Benificiary of Billion Dollar Green Fuels Program Files for Creditor Protection

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its final ruling on blend volumes of renewable fuels for the calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016. The challenge for the EPA is the lack of advanced biofuels to meet obligated minimum levels. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), mandates an increasing blend of renewable products into our domestic fuel supply. The Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) provisions require non-food based cellulosic biofuels to be increasingly introduced into commercial gasoline. Called “2nd generation”, cellulosic ethanol, unlike 1st generation corn-ethanol, is derived from wood chips, grasses, co
rn cobs and other biological material.

The problem is the congressionally mandated product is simply nonexistent. Industry discussions, analytical reviews, and organizational rationalizations toss out phrases such as immature technology, steep learning curve, and of course more federal funding. The issue is complicated, yet, not cAbengoa5omplicated.

Producing 1st generation ethanol is much simpler than taking a cellulosic material and transforming it into a viable fuel source suitable for commercial use. Of course, we all knew this going into the program. Unfortunately, after pouring billions of dollars into this boondoggle we have done nothing more than successfully proven cellulosic ethanol is not a practical endeavor.

Even more so, with one of only four cellulosic ethanol production plants possibly set to shut its doors, Abengoa, a Spain-based sustainable energy development company, has filed for creditor protection one day before Thanksgiving, and less than a week before the EPA is expected to release the blend levels of renewable fuels. After the U.S. taxpayers invested billions of dollars towards the building of a massive biofuel facility, not to mention the world’s largest solar farm and wind farms, the company is teetering like a giant, green energy Jenga tower.

Abengoa is an international, mega-corporation founded in 1941. Its near certain investment losses to taxpayers’ dwarfs those of the Solyndra fiasco. Aside from perks and discounts for federal land use, employment credits and special tax incentives a quick search discloses only some of the federal dollars pumped into Abengoa and yet we still have no 2nd stage biofuels to meet program goals.

  • $1.45 billion loan guarantee to Abengoa Solar, Inc. for construction and the start-up of solar energy plant in Solana, AZ — 2010
  • $1.2 billion loan guarantee to Mohave Solar, LLC. for the construction & start-up of Mohave Solar Project plant in San Bernardino County, CA. — 2011
  • $133.9 million loan guarantee for biofuel plant Hugoton, KS — Department of Energy – 2011
  • $97 million federal grant, Hugoton, KS — Department of Energy — 2011
  • $4.03 million in grants and federal contracts for 2015 alone

Beyond the amounts presented here, millions more U.S. dollars have rolled into Abengoa and its many subsidiaries. With its announcement in Spain yesterday and today being Thanksgiving, American stock values for the company have not yet reacted. The protection filing gives the company four months to find a solution before creditors can force a full bankruptcy. But, many employees of U.S.-based projects may still be unaware.

It is likely by the end of next week, Abengoa will be a household name. The failure of Abengoa, along with the failure of the Renewable Fuels Standard program, will hit jobs, stock values, the banks and the federal budget. All this, and we still have no cellulosic ethanol to meet the mandates of the Renewable Fuels Standard.

– See more at: http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/beneficiary-of-billion-dollar-green-fuels-program-files-for-creditor-protection/#sthash.qohzKCLr.dpuf

Original publication date: November 30, 2016

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USDA and States to Spend $210 Million on Fuel Pumps

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On May 29th, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $100 million in grants offered through their Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) program. According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the move is to make renewable fuel options more available to American consumers. The program is a 1:1 partnership with states to build fueling stations and purchase blender pumps for E15 and higher. The preliminary spending tally estimates $210 million for 5,000 pumps at 1,400 fueling stations in 21 states.Blenderpumps

This latest money toss is yet another multi-million dollar outlay resulting from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), as mandated by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). The mandate requires gasoline to be blended with renewable fuel sources at incremental increasing levels.

The original RFS mandated level was 10% ethanol or E-10. The next mandated level, 15% ethanol or E-15, is a blend level the ethanol or E-10. The next mandated level, 15% ethanol or E-15, is a blend level the EPA labels to be used only in Flex-fuel passenger vehicles, model years 2001 gascapand newer. The label goes on to state, “Do not use in other vehicles, boats, or gasoline-powered equipment. It may cause damage and is prohibited by Federal law”. Still, the EPA wants to make even higher blend levels available, even if that means taxpayers are to fund the necessary infrastructure.

