School Lead Contamination Remains a Concern in California

Drinking fountainAfter reports of problems with lead contamination of water at schools around California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed abill in October of 2017 meant to address the problem.

The measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, mandates that every school test one to five water outlets for the presence of lead. If any of the tests shows over 15 parts of lead per billion, the parents or guardians of students must be notified. Young people exposed to lead can suffer permanent problems – sometimes extreme – with cognitive development and behavior.

Given the attention paid to the national scandal over dangerous water in Flint, Michigan, the state law came as a relief to concerned parents, school officials and health agencies. But a comprehensive new analysis by the EdSource website suggests this relief may be premature.

The key issue is whether the 15 parts per billion standard, which is recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is strict enough to protect students’ health. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers that standard to be so weak that it puts young people at risk. The academy calls for a maximum of 1 parts per billion.

Pediatricians say federal standard is risky

“We know there is no safe lead level,” Dr. Jennifer Lowry, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, told EdSource. “Schools ought to work to remove that source of lead for these kids.”

Experts were also sharply critical of the California law because it didn’t require all sources of water to be tested at every school. While sometimes lead contamination is system-wide – as seen in large parts of Flint in recent years – a single corroded pipe, faucet or other plumbing fixture can be responsible for lead contamination.

Gonzalez Fletcher told EdSource she supports strengthening the law and said the 15-parts-per-billion standard was agreed on to gain enough support so her bill would pass. The California School Boards Association worried that a tougher standard could be financially onerous for school districts.

The CSBA’s concerns may seem dubious, given that schools have enjoyed large increases in funding in recent years, thanks to a strong economy and Proposition 98 – a 1988 state law mandating that public education get roughly 40 percent of state revenue. But every school district is likely to face at least one and more likely two fiscal crises in coming years.

School districts face fiscal double-whammy

The first is the immense cost of the 2014 California State Teachers’ Retirement System bailout. The great majority of the cost – 70 percent – is borne by districts, which face a phased-in increase of CalSTRS contributions, going from 8.25 percent of pay in 2013-14 to 19.1 percent in 2020-21. In many districts, increased state funding due to healthy revenue gains has been largely used for these new pension bills. By 2020-21, when the final increase takes effect, most school districts are likely to have compensation costs eating up 90 percent or more of their general operating budgets.

The second crisis is not an absolute certainty, just highly likely. That crisis is a recession that sends state revenue plunging. Because California is so reliant on the income taxes paid by the very wealthy, the Great Recession a decade ago prompted a 20 percent drop in revenue and a corresponding reduction in state funding for public education.

That is why in recent years that Gov. Brown worked so hard to get the Legislature to strongly increase state fiscal reserves. By summer 2019, the state could have $13.5 billion in hand, according to an analysis earlier this year. But given that Brown has warned that a recession could wipe out $55 billion in revenue over a three-year span, these “rainy day” funds won’t go that far in helping schools.

Against this backdrop, the next governor, state lawmakers and education officials face a difficult calculus next year: how tight a standard for lead in schools are they willing to set with such a gloomy budget picture.

In the last testing results made available by the state, 150 schools – or 4 percent of those surveyed – had one or more more water outlets with lead levels over 15 parts per billion. Just under 25 percent of schools had lead levels over 5 parts per billion – hinting at how costly it would be if the state went to a tougher standard.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California sues to halt Trump’s plan to roll back vehicle emission standards

An angry Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday announced a lawsuit by California and 16 other states against the Trump administration to stop it from rolling back aggressive national fuel economy standards championed by the state.

In stinging comments at the Capitol, Brown said actions of the Trump administration were “so outrageous,” adding “Trump is definitely running a one-man demolition derby on science, the Clean Air Act and a lot of things we are trying to do.”

Brown called Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt “Outlaw Pruitt,” and accused him of “breaking the law.”

“He’s flouting the Clean Air Act and the legitimate needs and well-being of the American people,” the governor said. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

EPA Could Limit California’s Unique Role in Shaping Air Pollution Rules

Air pollutionThe Trump administration is on the brink of what could prove its most consequential legal battle with the state of California, with EPA chief Scott Pruitt expected this week to take aim at the autonomy that state leaders were given in the 1970 Clean Air Act to establish pollution standards for vehicles that are more far-reaching than the federal government’s. This autonomy is widely credited with the Golden State’s emergence as a world leader in environmental regulation.

Last week saw confirmation of months of White House and EPA leaks that President Donald Trump would throw out a 2012 Obama administration edict that required average miles per gallon to nearly double to 54.5 for automakers’ fleets of new cars and trucks by 2025. Trump’s skepticism about climate change made him particularly open to the argument from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler that out-of-touch regulators under the previous president were trying to force them to sell vehicles that U.S. consumers didn’t want to buy.

