Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mitch Daniels and the Environment

In an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal (behind a pay wall), Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels makes several suggestions for jump starting the economy, including some that are currently on the agenda of the Obama Administration (see here). One that certainly is not on the Obama Administration's agenda is Daniels' suggestion of a regulatory holiday for polluters:
A "freedom window." Might we try some sort of regulatory forbearance period in which the job-killing practice of agonizingly slow environmental permitting is suspended, perhaps in favor of a self-certification safe harbor process? Businesses could proceed with new job creation immediately based on plans that meet current pollution or safety standards, or use best current technology, subject only to fines and remediation if a subsequent look-back shows that the promised standards were not met.
This paragraph pretty much encapsulates Daniels' environmental philosophy: environmental regulations should be avoided to help the economy, based on fact-free assertions that environmental permitting processes "kill" jobs and, rhetorically at least, impede "freedom." That philosophy has animated his approach to environmental protection as governor of the State of Indiana, where the state's Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has been rendered virtually toothless (Daniels abolished IDEM's enforcement division shortly after his re-election in 2008, see here), and back-room deals are made with polluters, such as BP (see, e.g., here and here). By almost any measure, the environmental performance of the Daniels Administration in Indiana has been poor.

No doubt, Daniels' call for a regulatory holiday will be popular with electric utilities and other polluters, large and small, helping him to raise funds for an exploratory presidential campaign. His use of buzzwords, such as "freedom window" and "job-killing," are also designed to appeal to his party's political base. But Daniels' obvious pandering to corporate interests should seriously concern the large cohort of voters who quite rightly believe that environmental quality should not be casually sacrificed for short-term economic gain and, in Daniels' case, political gain. At the very least, voters should demand that Daniels provide some factual support for his assertion that regulatory permitting processes "kills" jobs. For some evidence to the contrary, see Eban Goodstein's book, The trade-off myth: Fact and fiction about jobs and the Environment (Island Press 1999).

1 comment:

  1. Would be nice if Indiana could get into alternative energy production and stay away from archaic coal energy along the rivers no less. Get smart go green mitch


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