Unlike the traditional pumps where a consumer makes the fuel choice of diesel, unleaded, or octane levels, the government has decided to fund blender pumps offering a choice between ethanol or, even more ethanol. Even though the overwhelming preference of consumers, environmentalist, economists, most ag sectors, and automakers is E-0, an option not found on the new pumps.

Though extensive studies with science-based evidence prove the damage ethanol contributes to the environment and engines, along with the real damage to a market-based economy, federal agencies continue to dig deeper into the ethanol quagmire. Even the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the RFS costs outweighed its benefits and criticized the EPA’s economic analysis of the RFS as intentionally misleading. In a 2014 report to Congress, the GAO exposed the agency’s false reporting of the program’s costs stating, “EPA estimated net benefits of the mandated volumes ranging from $13 to $26 billion.” However, the EPA did not include the infrastructure costs (such as this latest $100 million) in their calculations. An expense the EPA estimates to total an astounding $90.5 billion.

– See more at: http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/usda-and-states-to-spend-210-million-on-fuel-pumps/#sthash.2OaslViA.dpuf

OIG Announces Probe of EPA’s Reporting Practices on Biofuel Impact

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The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has announced a probe into the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) adherence to reporting requirements regarding biofuel’s impact on air quality. Under the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), the EPA is to submit to Congress a science-based triennial report on the effect of the controversial program.

As a result of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), changes were made to the Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS), the program that mandates the blending of ethanol with petroleum-based fuels for domestic use. The law directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to analyze lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the increased use of renewable fuels in comparison with petroleum-based fuels.

The Clean Air Act (CAA), defines the term “lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions” as the GHG impact from all emissions including land use changes and other activities. The law requires EPA’s report to include,

“…all stages of production of fuel and feedstock and distribution, from feedstock generation or extraction through the distribution and delivery and use of the finished fuel to the ultimate consumer, where the mass values for all greenhouse gases are adjusted to account for their relative global warming potential.”

According to the OIG’s announcement, the goal of the review is to determine the following;

  1. Whether the EPA has complied with the law on reporting requirements of the Clean Air Act.
  2. If the EPA followed a mandate to amend its previous biofuel’s environmental impact reports to reflect the findings of a 2011 study by the National Academy of Sciences.
  3. If the EPA used the National Academy of Sciences data in subsequent reports.

In preparation for the review the OIG has asked EPA to provide:

  • Triennial Reports to Congress issued after the EPA’s first report in 2011, and any other reports to Congress on the environmental and resource conservation impacts of the RFS program.
  • RFS Antibacksliding Analysis required under Section 211(v) of the Clean Air Act.
  • Documentation of the EPA’s response to the 2011 National Academy of Sciences study and its recommendations.
  • Documented changes or planned future modifications to the RFS regulatory impact analysis or lifecycle analysis based on findings/recommendations from the 2011 National Academy of Sciences study, Triennial Reports to Congress and/or Antibacksliding Analysis (or documentation explaining why no changes were necessary).

The OIG’s investigation comes at a time when the call to cut corn-based ethanol is growing louder. Interestingly, the announcement came one day after the University of Tennessee released results of a comprehensive 10-year review which calls for a restructuring of the RFS program. The Tennessee study concludes, “We have had 10 years under the RFS and a commercially viable, next-generation biofuels technology has not emerged.”

– See more at: http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/oig-announces-probe-of-epas-reporting-practices-on-biofuels-impact/#sthash.TRDihzn8.dpuf

Congressional Request leads to Scathing Review of the EPA

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by: Belinda Silva

Businesses, landowners, and farmers know the feeling of dread that comes with hearing the words “not in compliance” from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has earned the reputation of delivering heavy-handed enforcement actions and exorbitant punitive penalties. The agency’s authoritarian over-reach is near legendary, earning them the moniker “rogue agency”. Even the U.S. Supreme Court gave the EPA a dressing-down stating they commonly strong-arm regulated parties into “voluntary compliance” without the opportunity for judicial review. The EPA has taken a firm stance that the rules are published, and therefore, noncompliance is not excusable.

Yet, a congressionally requested federal review of the EPA found the agency regularly ignores rules that pertain to its own operating procedures as dictated by law. In fact, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says the EPA disregards the law in its reporting to congressional inquiries. According to the GAO, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) is not in compliance with the long-standing Environmental Research, Development and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 (ERDDAA). As well, the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) fails to follow legal requirements of the Clean Air Act.