But as The New York Times reported over the weekend, Trump and Pruitt went further than automakers wanted both by rolling back mileage standards more than expected and by signalling their readiness for a court fight over the deference that federal regulators have traditionally shown to the California Air Resources Board.

The Golden State’s problems with smog in the Los Angeles Basin – visible in the 1973 EPA photo shown above – led to the first state law in the U.S. targeting air pollution being adopted in 1947, among many other precedent-setting regulations. The air board continued California’s role as a pioneer in setting vehicle emission standards after it was launched in 1968 under then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. Its vehicle emission and safety rules often end up being copied by Congress and federal regulators and by nations around the world. The state’s present rules are followed by 12 other states, including New York and Pennsylvania – meaning the Golden State dictates what automakers must provide in about one-third of all new cars sold in the U.S. each year.

California’s special status may be only state carve-out in federal law

But with California’s pollution problems beginning to look more like the rest of the nation’s in recent decades, Republicans have increasingly chafed at the idea that CARB and not the EPA should have the dominant policy-making role on vehicle fuel and emissions standards.

An analysis in The Atlantic laid out how unusual the state’s status is:

“California is written into the Clean Air Act by name: At any time, it can ask the EPA administrator for a waiver to restrict tailpipe pollution more stringently than the federal government. If its proposed rules are ‘at least as protective of public health and welfare’ as the EPA’s, then the administrator must grant the waiver.

“This power is reserved alone for California, and it only covers pollution from cars. No other state can ask for a waiver. (In all of federal law, this might be the only time that a specific state is given special authority under such a major statute.)”

The administration of President George W. Bush became the first to challenge California’s special status when it rejected the state’s request to expand its definition of what substances in the atmosphere it could regulate to include non-polluting greenhouse gases. That prompted the filing of a lawsuit in January 2008 by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown that was backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But it became moot after Barack Obama succeeded Bush in the White House and the EPA resumed treating California’s proposals with deference.

Over the past 14 months, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed 28 lawsuits against the Trump administration, according to a tally kept by the Washington Post. But even before Becerra began his litigation, Gov. Brown anticipated the upcoming CARB-EPA fight and emphasized its importance. In comments made in December 2016 – a month after Trump’s election – Brown framed the dispute as having consequences for the “survivability of our world” because of the threat posed by global warming.

At an American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, according to a Sacramento Bee account, the governor said, “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers and we’re ready to fight. We’re ready to defend. …. And, if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite. We’re going to collect that data.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Los Angeles Seeks to Stop Oil and Gas Boom

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has introduced a motion to end oil drilling and production near public places in a measure that could kill America’s next oil and gas fracking boom.

Over the objections from the oil industry, Wesson introduced a motion on April 19 to conduct a study regarding how the Department of City Planning, with the assistance of the city attorney and the city’s petroleum administrator, could change the city’s zoning code to require a setback for oil and gas activities within public and residential facilities.

Wesson’s motion stated, “The closer oil and gas wells and storage facilities are to sensitive land uses, the higher the risk that the health and safety of nearby residents could be threatened.” And in a call to action, Wesson added, “Due to the ongoing health impacts experienced by residents from neighborhood drilling activity, it is imperative that we identify and implement a meaningful, long-term solution.”

Despite Wesson’s claims about health risks, the Center for Disease Control found that from 2003–2013 as the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry doubled the size of its workforce and increased drilling rigs by 71 percent, the annual occupational fatality rate in the industry decreased 36.3 percent, to 1,189 deaths over the decade. About 40 percent of fatalities were due to transportation accidents, and 26 percent was due to equipment accidents. The CDC found illnesses and fatalities from all environmental exposure were extremely low.

Wesson and his environmental lobbying allies claim they are only seeking a 2,500-foot setback, or about a half mile. But with California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources website revealing that there are about 3,000 active wells, tens of thousands of inactive wells, and underground pipelines running throughout the city, the proposed setback would essentially ban oil and gas activity in almost 100 percent of Los Angeles.

The new city-level effort follows a failed 2014 national initiative that was led by California environmental groups including Earthjustice, California Communities Against Toxics, California Safe Schools, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Comite Pro Uno, the Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, and many more.

The California sponsors attempted to have the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issue a new regulatory order under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act that would allow all oil and gas production wells and associated equipment to be listed as an “area source” of toxic pollution, if the EPA Administrator “determines that emissions of hazardous air pollutants from such wells present more than a negligible risk of adverse effects to public health” in any combined metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 1 million.

Give that the definition of “negligible” according to the dictionary.com website is: “so small, trifling, or unimportant that it may safely be neglected or disregarded,” the EPA would have been able to ban all oil and gas drilling, production and refining in the 54 combined metropolitan statistical areas in America that have a total population of at least 206 million, or about two-thirds of the entire U.S. population.

