Today at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, the U.S. Senate will commence deliberations on a bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the year. Sometime this week, as part of the legislation, a heated discussion about polar bears will likely take place.
Then the majority Democrats (with a little help -- it will take 60 votes) will probably push through the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, H.R. 1105, along with several "riders" such as Section 429, all of which President Obama will probably sign into law.
Section 429 is aimed at protecting polar bears at all costs, while at the same time creating a real possibility that the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) will finally push America's economy, the Act itself, the polar bear himself/herself, and perhaps all of the above, toward extinction.
This reminds me a little bit of last year's tax day, April 15, when the Nevada Development Authority sent people dressed in bear suits to the Capitol in Sacramento. The bears held up signs saying it was "Time to Feed the Bear."
This was intended as a message to business owners and relocation managers thinking of leaving California and its draconian tax structure and regulatory climate. Recently I noted on these pages how Arizona is also planning to ramp-up its anti-California campaign
. I'm reminded of this because less than two weeks ago the Legislature passed and the Governor signed the largest tax increase in the history of any state. In fact, despite mounting indicators of imminent economic collapse, Dr. Sacramento and Dr. Washington continue to attach leeches to the hemorrhaging patient by astronomically increasing taxes and spending, respectively, and by aggressively implementing "global warming" bills like AB 32 and SB 375 here, as well as federal global warming policies such as the polar bear legislation.
All of this is being done under the guise of dealing with perceived ailments to which the purported cures could be much more deadly than the diseases themselves.
Is it a wonder that it's becoming increasingly evident to businesses and industries looking to survive by leaving California for another state due to economic and regulatory pressures that they might not be looking to move far enough away for their own good?
Based on history and on recent happenings in Sacramento and Washington, things are going to get a lot worse before they're going to get any better, both from a public policy and from an economic standpoint. The real question may be how bad is it really going to get.
Nevada bear suits and tax increases aside, you may ask how the polar bear affects California. Well, consider that California currently has the highest number of threatened or endangered species listed in the contiguous U.S., which means federal ESA review is triggered more often than anywhere else. This, soon enough, will bring the polar bear and many alpine species into the picture. But beyond that, if the proposed polar bear legislation passes, I must confess it won't matter what state you're in because the current Administration and Congress have no intention of giving any
American a pass on global warming.
But before they do this, let me be absolutely clear for the record that it's my belief that a collapse of the United States' economy would set back the cause of slowing or reversing global warming, or "climate change" -- as well as most other environmental causes -- by decades, if not more. This could result from a public backlash against the ESA that few people would have ever seen coming.
The proposed polar bear legislation would allow the new secretaries of Interior and Commerce to summarily repeal recently enacted "Section 4D" rules relative to the ESA. So at the urging of environmental groups and senators like Barbara Boxer, due to the listing of the polar bear as a "threatened species", thousands of public and private enterprises throughout the country will likely be brought to a grinding halt as their specific cumulative impacts to global climate change are analyzed. This would apply to every "Section 7" or federal inter-agency consultation under the Act, and for all I know all private consultations or permit applications as well. Such repeal, under the proposed rider bills, could be done without requiring publication of proposed rules in the Federal Register
and without subjecting said rules to a public comment period or any other participatory process.
One of the main problems with such a policy is that nobody has any idea how to quantify such global impacts, if there are any, from a local activity. How can the effect of building a bridge or a road or a park or a dam or a flood-control channel anywhere in the contiguous United States be quantified with respect to its effect on a threatened or endangered species in Alaska due to the project's direct or indirect propagation of greenhouse gases? It could be two to three years before anybody would possibly have any such idea. Under the "4D" rules, two to four months is the allowable time limit to quantify impacts if they aren't clearly evident. If the rules are repealed, whatever protocols that are established will be much less time sensitive and would be followed by years of litigation and appeals as the ESA is further tweaked by the bureaucracy and the bench. These skirmishes could prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from issuing any permits while this is all being adjudicated.
The specter of all of this, of course, is what the promulgation of the "4D" rules was intended to avoid in the first place. Adding insult to injury is the fact that other countries won't shoot themselves in the economic foot through such tortured machinations. And the idea that America or any of its states can legislate more than zero effect on the earth's climates, either warmer or colder, is ludicrous. That means more jobs and wealth will be leaving the U.S. for nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No reason.
Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, arguing against the riders, was quoted as saying
: "I believe we must act to curb emissions, but this would grant some of the most aggressive in the environmental community the ability to use the courts to block economic development across the country ... The Endangered Species Act was never intended to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This type of misuse of the law ultimately undermines public support for the act itself. If we allow this change, it is only a matter of time before the environmental community uses lawsuits to reduce the quality of our way of life."
I, for one, truly thought that in the case of the polar bear and other species for which declining populations are partially or entirely blamed on climate change, the Endangered Species Act -- allowed to run rampant for decades with only judicial review and virtually no legislative oversight or reforms -- had finally found the limit of its reach.
But I guess I was wrong. Or, maybe I will be proven right after the fact. I guess we'll see.
Certainly the political and economic timing of all of this couldn't be worse.