The GAO investigation revealed agency staffers routinely judge whether a congressional request is a policy driven question or requires a science-based response. As a result, answers to lawmaker’s queries often have no scientific basis in fact. Also, the agency failed to perform regular five-year impact reviews of national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). Under the Clean Air Act, CASAC is to review and report “any adverse public health, welfare, social, economic, or energy effects” resulting from regulations and strategies of NAAQS. According to the GAO, the EPA “has never” instructed CASAC to comply with the federal requirement to review and report.

Members of Congress and the GAO have voiced similar concerns regarding EPA conduct and manner of operational performance.

  • Regularly ignores epidemiological evidence that dispels, counters, or invalidates their decisions.
  • Ignores their own scientific panels to format or propel false alarms.
  • Uses federal law, such as the Clean Water Act, to regulate private lands through regulatory “takings” of rights.
  • Consistently exceeds its legislative authority forcing businesses, municipalities, and citizens to challenge regulations through the court system.
  • Abuses authority in “policing” of private property activity through notoriously heavy fines.
  • Habitually practices “moving the goal” tactics to hamper businesses and industries efforts to remain operationally compliant.

The agency’s standard operating procedures often are in defiance of the law. Also, the arbitrary use of selected and contrived science to establish environmental regulation is a serious threat to our national wellbeing and jeopardizes public health, general welfare, socio-economic conditions and our environment.

– See more at: http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/congressional-request-leads-to-scathing-review-of-the-epa/#sthash.eyxYrxSY.dpuf

The Failure of the U.S. Biofuels Program

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Ending a relationship is never easy, even one with a proven history of broken promises, twisted logic, weak justifications and financial exploitation. Such is the bond between the American taxpayer and the domestic ethanol industry. In the beginning, statements of common goals sparked hopeful enthusiasm. Many eagerly supported the romantic notion of growing our way to energy independence and an American-led green-based movement towards world prosperity. But, alas, the thrill is gone, and the truth exposed. The once proud, almost pompous, biofuels sector is struggling for justification.

The affair began in 2007 with the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Contained within the act is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) provisions that sets forth incentives for the development of biofuels such as plant-based ethanol and biodiesel. At the time, Bush had committed to the goal of ending American’s addiction to fossil fuel. The original promise was a reduced dependency on Middle Eastern oil, cleaner air, a boon to agriculture and reduced fuel costs for consumers.

Unfortunately, ethanol has failed to live up to its promised benefits. Recent low prices at the pump have exposed its life-support dependency on the government. Although direct subsidies have expired, ethanol producers continue to benefit from other financial incentives and federal mandates. A study by the NARC Consulting Group calls the program an economic death-spiral and discloses its many flaws. Yet, industry groups rally for maintaining, even increasing, RFS percentages in the face of mounting evidence of the program’s failure. Still, in a recent rule change proposal, the EPA published a plan to amend the mandates.

The statutory requirement to blend government-supported biofuels with free-market fuels is market manipulation. If the value of ethanol and other biofuels were legitimate, forced consumption, through the RFS, would not be necessary. Congress should end this failed relationship and costly experiment. Let the free market drive innovation and job development. Below, are but a few of the adverse effects of the RFS:

  • disruptive to agriculture markets
  • increases food costs
  • rife with fraud
  • lacks self-sustainability
  • burdens Taxpayers
  • environmental damage
  • violates free-market principles

– See more at: http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/the-failure-of-u-s-biofuels-program/#sthash.DcCdlOEx.dpuf

California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard

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California’s 2002 Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), Senate Bill No. 1078 mandated that electric providers procure renewable power from eligible sources at 17% of customer sales by 2017. The bill also required the Public Utility Commission (PUC), being the regulatory agency for electricity providers, establish a certification and monitoring program through the state Energy Commission. Subsequently, Senate Bill No. 107, along with executive orders, accelerated the program to require a 20% renewable procurement by the end of 2010 and 33% by the end of 2020. Recently, Governor Jerry Brown announced his proposal to further increase the portfolio standard to 50% by 2030. According to the RPS Program Overview page, California’s goal is to be, “One of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the country”. It appears the state may have succeeded in that effort.