The 1,750-square-mile Monterrey Shale Formation that covers the entire Los Angeles Basin is potentially the richest shale oil reserve in the United States. Since water is key to the shale hydraulic fracturing drilling process, Breitbart News predicted that a state economic boom would take off as soon as California experienced its next cyclical rainy season.

With all California reservoirs already above historic levels, record snowpack levels in the Sierras, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting a National a very wet El Niño during the 2017-18 water year that begins on November 1, the L.A. City Council motion could kill a potential local economic boom.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Urgent Need to Re-think State’s Failing Water Policies

water-desalinationAs the debate rages over the election of the next president, it seems that another debate with significant implications for California has yet to take place.

It concerns the one commodity which our state and the planet cannot do without — water.

As California enters its sixth year of a historic drought, the solutions from Sacramento have been short in coming and predictions that there will be continuing water shortages are as solid as the belief that the sun will always come up again.

The drought-induced impacts on drinking water, food supplies, industrial needs, community services, electricity requirements, new housing development, labor demands, wetlands restoration, fish and wildlife preservation, fire prevention, recreational uses, and a host of other concerns are not going away. And this is the short list.

The litany of troubles can be expected to continue and grow if the state, regional and local governments are content with short-sighted often conflicting approaches for tackling the state’s number one problem.

At least eight state agencies headed up by the State Water Resources Control Board have some role in combatting drought — and that by itself may be one of the issues.

The governor appointed a “water Czar,” Felicia Marcus, a former public interest lawyer and EPA regional administrator with the unenviable task of needing to create some order out of the sprawling network of autonomous agencies that have a say in water policy.

While given generally high marks for imposing some discipline on an unmanageable enterprise, she is mainly a regulator whose principal job is to police the worst water abusers and make sure that violators pay the penalties.

In the absence of a comprehensive long range plan to deal with future droughts, the governor has resorted to a steady issuance of Executive Orders restating the urgency of beefing up conservation efforts since his well-publicized Drought State of Emergency proclamation on January 17, 2014.

It called for the creation of an interagency Drought Task Force responsible for overseeing the implementation of drought mitigation plans throughout California. It is better known for holding hearings, reviewing water allocations and serving as a clearinghouse for information.

Similar task forces have been assembled during past droughts with mixed results. Naming them is the first thing chief executives do in a crisis. However if their charters are not backed by strong political muscle and the funds needed to carry out the job they can become just another toothless entity in the vast machinery of government.

Regardless, nature has its own ideas and stopgap measures to bring drought relief have been a poor substitute for long term remedies that planners have ignored and for which there has generally been insufficient funding. That remains the case today.

The state’s $1 billion drought relief plan was put into effect only last May which amounts to a down payment on what will be needed. In comparison, the high-speed rail project — still a distant vision beset by legal challenges and bureaucratic delays — has a projected tab of over $70 billion.

The principal battle cry of the drought fighters is stricter conservation and improved water management practices.  Nothing wrong with that, but since these traditional palliatives require major behavioral changes which many consumers choose to ignore, the gains are usually short lived and inadequate.

Better water management makes good sense but only if users comply with the rules.

When “voluntary” measures failed, the governor invoked mandatory regulations calling at first for 25 percent water savings across the board by all communities, businesses and farms.

Initially that brought some positive results persuading the state water mavens to lower the mandate to 20 percent. The reprieve was a mistake with the citizenry soon reverting to its old ways.

Just a week ago the Water Resources Control Board announced monthly water savings has declined to 17.7 percent — down from a 27 percent savings in August 2015.

No doubt this will soon prompt another edict from the governor’s office to turn down the spigots once again, take fewer showers, stop washing sidewalks, and let lawns die. But that’s only the tip of the water bucket.

With weather forecasters predicting a warmer, drier winter for much of central and Southern California as La Nina makes another appearance, the territorial feuding over water allocation is certain to heat up as well.

This has pitted the state’s giant and powerful agribusiness interests which generate $46 billion annually for California’s economy against urban communities and small businesses with a comparable stake in hoarding the precious liquid.

According to one report, the state‘s agricultural industry is losing $9.6 billion each year as a result of the drought and water restrictions. California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced 17,000 agricultural jobs have been lost to date as a result of crop reduction with the number rising.

At the center of the controversy is the governor’s “twin tunnels” plan that would divert freshwater from the Delta through two 35 mile tunnels to feed water-starved southerners leaving northern farmers with less water they claim would be too salty to grow crops.

In addition to the devastating effects of droughts, 30 percent of southern California’s water supply flows through the Delta which could be disrupted by a major earthquake — another of nature’s events whose worst consequences even the most intelligent planning might not fully avert.

It isn’t that the water crisis is not seen as a high priority. The challenge is to get ahead of the issue as you would in treating a chronic disease before it overpowers other bodily systems.

