enthusiastically celebrate everything we have accomplished.

Are there still problems — sure!!  Are there better and most cost effective ways to meet these challenges — sure!!  We must roll up our sleeves and command our leaders to do what Jennings Randolph did all those years he chaired the Environment and Public Works Committee — work with others from other regions, with other divergent interests to find a middle ground and put together programs that work.

West Virginia is well positioned to play a leading role in a new debate on the environment and energy policies…especially as they come together in today’s modern economy.  It is time to have it!!

Senator Rockefeller chairs an important Senate Committee (the Commerce Committee) and is a senior member of the Finance Committee, which jurisdiction over tax policies); Senator Manchin sits on the powerful Energy & Natural Resources Committee and he will have an important voice in setting energy policies for the next 4 years of the Obama Administration.  On the House, the States senior leader, Nick Rahall is the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee which has jurisdiction over all US waters, the Clean Water Act and transportation policies.  Shelly Capito is now a Senate candidate, but she still serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee where she has moved up the ladder in seniority.  David McKinley brings business experience and engineering expertise to the powerful Energy & Commerce Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over the Clean Air Act, RCRA and Superfund and the Department of Energy and energy policy.

EPA Chief Gone

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

News just broke that Lisa Jackson EPA Chief will leave the Obama administration.  Is that good news for West Virginia?  Who knows as I learned long ago be careful what you ask for!  Here is the NY Times story.

Tipping Point

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Last week WV Senator Joe Manchin made news across the country with his comments related to guns.  His action and words have caused a stir.  President Obama gave him a call and over 100 protesters on a Saturday before Christmas showed up at this office.

The Outlook section of today’s Washington Post has an Op Ed piece written by Manchin who says Obama and NRA both fall short.  Here it is if you wish to read. (If you are not a Post subscriber you may need to register.)

Wrap-Up

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

After you finish wrapping your Christmas gifts check out the giving and receiving to political candidate this year.  Below you will find the information filed to cover October 22 until November 18.  Click on a name to open.

Governor

Bill Maloney

Earl Ray Tomblin

Attorney General

Darrell McGraw

Patrick Morrisey

State Treasurer

John Perdue

Mike Hall

Commissioner of Agriculture

Walt Helmick

Kent Leonhart

Justice of Supreme Court

Letitia “Tish” Chafin  (Report not filed at time this was prepared)

Robin Jean Davis

Allen Loughry

John Yoder

 

Outrageous

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

(Editor’s Note: I served in the US Department of Agriculture as Director of the Office of Rural Development Policy.  Likewise, worked for Members of Congress who served on House of Representatives Agriculture Committee and the Public Works Committee that handled legislation related to economic development.) 

It is outrageous the person who is charged as the number one advocate for rural America would say “It’s becoming less and less relevant.”  That is exacting what Obama Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a farm forum in Washington over the weekend.

Even worst he based his reasoning on politics.  Vilsack said rural Americans need to be more strategic in picking their political fights.  This came after Republican Mitt Romney won 61 percent of rural voters last month and President Obama was backed by 37 percent.

It appears Secretary Vilsack is looking for a scapegoat as to why his leadership was unable to get a farm bill through Congress in an election year.  “It isn’t just the differences of policy… but that Congress doesn’t understand farm issues the Secretary said.  “There is a huge communication gap between farms and the food-eating public”, he said.  Well whose fault is that?

The Agriculture Secretary should get to Capitol Hill and fill that gap.  He should educate the Members and staff about rural America.  That is the way it used to work.

More distributing to me is how Vilsack has failed rural America in other ways.  Particularly when it is well known he has made revitalization of rural America a priority.  His own Department says about 50 percent of rural counties have lost population in the past four years and poverty rates are higher there than in metropolitan areas, despite the booming agricultural economy.

Secretary Vilsack should be advocating strong new public policy to address the current and past plight of non-farm rural American…in places like West Virginia.

It has been the rural development groups making the case for a strong Rural Development Title in the Farm Bill not Secretary Vilsack.  Last August these organizations sent a letter to Congress attempting to make policy changes to benefit non-farm rural America.  Vilsack backed their efforts but he is the one charged by various congressional acts (going back to 1972 and before) to standup and fight for rural America not just back the efforts of others.

The sad part of my outrage is that when reading the rural development titles of both the Senate and House farm bills nothing has changed.  It is just minor tinkering around the edges.

When are we going to get leadership at the US Department of Agriculture who will take serious what Congress has ask them to do and become an advocate for rural America?

 

Big Tent

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Big Tent

My friend the late Lee Atwater [ran Bush 41 campaign & served at Republican National Chairman] coined the phrase “big tent” to the best of my recollection.  My friend Jim Lees [twice Democratic candidate for Governor] had an Op Ed in today’s Charleston Gazette.  This is something that should read by both Democrats and Republicans.  They may find a valuable message.  Click here.

Capito Hurt?

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

There has been a political development on the national stage that could impact Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s announced plans to seek the U. S. Senate in 2014.  Only time will tell.

Today U. S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) well known for his recent efforts to recruit the most “right-wing” candidate possible for various Senate races was named to head the Heritage Foundation,  a conservative think tank based in Washington.  Some of the DeMint recruited candidates lost later to a Democrat.

The impact of this change could cut two ways as related to Capito.  First, he may not be so active in recruiting Senate candidates and spend more time on conservative policy, or he could even be in a stronger position to influence the selection of the “right candidate” in Senate races.

When Captio announced Senator DeMint was one of the first that panned her entrance into the race.  He told POLITICO “She would not be the conservative’s pick there.”  He was joined by conservative organizations like the Club for Growth in criticizing Captio as a potential nominee.

Will see!

Political Tidbits…12.4.12

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

BIG DAY…yesterday for Republicans as 11 new House of Delegates members was sworn in…not to be overlooked are the returning GOP House & Senate members or the growth of the GOP.

Don’t look for an extravaganza when Gov. Tomblin is sworn into office in January…it will be the third time.

Timely conference on Immigration and Growth underway today in Dallas…its part of the Bush Institute 4% Solution initiative.

My early AM post-election Aftermath piece looks like most read analysis over last month…Republicans must focus on Hispanics…confirmed by a recent walk thru a Florida mall…and a lot of other necessary game changes.

Lost count of the number in both parties wanting to represent the 2nd District in the US House…it will take upwards of $2 million to get there.

Controversy continues to grow in the State School Board mess as it looks like former Governors wives [Caperton & Manchin] may have leading roles in the drama…check out Gazette & Mail websites.

Hope state Republican leaders will spend as much time taking an inventory of candidates who almost made it in county and legislative races…as promoting a social agenda…December 7th Christmas party.

Allen Loughry [Supreme Court Justice-Elect] will join fellow Republican Brent Benjamin on the bench…swearing in planned 12/14.

The founder of the Underwood Intern program Shane Wilson appears to be the political go to guy for AG-Elect Morrisey…a large Transition Team and fund raiser was announced last week.

The W Circle an eGiving program makes it easy to support the work of the Bush Presidential Center…it is a monthly recurring gift to the Bush Center…members will receive a “W” Lapel Pin…more details by clicking here.