Currently, federal funds nurse CA’s renewables mandate in the form of subsidies like the Production Tax Credits (PTC) and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). However, revenue from these federal programs are not expected to continue, and pressure is mounting for the renewable fuel industry to stand on its own. In fact, several states are reconsidering their programs’ viability.

So, how will proponents peddle the program to consumers when the federal subsidies end? The full cost associated with RPS programs are difficult to evaluate. A 2015 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), estimates an expected 10% increase in electrical energy costs to consumers as a result of the state’s RPS. This, to a state with consistently the highest electricity cost in the nation. Still, the consumer impact aspect of continuing, even expanding the mandate, does not appear to be the primary consideration. The report suggests the methodologies used to discover the true costs are demonstrably inappropriate. As well, outlays for integration, transmission, and administrative expenditures are not included in the cost analysis.

CA RPS

Still, the consumer impact aspect of continuing, even expanding the mandate, does not appear to be the primary consideration. The report suggests the methodologies used to discover the true costs are demonstrably inappropriate. As well, outlays for integration, transmission, and administrative expenditures are not included in the cost analysis.

NREL suggests to policymakers that going forward, they should look beyond “simply a narrow consideration” of the costs of the program to ratepayers. Instead, the report promotes the development of a means to recognize program value based on “broader societal impacts”.

– See more at: http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/californias-renewable-portfolio-standard/#sthash.hn2mN53e.dpuf

The Golden-cheeked Warbler and Piecemeal Environmental Policy

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A tiny, migratory songbird is causing a big ruckus in Texas. At issue is the Golden-cheeked warbler’s status according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The bird caused a related stir in 1990 when it was the subject of a petition by members of the anarchist environmental group, Earth First! The petition moved the FWS to exercise its emergency authority to declare a species endangered under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA). In December 1990, the agency issued its final rule designating the bird to be an endangered species.

However, a recent comprehensive study has motivated several groups to call for the removal of the golden-cheeked warbler from the list. The findings, as presented by Texas A&M, has been peer reviewed, published in respected journals, and judged as scientifically sound. It appears the golden-cheeked warbler is not endangered. Even more concerning, the species may not have been in peril in 1990, the year FWS declared an emergency protected status.

What does this mean to the hundreds of private property owners who have suffered land restrictions, substantial fines, and criminal prosecution as a result of the warbler’s status? For example, one such case saw a Texas rancher penalized for clearing Ashe Juniper (Cedar) from his property. An activity FWS deemed damaging to the protected bird’s breeding habitat. In a negotiated settlement, the landowner transferred 48 acres to a public preserve and paid $220,260 in land management fees.

Even if one were to believe the earlier, mostly anecdotal based evidence that the golden-cheeked warbler was threatened, the latest research supports its removal from the list of endangered species. Still, some ask since recovery efforts have been so successful, why should the warbler be delisted to face uncertainty?

Simple answer first, the endangered species listing is for species that are, in fact, endangered. To maintain a status that is not evidenced based delegitimizes the significance of the entire list. Second, although there is no geographical designation of warbler habitat, Ashe Juniper (Cedar) trees are recognized as essential to warbler nesting. So, while the bird is a protected species, landowners are subject to restrictions, in what amounts to a regulatory taking of property rights in regards to Ashe junipers.

Finally, the listing of the warbler has caused a clash of agencies, pitting federal against state in a battle of species management. As well, the limited focus on warbler breeding habitat protection has contributed to serious health issues, particularly for children.

To explain, while the FWS strictly enforces habitat (a tree) protection, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPW) calls the golden-cheeked warbler issue, “A single-species approach to wildlife management“. As a result of federal restrictions, the invasive characteristics of Ashe juniper has negatively impacted the natural ecosystem. According to TPW, in areas where the tree has been left to survive, it has depleted groundwater, increased soil erosion, and impacted the diversity of other plant species. The rise of Ashe juniper, being of little food value, has disrupted the natural habitat of other animal species. In fact, TPW has worked to limit, even eradicate the Ashe juniper while the FWS punishes citizens for clearing the tree from their land.

The increase in Ashe Juniper has also resulted in an upsurge of illness during its pollination cycle. Termed “cedar fever” the effects of Ashe juniper allergies can range from itchy eyes to pneumonia and even trigger asthma attacks. The Ashe juniper tree has one of the most allergenic pollens. In fact, The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has named seven Texas cities in its 2015 list of the most challenging places to live in regards to annual pollen scores.