That will not happen if droughts are looked upon as nasty yet unavoidable short term episodes such as forest fires that can have dramatic consequences but will eventually get containment.

In discussing responses to the drought Brown recently commented, “It takes a long time for people to grasp an unprecedented change in the state of California.”

This somewhat laisse fair approach does not give confidence that we are doing all that is possible and necessary to deal with the inevitable.

According to an earlier report by the authoritative University of California Agricultural Issues Center, “The state has sufficient surface and groundwater storage capacity to withstand one or two dry years. However, long droughts – projected to become increasingly common due to climate change – will have significant consequences”.

Increasing storage facilities — one of the recommendations of policy makers – has limited benefit with accelerated construction of new dams and reservoirs are already reaching near capacity during the less frequent periods of major rainfall.

If the principal argument for doing so is to collect more water, the vanishing snowpack in the Sierra Nevada which is the main source of the state’s water makes expensive projects for capturing more of it a questionable investment without contingency plans.

Given that the state’s population (a key factor in drought control) continues to grow with no signs of let-up, the supply-demand formulas are in need serious rethinking.

With rising demand for water, there is enough history already to show that the Pollyannaish notion that we can simply conserve our way out of the current dilemma notwithstanding expectation of even more severe droughts simply does not wash.

The time is past when we should be looking at alternative sources of water not merely during emergencies but also to meet the daily needs of our communities and businesses.

One very promising innovation is hardly a blip on the radar screen. It is commonly known as desalination — the conversion of salt water into safe and reliable drinking water. It is now in use in 120 countries worldwide have desalination including Algeria, Chile, Spain, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Iran, Israel, South Africa, Portugal, Greece, Italy, India, China, Japan, and Australia.

With trillions of gallons just off our long coast line, there is an infinite supply ready to tap.

 The largest plant in North America is now fully operational in Carlsbad, south of Los Angeles, and is supplying water to more than 15 percent of the San Diego County population. This will enable it to reduce its water purchases from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California by 66 percent over the next 15 years. The agency says it will reduce.

While this was the result of private financing, ($1 billion of it from the Poseidon Resources Corporation) and took 16 years from concept to completion, in the end it was not questionable technology but regulatory hurdles and misplaced environmentalist opposition that held things up.

Even some of the loudest desalination skeptics are grudgingly coming around to seeing the benefits:

“There are definite advantages to seawater desalination,” says Heather Cooley, water program director at the Oakland-based environmental think tank, Pacific Institute. “It’s a reliable supply, independent of weather conditions like drought. But it’s still among the most expensive water supply options.”

As more are plants are built at economies of scale and more cities reap the rewards the cost argument should fade away.

The biggest concerns of desal critics have been the large up — front investment outlays and the cost of energy needed to run them. Those arguments also collapse since smaller plants (the trend) need much less energy which can be renewable and are kept off line as a back-up reserve in the event of emergencies. Public-private partnerships could go far in offsetting construction costs, and water user bills should ultimately decrease with tax savings as well.

Poseidon is already in late-stage development of a second plant in Huntington Beach which will yield 50 million gallons per day. It is said to be a “100 percent carbon-neutral, cost-effective, and an environmentally sensitive solution for providing safe and reliable water.”

Less than $100 million of the $1 billion state allocation is budgeted for desalination.

The Brown administration needs to get on the bandwagon and put justified resources into solving the most urgent issue facing the state — the need for an ongoing supply of water.

 writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.

CA fracking frozen by feds

Offshore frackingTwin legal settlements with environmentalist plaintiffs put a freeze on fracking in California waters. “The agreements in Los Angeles federal court apply to operations off Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, where companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. operate platforms,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Federal agencies will have to complete the review by the end of May and determine if a more in-depth analysis is necessary,” the paper added. “They will also have to make future permit applications publicly accessible.” If the practice clears federal scrutiny and is deemed adequately safe to the environment, fracking operations could continue. If not, they could be postponed or forestalled indefinitely.

Notching a victory

The result marked a significant win for the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Defense Center, two organizations that alleged frackers had imperiled aquatic life with “over 9 billion gallons of wastewater” each year, according to Grist. Accusing the U.S. Department of the Interior of “rubber-stamping fracking off California’s coast without engaging the public or analyzing fracking’s threats to ocean ecosystems, coastal communities and marine life,” as the Christian Science Monitor observed, the groups filed suit against the federal government.

In a report on the deal, the left-leaning think tank Think Progress noted that fracking had quietly been conducted off the California coast for years. “The initial revelation of ongoing offshore fracking came as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the Department of the Interior by the Associated Press and Santa Barbara-based community organization the Environmental Defense Center, which just released a new report on the issue,” the organization recalled. “The investigations have found over 200 instances of fracking operations in state and federal waters off California, all unbeknownst to a state agency with jurisdiction over the offshore oil and gas industry.”

Industry pushback

For their part, defendants insisted the case was without merit. “Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said that the petroleum industry has operated safely in California for decades, working closely with regulators and other officials,” Natural Gas Intelligence reported. Industry defenders have argued that offshore fracking levels in the Pacific haven’t been that high. While the moratorium “will not likely affect production at large because California has not been producing much offshore oil lately,” Reuters noted, “companies have fracked at least 200 wells in Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and in the wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The American Petroleum Institute, which joined the suit as a defendant, has refused to agree to the settlement package. Other hurdles to its implementation have arisen. The two separate settlements must still be approved by a federal judge, according to NGI.

Porter Ranch debate

Although the EPA largely exonerated fracking of the dire accusations leveled against it by some environmental activists, the practice has re-entered the public debate in California due to the massive gas leak in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of greater Los Angeles. Maya Golden-Krasner, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, recently linked the disaster to fracking in an editorial at the Sacramento Bee; “newly uncovered documents show that hydraulic fracturing was commonly used in the Aliso Canyon gas storage wells,” she wrote, “including a well less than a half-mile from the leak.” Perhaps predictably, Golden-Krasner called for Gov. Jerry Brown to ban the practice of fracking across the state of California.

Regulators have been investigating a possible connection. “More than two months after Southern California Gas Co. detected a leak at its Aliso Canyon field, observers are searching for reasons the well may have failed. Some environmentalists are drawing attention to fracking, while experts caution that such a rupture is unlikely,” the Los Angeles Daily News observed. “The leaking well’s maintenance records don’t indicate that it was fracked, according to a review of the file released by the state Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Should EPA Prosecute Volkswagen to the Fullest Extent of the Law?

If the EPA chooses not to prosecute Volkswagen for its air toxins to the fullest extent of the law, then other automotive companies will violate the EPA’s standards continuously at the detriment of our health, Environment and morality.

Executive Summary & Background

Volkswagen has recently become a ubiquitous conversation topic across global business following its massive scandal.The company not only programmed its emission system deliberately to pass their car’s failed emission metrics; it had done so by carelessly allowing their cars to produce Nitrogen Oxide (NOx; a fairly harmful biohazard affecting respiratory function) by an astounding 40 times the legal limit, and has gone unseen dating back to 2009. Volkswagen has caused virtually irreparable harm to the automotive industry’s transparency, its reputation and to the trust of its “valued” consumers. The EPA should make an example of Volkswagen and fully prosecute them for their negligible actions in order to fully reconcile with the industry they brought much scorn and suspicion to in addition to bringing justice to the public and environment that were negatively affected. Volkswagen should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the EPA’s authoritative power to such a degree that this punishment serves as precedent that any company willing to pursue such deceptive and illegal measures will be deterred to do so by what VW will have to face. There is an abundance of compelling reasons that support the EPA to embark on these sanctions, penalties and lawsuits to ensure this never occurs again.

Widespread Current Trends of Eco-Awareness from the Public and Consumers Support this Action from the EPA

Often times it is emphasized in our world today that our generation (the youth), the millennial faction, represents and demonstrates the highest degree of activism and awareness in our country to battle and voice our opinions on the wrongdoings that should be brought to justice. We have an overwhelming amount of NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) currently ranging from a general petition-based group such as Change.org to RAN (Rainforest Action Network), which is spearheading the preservation and protection of our rainforests around the world.

With that said, there is a deeply ingrained prevalence of activism efforts in this nation that just so happens to involve a large ecological presence. If Volkswagen genuinely believes that in our current day in age with activism, their efforts won’t cause long-term sustained damage to their sales, reputation, brand-loyalty and stock price, they are surely mistaken because a majority of those aspects of their business have already been significantly impacted in the short-term and can potentially cause long-lasting implications to their bottom line among other negative effects. From a non-economic standpoint, the following intangibles will likely happen or have happened already.

  • Brand Loyalty is not only put into jeopardy, it can also cause deter prospective VW buyers from ever becoming a customer as well as use word of mouth to ensure others don’t buy as well.
  • Reputation not only was temporarily tarnished given that the executive management conspired to deceive the public and the EPA with its quality control of its emissions, but has likely been made to enable a cascading effect for generations to come hearing this story and seeing VW as a deceitful, negligent company.
  • Recall: VW has already publicly stated 500,000 cars will be recalled for further inspection and correction of the programming and emissions. This alone will cost staggering amounts of capital. Luckily, VW set aside $7.4 billion to cover the scandal’s overwhelming amount of financial damage. That number recently was adjusted to 800,000 cars for recall.
  • Stock Price: A substantial amount of investors reneged following the news of VW’s emission/programming scandals, and this will cause their market capitalization to decline greatly (dropped over 20 percent of its value directly after news came out), their stock price to suffer, and the likelihood of future investors to be deterred from investing.