So here we have the question, should the golden-cheeked warbler be removed from the list of endangered species? Yes. If not merely for the logic the bird is not threatened, then for the impact the designation has to other sensitive areas. More consideration should be made to the causal sequence of government agency decisions prior to making rules. Consideration should be given to economic impact to private citizens, potential health issues, and an analysis of the possible harm to other plant and wildlife species. When pondering the importance of diverse species to a healthy environment, too often the human element is not represented in the equation. A more holistic approach would better assure a healthy, balanced ecosystem.

– See more at: http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/the-golden-cheeked-warbler-and-piecemeal-environmental-policy/#sthash.BkBhQBsZ.dpuf

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EPA and Regulatory Taking of Private Property

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The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids the government from taking privately owned property without the due process of law, and without just compensation.  However, what constitutes a government taking and can due process be preemptively satisfied by agency regulation?  It seems in the case of wetlands, the EPA has overreached its authority.

Let us first attempt to identify “wetlands”.  According to a comprehensive classification system developed in 1979, a site can be categorized as coastal or inland, yet the classification of wetland is not site-specific.  Instead, wetlands is explained as a hierarchical, progressive structure of connected waters of the state.  In what is termed the Cowardin Classification System, wetlands is an all-encompassing geographical feature.  It consists of linked layers of species and subspecies, soil types and subtypes, an assortment of vegetation, along with various water sources, movements, and duration of presence.  Simply stated, a piece of ground that can receive water (including rain) is part of the system that is “wetlands”.  The Cowardin System, prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is an impressive, comprehensive report.  Indeed, it has been the de facto standard for EPA employees in assigning a wetlands designation to private property. As a result, EPA’s authority and jurisdiction relating to “Navigable Waters” has multiplied.

As a result, many landowners have lost private property usage and development rights.  Effectively, the property owner has suffered a taking by the federal government.  Such was the case of Mike and Chantell Sackett, an Idaho couple who challenged the EPA’s enforcement actions under §404 (wetlands) of the Clean Water Act (CWA).  In a 2013 decision, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the EPA.  In essence, the agency could not deny the Sacketts a hearing to challenge the agency’s use of CWA authority and jurisdiction over their land. The Sacketts successfully argued the EPA violated their constitutional right to due process.  The simple question before the Supreme Court was whether landowners have a right to challenge a legal order of the EPA?  The answer was a resounding 9 to 0  “Yes”.  The EPA worked to preclude the right to judicial review exercising self-assumed authority in designating wetlands. In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the court rejected EPA’s attempt to use the CWA as a blanket fulfillment of due process.  Justice Samuel Alito concurred stating Congress should clarify ambiguities in the CWA.

In the case of Rapanos v. the United States, though the court came to no decision (the parties eventually settled), four Justices spoke against the EPA.  Justice Scalia wrote the EPA’s use of the term “waters of the United States” is an overreach in identification of wetlands.  The concurring Justices agreed.  The court found that occasional, intermittent, or ephemeral water flows may have a hydrological connection.  However, “are not sufficient to qualify a wetland as covered by the CWA; it must have a continuous surface connection”.

Likewise, in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Court ruled against EPA.  Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote the EPA overreached in its wetland designation of “isolated, abandoned sand and gravel pits with seasonal ponds, which provide migratory bird habitats”.  Both the Rapanos and the SWANCC court opinions counter the Cowardin concept of all waters being connected in one wetlands system.   Such decisions constitute a slap-of-the-hand by the Supreme Court to EPA and offer an opportunity to discuss the ever increasing dominance of the agency over the lives of everyday citizens.

America’s founders designed our government to serve the people.  Increasingly citizens are left with little recourse but to ask the courts to assure their constitutional rights as threatened by dominant government agencies.  The EPA, arguably being one of the most insidious, dictatorial federal agencies.

Fortunately, recent Supreme Court decisions and Justice Alito’s urging that Congress address ambiguities have triggered action by some.  Several Senators have introduced S.980 a bill that attempts to clarify the CWA by explaining waters of the state are “Navigable-in-fact” and is “permanent, standing, or continuously flowing bodies…from streams, oceans, rivers, and lakes and are connected to waters that are navigable-in-fact”.   Passing S. 980 would be a great start to corralling the EPA’s assault on private property rights.  This, along with the Supreme Court ruling affirming the 5th amendment right to due process is an indication we are making headway.

http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/epa-and-regulatory-taking-of-private-property/

 

Gold King Mine an EPA Superfund Site

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On Tuesday, August 11, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an Emergency Response Statement to a massive pollutant spill in Colorado. According to the agency, EPA contractors caused the accidental breach. As a result, contaminated water flushed from the long abandoned Gold King Mine into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River. The following day, EPA released another statement to explain early reports of a much smaller spill. Following efforts by the U.S. Geological Survey to measure flow rate, the volume of lead, acidic toxins, and heavy metal-laden water was determined to be over three million gallons.

Additionally disturbing was the failure of the EPA to inform the state governors of the spill. “The EPA is not communicating openly with the state of New Mexico,” said Governor Susana Martinez to Fox News. “It took them about a little less than twenty-four hours before they even told us.” In fact, she goes on to explain that it was the Southern Ute Indians that notified her office and criticized the EPA for not revealing exactly what the toxins are.

To farmers, industry, and small business the EPA has the well-established reputation of intimidation and tyrannical authority. The enforcement section of their web page offers thousands of criminal prosecutions, a majority of them settled by a guilty plea. Comparable percentages in the criminal justice system are unattainable. Simply, the justice system requires the government to prove a person guilty while EPA’s system leaves little opportunity for one to even attempt to prove themselves innocent.

For example, Washington state dairyman Roger Bajema pled guilty to permitting wastewater discharge. His plea finally came three years after EPA inspectors took a sample of soil from a drainage ditch. Mr. Bajema acknowledges the ditch had a broken rain water pipe used to move run-off from barn roofs to a holding pond. Broken pipe aside, the family believes he was “targeted”. The farmer had attended an EPA informational forum the day before the inspection. Mr. Bajema spoke, voicing his displeasure with the heavy-handed presence of the agency in his community. The following day, while he worked to repair the cracked water pipe, EPA officials arrived at his farm and began inspecting and sampling. After three years of threats of fines for up to $37,000 a day, he finally learned of the results of the samples in a highly dramatized press release.

The EPA earned a $7,500 penalty for the three-year assault on the Bajema family dairy farm. A large sum of money for a small operator, but a mere pittance to EPA coffers. In 2014 alone, under Civil Enforcement Monetary Commitments, the agency raked in $9,738,000,000 (rounded up to the nearest hundred million) in court ordered Injunctive Relief. They received another $135,000,000 (give or take) in other penalties. In addition, under Superfund Cleanup Enforcement they realized $601,000,000 (thereabouts) and another $63,000,000 in Criminal Enforcement Fines (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2015). This to an agency with a 2015 enacted budget of over $8.1 billion and a workforce of over 15,000.

Still, the EPA is responsible for violating the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA), the very law it is tasked with enforcing. According to 33 U.S.C §1251 et seq. (1972), the CWA makes it, “unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters” (EPA, 2015, para. 3). Mr. Bajema was penalized $7,500 and humiliated in his community for the charge of “potential” to pollute. As a result of the stress, he has sold the cows and closed his operation. Will the EPA suffer a similar punishment? It isn’t likely.

The superpower agency may have already begun working on a way to spin their failure. The EPA website shows the Upper Animas Mining District in Silverton, Co as a Region 8 Superfund site although not on the National Priority List (NPL). It is clear the EPA was aware of the issue for decades. However, a recent Associated Press (AP) news article blames the local community for standing in the way thus contributing to EPA’s failure to take action. This “it’s not our fault” approach to the disaster is not a defense Mr. Bajema offered.

Six days after the spill EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated, “It pains me to no end to see this happening”. As well, at an event in Washington D.C. she said the EPA is taking full responsibility and when pressed by a reporter said, “I am absolutely sorry this ever happened“. This may be the closest we get to an apology. It pains us all, but where is the accountability? Are we to believe the zero tolerance attitude of EPA enforcement will result in an equal penalty, punishment, and public humiliation as suffered by other offenders? Or, like the General Services Administration (GSA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Veteran’s Administration (VA) the EPA will go on and suffer no consequences.

– See more at: http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/gold-king-mine-an-epa-superfund-site/#sthash.CSOnq7xS.dpuf