This is a natural fact of life with how our civilization operates. Credibility is an integral part to our society and when that is compromised, it’s generally very difficult to regain that trust from whichever party or group was affected. The following elaborates on the financial aspect in greater detail of what their debacle has led to.

Economic Failures/Consequences

  • Volkswagen recorded its first quarterly net loss ($1.83 billion) for at least 15 years after making great strides to cover the cost of the lawsuits, and vehicle recall expenses following the emission scandal that include nearly 11 million cars worldwide allegedly containing the deceptive software.
  • $16.9 billion dollars according to the Economic Times was “wiped off the market value” of VW. Granted once the CEO, Martin Winterkorn, stepped down, the stock did recover incrementally, showing some positive signs.
  • The EPA has indicated through their reports that Volkswagen faces fines that could total “more than $18 billion.”

With how interconnected our society is, injustices like theirs that are eventually debunked never really end well, and have grave consequences that cause even an established, goliath firm like Volkswagen to derail into a turbulent chaos. This is due to an unrelenting force, which is the rejection, litigation and disgust brought forth by the public and the market that they have successfully sold their products to since 1937. Despite this, companies still continue to engage in deceptive activities to deliberately deceive the EPA time and time again, and if the EPA doesn’t decide to place the highest penalties possible on VW, other companies won’t feel inclined to take them seriously which will create a cascading effect of dissent with the EPA.

What the EPA has done Thus Far in Managing the Emissions Scandal

The EPA has officially issued two notices of violation against Volkswagen adding 10,000 additional affected cars under the Porsche and Audi family, which only escalates the scandal, further denoting that three car companies, all under VW, were affected by the scandal. Not surprisingly, VW officially refuted these claims that the scandal had proliferated to the other two car brands. An assistant administrator of the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance department by the name of Cynthia Giles commented, “VW has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans.” This is clearly a current issue in our society that companies feel the right or need to cheat the system repeatedly. She goes on to say, “all companies should be playing by the same rules. EPA, with our state, and federal partners, will continue to investigate these serious matters, to secure the benefits of the Clean Air Act, ensure a level playing field for responsible businesses, and to ensure consumers get the environmental performance they expect.” Unfortunately, automotive companies like this that engage in highly illegal and immoral behavior show no remorse or shame in failing to satisfy our expectations and hopes, when we, the public, are the ones purchasing and supporting their company making it financially possible to continue their operations. All the second notice does is add the 10,000 affected vehicles to the massive list, which could spell subsequent fines for VW to pay. Is sending petty fines truly enough to resolve this issues reflecting the entire industry and beyond. It is not just VW that has been caught failing to comply with EPA emission standards and regulations. Regulators and NGOs fear European groups (BMW, GM) are doing the same kind of thing.

The EPA should make a concerted effort to publicly make an example out of VW by restricting their operations, fining them to the fullest extent allowed by law, and try to somehow prohibit them from releasing cars to the entire country if they continue to pollute excessively and defy all standards enacted to prevent health and environmental hazards in the first place. By doing this, the EPA will make a bold statement that they are a federal force not to be trifled with, and that those defectors of these regulations will face intense public scrutiny, enormous financial loss, a tarnished reputation, and endless legal battles that will ensue if companies in this industry follow VW’s example and try to deceive the system put in place. All it is meant to do is to ensure quality for our society and for our environment, and to make sure that we as a civilization are good stewards of the environment and its inhabitants along with genuinely caring about our actions reflecting our values. Unfortunately, this case is just another example of defiance to these basic human values that indicates the EPA must take greater, more drastic actions to mitigate these disasters created by companies like VW.

In contrast, The EPA might be asking too high of standards, making automotive companies feel tempted and even inclined to cheat

In our age, the environmental movement has taken off full steam ahead, leaving the companies that are unable to swiftly adapt to their regulations obsolete and unfit to perform their daily operations. The efficiency, fuel-economy, carbon emissions, and smog tests have been regulated stringently, leaving no room for added pollution in our time of a great anthropogenic crisis of global climate change. Critics of the EPA say the regulations are unrealistic and not generous enough with extending adequate time to these companies being forced to comply with their constantly changing legislation and pollution control mandates.

David Morotta from Forbes magazine argues that the EPA’s general solution to solving issues “must not only solve the problem at hand, but it also must not create a new problem as a result.” He argues that they shouldn’t try to solve the “original” problem, implying an ineffective solution. He goes on to say that “distributed natural systems respond faster, better and smarter than government regulations.” He ends his argument by saying that “further empowering the EPA is a move in the wrong direction. EPA’s nameless and faceless bureaucrats are completely disconnected from any dependence on the people. Delegating regulatory authority to a concept as legislatively vague as sustainability ensures no control can ever be exercised.”

However, what VW did was short-lived, and 6 years after they started this habit of cheating the system, they were eventually caught, exposed, brought to justice and faced numerous business, legal and environmental implications where they are paying a tremendous total amount (exceeding $30 billion) in order to mitigate and reconcile with those affected. These types of scandals in this industry at all costs must come to a screeching halt because if emissions are being mishandled that greatly, who’s to say the other companies aren’t doing this as we speak.

Going the cheating route does cut costs significantly and enhance the company’s main objective; maximize the bottom line. But what about the true external costs of this horrendous event that remain to be seen if they emitted their vehicle’s gases by 40 times the legal amount allowed? Global warming exacerbation, habitat loss due to increases in temperature, health defects, ecosystem contamination and so much more are the result of this irresponsible wasting/pollution. This action that the EPA can make against VW must be done in order to achieve some progress so that the industry doesn’t allow scandals like this to become normative and have the industry and the public become so incredibly used to this that we become desensitized. For the sake of our present and future generations, we cannot allow that to be the case. Forget the politics of it and think about the well-being of us, our children, and future generations, who will have to somehow endure this atrocity.

Citations:

  • “Volkswagen Pushed Into Loss By Emissions Scandal- BBC News.” BBC News. N.P., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2015.
  • Marotta, David. “EPA: Green Gone Wild.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 13 Jan. Web. 05 Nov. 2015.
  • Nasr, Reem. “Porsche, More Audi Models Pulled into VW Scandal.” CNBC. N.p., 02 Nov. 2015. Web. 05 Nov. 2015.
  • Boston, William. “Volkswagen Emissions Investigation Zeroes In on Two Engineers.” WSJ. N.p., 05 Oct. 2015. Web. 05 Nov. 2015.

Cost of Regulations Will Take Your Breath Away

HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- Trucks began arriving here to pre-position water, military rations, ice and tarps for the post-hurricane relief effort. The trucks, which began arriving Oct. 20, have delivered supplies from Key West to northern Miami-Dade County since the storm passed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lisa M. Macias).

In 2008, the California Air Resources Board banned diesel truck engines manufactured before 2010. Over a million trucks operating in California, including 625,000 that were registered out-of-state, were suddenly illegal.

Existing diesel engines could only be operated in California if they were retrofitted with a filter that could cost as much as $15,000.

The regulation, known as the Statewide Truck and Bus Rule, carried an estimated price tag of $10 billion. If you were wondering why everything moved by truck in California is more expensive, it’s because you’re paying that bill. A little of the cost is passed along in the price of everything from furniture to strawberries.

It’s a basic principle of freedom that the government cannot pass a law that applies retroactively, criminalizing something that was legal at the time it originally happened. The U.S. Constitution says no “ex post facto Law shall be passed” by the federal government or by the states. “Ex post facto” is Latin meaning “from a thing done afterward.”

It’s another basic principle of freedom that the government exists by consent of the governed, meaning government officials are accountable to the people, not the other way around.

Alas, in California, these principles have been kicked to the curb. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say they’ve been kicked to the CARB.

The California Air Resources Board is accountable to no one, something that troubled lawmakers in both political parties during the recent debate over climate legislation. When the governor would not agree to amendments giving the Legislature more oversight over the agency, lawmakers dropped a proposal for a 50 percent cut in petroleum use for transportation that CARB was set to enforce.

CARB claims an urgent need for the Truck and Bus Rule. But there are serious questions about whether this is true.

In the fall of 2008, a CARB staff report concluded that reducing “fine particulate” air pollution from diesel engines would prevent 9,400 premature deaths in California between 2011 and 2025. The report was presented to the CARB board members, who quickly voted to approve the new regulation requiring filters or new diesel engines.

But the lead staffer responsible for that report, Hien Tran, was later revealed to have lied about his academic credentials — he purchased his Ph.D. from a diploma mill for $1,000 — and although CARB chair Mary Nichols knew about the deception, she withheld that information from board members until months after they voted to pass the new rule.

The problems with the report were not limited to credentials. Extensive studies of the health effects of fine particulate air pollution, including one by CARB-funded scientist Michael Jerrett of the University of California at Berkeley, showed that it is not causing any premature deaths in California.

That’s all ignored by officials who are now throwing the book at companies that have failed to comply with the rule.

On Oct. 8, CARB and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that trucking firm Estes Express Lines will pay a $100,000 fine and another $290,000 for pollution-reduction education programs for operating 73 trucks in California between 2012 and 2014 without the required filters. In addition, Virginia-based Estes “voluntarily” replaced its trucks with new models to comply with California’s regulations.

In announcing the penalties, Jared Blumenfeld of the EPA stated that the Truck and Bus Rule will prevent 3,500 premature deaths in California between 2010 and 2025. The precise origin of this number, which used to be 9,400, is a little murky. The real number appears to be zero.

Meanwhile, billions of dollars are being spent to replace or retrofit diesel engines that already meet the clean-diesel engine standards established in 2001. It’s one more reason for businesses to take their jobs and leave the state.

California regulators can create any kind of rule, apply it retroactively, and declare illegal the equipment that five minutes earlier was in full compliance with the law. And the EPA is helping CARB enforce its rules on out-of-state companies that are beyond the jurisdiction of California authorities.

Why is this even legal?

It may not be. The California Construction Trucking Association, now renamed the Western States Trucking Association, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether federal courts have jurisdiction to review the matter.

Truckers will never get their billions back. But it’s not too late to save everybody else’s jobs from being retroactively criminalized by reckless regulators.

CARTOON: Fracking Fool

Fracking cartoon

BURNING MONEY: Congressman Publishes 10 Most Atrocious Examples Of Government Waste

Sen. Tom Coburn’s legacy of exposing the worst of the federal government’s waste in his annual report may have a new man to carry the torch.

Freshman Republican Rep. Steve Russell laid out 10 of the worst instances of government waste Tuesday in his first “Waste Watch” publication, the Washington Examiner reports. The waste totaled more than $117 million and ranged across several government agencies. Coburn’s wastebook became famous for exposing government waste, but he retired at the end of the last session.

Here are Russell’s top 10 examples of terrible government waste.

1. U.S. Builds Melting Walls

The U.S. military spent $456,669 on a training facility in Afghanistan that melted when it rained. The military had the “dry fire range” built to use as a training spot with Afghan special police, but since the structure was built with bricks made mostly of sand, it only took four months for the walls to disintegrate in the rain.

2. Uncle Sam Pays For Contractors To Party Like It’s 1999

International Relief and Development, a nonprofit contractor that received about $2 billion in federal money to rebuild struggling countries, threw multiple lavish get-togethers that totaled $1.1 million. It billed the federal government for the parties – which included spa treatments, crystal chandeliers and a private zoo – saying they were for “training” and “staff morale.”

3. The Federal Government Accidentally Funded An Anti-U.S. Movie

In 2013, the U.S. embassy in Iraq paid for five Iraqi filmmakers to fly to the states for film classes at UCLA. As part of the program the students received a stipend to fund their own movie. One of the students, Salam Salman, focused his film on the 2007 shooting of 17 Iraqis by the U.S. private security company, Blackwater, an incident that hurt America’s reputation in Iraq.

4. More Explanation Needed For Big Payouts To Afghan Government

The Department of State gave the Afghan government $100 million in 2014 to help it close a budget shortfall that the Afghan leadership said was dire. Critics have blasted the department for failing to explain if the money was necessary and if the department will do it again. The funding of projects in Afghanistan has been rife with waste for years.

5. Storing Way Too Much Stuff For Way Too Much Money

The Department of Defense spent $15.4 million in 2013 to store millions of cubic feet of equipment that no one in the military needed for five years. Some of these items could be useful but much of it is outdated or costs more to store than it would cost to simply throw out and buy a new one. For example, one component of a power mast worth $391 cost the DOD more than $8,000 to store.

6. Feds Help Amateur Filmmakers Use Video Games

The National Science Foundation shelled out almost $700,000 to help amateur filmmakers create movies by using 3D characters in virtual worlds. The goal was to reduce the barriers to learning the technical skills involved. At least it sounds fun.

7. Government Teaches Conflict Resolution Skills To Moroccan Teens

The United States Agency for International Development dropped $559,000 in the last two years to teach teenagers in Morocco “public speaking, team building, and conflict mitigation techniques” in the hopes of reducing extremism. How effective this will be at reducing Islamic extremism is unknown.

8. A Lot Of Dead People Are Still On Social Security

About 6.5 million social security accounts belong to people who are at least 112 years old, which means all but a few are dead. Although the Social Security Administration sent few payments to these accounts, active accounts exemplify issues with record keeping for deceased individuals that are ripe for abuse by scammers who can continue claiming the benefits for the dead person and impersonate them to defraud other agencies.

9. The Environmental Protection Agency Spent Big To Track How Much Water You Use In Hotel Showers

The EPA spent $15,000 to create a system to track how much water each hotel guest uses during their stay. The hope is to encourage people to conserve more water when they see their consumption on a smart phone app.

 10. Missile Defense Agency Jumped The Gun And Overpayed Big Time

The MDA overpaid for a big contract by $11 million dollars even after an auditor warned it there could be problems. An auditor told the agency there was $200 million in questionable costs and needed more time to finish the audit before it should sign the deal. The audit was five days from revealing the massive waste, but the impatient agency went ahead and agreed anyway, a costly mistake.

Read the full report here.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation