Editorial: EPA reining in overreach on water rules

The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is rolling back another Obama era overreach, specifically rules that defined every stream, ditch, seasonal puddle and muddy hoof print as being covered by the restrictions of the Clean Water Act of 1972 that was intended to prohibit pollutants being dumped into navigable waters — known colloquially as the waters of the United States or WOTUS.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the change this past week, saying the rule rollback means the Clean Water Act applies to traditional navigable water and their immediate tributaries.

“Property owners will be able to stand on their property and determine what is federal water without having to hire outside professionals,” Wheeler was quoted as saying.

That apparently would include Northern California farmer John Duarte who wound up paying more than $1 million in fees and fines because he plowed his 450-acre farm to plant wheat. Dirt was apparently a pollutant and the farm was nowhere near navigable water, but had a few seasonal pools.

The changes bring the enforcement of the law back into compliance with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s interpretation in a 2006 court ruling under a prior administration, “In sum, on its only plausible interpretation, the phrase ‘the waters of the United States’ includes only those relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water ‘forming geographic features’ that are described in ordinary parlance as ‘streams[,] … oceans, rivers, [and] lakes.’ See Webster’s Second 2882. The phrase does not include channels through which water flows intermittently or ephemerally, or channels that periodically provide drainage for rainfall. The Corps’ expansive interpretation of the ‘the waters of the United States’ is thus not ‘based on a permissible construction of the statute.’”

In another example of federal overreach, in December 2010 the Hawkes Co., which mines peat for use on golf courses among other things, applied for a permit to mine peat on a 530-acre tract of property it owns in Minnesota. The Army Corps of Engineers told the company they would have to do numerous tests that would cost more than $100,000.

The Corps said the wetlands had a “significant nexus” to the Red River of the North, located some 120 miles away. Failure to comply carried a threat of fines amounting to $37,000 a day and criminal prosecution.

In a concurring opinion in that case, Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, said that the EPA and Corps “ominous reach” on interpreting the Clean Water Act “continues to raise troubling questions regarding the Government’s power to cast doubt on the full use and enjoyment of private property throughout the Nation.”

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who along with 22 other attorneys general filed an amicus brief in this case, applauded the judgment at that time, saying, “The Obama administration seems determined to move as far and as fast as possible to unilaterally change our constitutional system and our congressional laws. … Fortunately in this case, our checks and balances have protected Nevadans from truly unprecedented federal overreach.”

Now the Trump administration has reined in the EPA.

At one point the House and Senate passed resolutions that would have blocked the EPA WOTUS rule, but the Senate failed to override Obama’s veto.

“We will be sued, I’m sure,” EPA’s Wheeler told The Wall Street Journal. “But what we’ve tried to do is draft a proposal that will stand up in court.”

Again.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Mud puddles no longer covered by the Clean Water Act.

Newspaper column: Laxalt reflects on term as attorney general

As Adam Laxalt closes out his term as attorney general and transitions the office to his successor in January, he took the time to reflect on what his team has accomplished for Nevada.

“My vision for the office was to be more than an office that just represents state agencies and boards and commissions in areas that we thought we wanted to find ways to lead. The title of top law enforcement officer comes with the attorney general’s office but we really wanted to lead law enforcement, which is why we created the Law Enforcement Summit concept.”

One of the cases in which the office assisted law enforcement that Laxalt cited was out of Elko. In 2008 an Elko police officer stopped a California man named Ralph Torres for suspicion of underage drinking. Torres produced an ID showing he was 29, but the officer detained Torres while dispatch verified the ID and it turned out Torres had a felony warrant.

His conviction was overturned in 2015 by the Nevada Supreme Court, which said his detention violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Laxalt’s office took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and the arrest validity eventually was upheld.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt, with three children under 5, says he plans to get some sleep once he leaves office.

“That’s just one example among many of things that came out of our coordination and cooperation with rural law enforcement,” Laxalt said, adding that the office also helped cut the backlog in sex offender registry.

Laxalt’s office also filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s restrictive land use plans intended to protect sage grouse that hurt mining and ranching.

Though the Trump administration lifted many of those restrictions, Laxalt contends that had his office not fought the Obama rules in court they might have been implemented. “We made sure we slowed that train down. Fortunately, the current administration has a more cooperative approach to working with our state,” Laxalt said.

He noted that creating a federalism unit in the attorney general’s office was also important, because, “In the years prior to my taking office you really saw federal overreach. You really saw the expansive interpretation of federal powers.”

Asked to define federalism, Laxalt explained, “I think people misinterpret it a lot. Federalism is, of course, to make sure that we keep as much power at the state level as we possibly can as the Framers intended. We don’t want people 3,000 miles away trying to decide minutiae of how we should be running our state.”

One example of this was the effort by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to redefine the waters of the U.S. under the Clean Water Act.

“They were going to redefine that ‘navigable waters’ phrase more broadly than Congress intended or, so we argued, as anyone intended. That would have really hampered our own state and own local ability to be able to take charge of our own water,” the attorney general said, noting that a coalition of states won an injunction that slowed the implementation until the current administration could issue more rational rules.

Since 85 percent of the state of Nevada is controlled by various federal land agencies, the highest percentage of any state, Nevada is more strongly impacted by federal restrictions on land use.

“Right now we think we’re in a better situation in this state,” Laxalt said. “The current administration certainly (Interior) Secretary (Ryan) Zinke and the head of the EPA have a more federalism approach to working with states.”

He expressed a level of satisfaction with his office’s efforts to include rural Nevada counties in the decision making process and fending off federal regulations that could have been an economic death knell for rural counties.

When asked about any future plans, Laxalt said he and the 400 employees in his office are currently working to transition to the next attorney general, Democrat Aaron Ford. He said he’ll think about his future next January and February.

He joked that he is looking forward to getting some sleep. Not only has he been running the attorney general’s office, seeking unsuccessfully to be elected governor, but also raising three children under the age of 5.

Asked whether he might run for public office again in the future, Laxalt said, “You know I care deeply about this state and I certainly hope — you know it is something I’ve talked about a lot this year — that I don’t want our state to turn into California. … I really hope we hold onto our values, such as small government, individual liberties.”

We shall see.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Migrants make outrageous demands

Now that’s brazen.

According to the San Diego newspaper, some of those Central Americans stuck in Tijuana while trying to get into the U.S. marched to the U.S. Consulate there Tuesday and demanded that asylum processing be speeded up or that the U.S. pay them $50,000 each to go home. If it is dangerous for them to return to their home countries, how much more dangerous would it be if they returned with what would be fortune there?

One letter delivered to the consulate said, “It may seem like a lot of money to you. But it is a small sum compared to everything the United States has stolen from Honduras.”

This seems an odd thing to say since Trump is threatening to cut off aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador if they don’t stop the caravans. Honduras got $181 million in U.S. aid in 2017. Guatemala got $127 million. El Salvador got $118 million.

One letter to the consulate said the caravans consist of “families, women and children, the majority of which are young men who are fleeing from poverty, insecurity and political repression under the dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernandez,” and demanded the U.S. remove the Honduran president. We believe that would be called a coup.

That’s a lot of demands from people who want to enter the U.S.

Migrants march on U.S. consulate in Tiajuana Tuesday. (San Diego Union-Tribune pix)

Election analysis goes astray

Yes, the election was all about the unions turning out for Democrats in Clark County en masse. Yes, Trump overshadowed all the statewide Nevada races.

But can you believe the last graphs of the front page story in the morning paper?:

But many agree that to compete with Democrats, Republicans need to do better at being more positive and inclusive, with tighter focuses on more traditional fiscal conservative issues like job creation and wage growth as opposed to social issues.

That kind of messaging became the hallmark of outgoing Gov. Brian Sandoval’s eight years in office, and Sandoval’s popularity with both parties remains high as he prepares to hand the office off to Sisolak.

(Republican political consultant Greg) Ferraro said Sandoval’s style should be emulated by Republicans if they want to match his political triumphs.

Sandoval was popular with both parties? The “Republican” governor who pushed through in 2015 the biggest tax hike in history, a tax hike that included a commerce tax, which had been rejected by 79 percent of voters just months earlier? We’re not sure how popular he was with his own party, much less Democrats.

Emulate Sandoval, who did not endorse his own party’s candidate for governor, probably because he had advocated repealing the commerce tax? Sandoval who was AWOL at most Republican functions?

Who are the many who agree? What social issues? The Republicans in the statewide races were almost exclusively about job creation and wage growth through fewer regulations and lower taxes.

Bottom line: It was all about the liberal union turnout in the urban areas. Republicans may have talked about avoiding Californication, but it is too late. It is here and now.

(Footnote: Recently the morning paper posted a breaking news story online on a Friday afternoon but did not get around to printing it until Monday. The story mentioned above appeared in print on the front page, but searches online turned up nothing. Right hand, meet the left hand. It showed up online just before 10 a.m.)

The late posted online version adds an additional paragraph:

“I think Republicans would be wise to look at the success of the Sandoval brand going forward, which was a message of inclusion, either bipartisan or nonpartisan or both, and practical not political,” Ferraro said. “One that appeals to Nevadans in a message of Nevada first.”

What the hell does that mean?

Up in the White House … Tariff Man!

 

Tariff Man!

Faster than a speeding tweet! More powerful than steamrolling economy! Able to leap to illogical conclusions!


Would someone please whisper into Trump’s ear that fact that tariffs amount to a tax on what Americans pay for everything, whether imported or not.

Put a tariff on steel and the cost autos built in the U.S. increase. Got it?

Put a tariff on stuff coming from China and they counter with a tax on soybeans, which are left to rot in silos.

Ludwig von Mises:

It is important to realize that what those benefited by these measures (tariffs) consider an advantage for themselves lasts only for a limited time. In the long run the privilege accorded to a definite class of producers loses its power to create specific gains. The privileged branch attracts newcomers, and their competition tends to eliminate the specific gains derived from the privilege. Thus the eagerness of the law’s pet children to acquire privileges is insatiable. They continue to ask for new privileges because the old ones lose their power.

Ramirez cartoon

 

 

Whistling in the wind, er, atmosphere

The Fourth National Climate Assessment warns that if greenhouse gas emissions are not slashed there will be several degrees of global warming and major damage to the U.S. gross domestic product.

The report warns:

In the absence of significant global mitigation action and regional adaptation efforts, rising temperatures, sea level rise, and changes in extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property, labor productivity, and the vitality of our communities. Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs. … With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.

Meanwhile back in reality, The Wall Street Journal reports that global emissions continue to rise, though North America’s share of global carbon emissions have dropped from 24 percent in 2004 to about 17 percent in 2013.

Instead of killing our current economy and our GDP now with emissions taxes and other futile attempts at eliminating fossil fuel emissions in the U.S., while the rest of the world carries on cavalierly, perhaps the U.S. should invest in research on adaptive strategies.

The report comes while the East Coast is experiencing record low temperatures. High temps are a sign of global warming, while low temps are just weather.

President Trump, a noted skeptic of global warming alarmism, tweeted on Wednesday, “Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

The report says that without mitigation temperatures will rise 9 degrees F by the end of the century.

It says Midwest crop yields will decline, but what about crop yields farther north?

 

 

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Should each county get a single state senator?

 

Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea is the District 19 incumbent and was not up for re-election this year.

The blue Clark County tail wagged the red Nevada dog in this past week’s election.

Election results show rural and urban Nevada are of two vastly different states of mind.

For example, in the race for the U.S. Senate, Democrat Jacky Rosen carried only Clark and Washoe counties, while Republican incumbent Dean Heller won every other county handily. In the more heavily unionized, redistribution-favoring and thus Democrat-leaning Clark and Washoe, Rosen gleaned 55 and 50 percent of the votes, respectively. Whereas, for example, in Elko County Heller netted 76 percent of the vote, 72 percent in White Pine, 79 percent in Lincoln, 75 percent in Esmeralda, 63 percent in Storey, 72 percent in Churchill, 79 percent in Lincoln and a whopping 84 percent in tiny Eureka. Quite a spectrum shift.

The state’s only Republican representative in Washington now will be Mark Amodei, whose 2nd Congressional District covers the northern half of the state and excludes Clark. Amodei won in every county and his Democratic opponent only came within spitting distance in Washoe and Carson City. Amodei took Elko with 80 percent of the vote, Humboldt with 79 percent and Lander with 82 percent, for example.

Republican Cresent Hardy won in every county in the 4th Congressional District in the southern half of the state except Clark, while the other two Congressional Districts are solely in Clark and were easily won by Democrats.

Democrat Steven Horsford won the 4th District seat by pulling 52 percent of the total vote by netting 56 percent in the more populous Clark. Hardy netted 73 percent of White Pine’s votes, 80 percent of Lincoln’s votes, 74 percent of Lyon’s, 57 percent of Mineral’s and 65 percent of Lyon’s.

In the statewide races for constitutional offices the numbers broke down largely the same.

In the race for governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak won handily in Clark and eked out a victory in Washoe, while Republican Adam Laxalt won almost every other county by at least 2-to-1. The results were similar in the race for lieutenant governor.

Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske edged out 30-year-old inexperienced Democrat Nelson Araujo by less than 1 percentage point, though she won handily in ever county except, you guessed it, Clark.

In the race for attorney general, Republican Wes Duncan won in every county, repeat after me, except Clark. Likewise for Republican treasurer candidate Bob Beers, while incumbent Republican Controller Ron Knecht lost only in Clark and Washoe. Again, in mosts cases the margins in rural counties exceeded 2-to-1 for the Republican.

The Democrats in the state Assembly are all from Clark and Washoe. The rest of the state picked Republicans. Due to the overwhelming population of Clark and Washoe, there is now a supermajority of Democrats — 29 out of 42.

The state Senate is also all red except for Clark and Washoe. The 13 Democrats to eight Republicans leaves the Democrats one seat short of a supermajority. That could happen if a planned recount changes the outcome in a district in Clark in which the Republican won by 28 ballots.

It takes a supermajority in both the Assembly and Senate to pass tax increases, thanks to an initiative pushed through by former Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Now, if the Democrats can wail about how unfair it is that the 2016 presidential election was determined by the Electoral College — in which each state gets a vote for each representative in Congress, which is determined by population, and each state gets two votes for each senator no matter population — and not by popular vote, which, yes, Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump won, it seems only fair that we be allowed to deign to suggest that Nevada could change its governing bodies to more closing match the federal system created by the Founders.

We could have an Assembly in which representatives are seated from districts of approximately equal population and a state Senate with a single representative from each county. The whole purpose of the U.S. Senate is to assure smaller states are not run over roughshod by more populous states.

So why should the smaller Nevada counties with differing philosophies and priorities and issues be virtually shut out of the decision making process?

Of course, the chances of that ever happening is almost certainly nil. So, consider this a wee Jeremiadic cry from the desert and a whisper in the ears of the near-supermajority to give some slack for the smaller rural counties. Seems only fair. And we know Democrats are sticklers for fairness.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Historic update from Wikipedia:

In 1919 the Senate started a practice called “Little Federalism,” where each county received one member of the Nevada Senate regardless of population of said county. This set the Senate membership at seventeen which lasted until 1965-1967. The Supreme Court of the United States issued the opinion in Baker v. Carr in 1962 which found that the redistricting of state legislative districts are not a political questions, and thus is justiciable by the federal courts. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Reynolds v. Sims and struck down state senate inequality, basing their decision on the principle of “one person, one vote.” With those two cases being decided on a national level, Nevada Assemblywoman Flora Dungan and Las Vegas resident Clare W. Woodbury, M.D. filed suit in 1965 with the Nevada District Court arguing that Nevada’s Senate districts violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and lacked of fair representation and proportional districts. At the time, less than 8 percent of the population of the State of Nevada controlled more than 50 percent of the Senate. The District Court found that both the Senate and the Assembly apportionment laws were “invidiously discriminatory, being based upon no constitutionally valid policy.[7]” It was ordered that Governor Grant Sawyer call a Special Session to submit a constitutionally valid reapportionment plan.[8] The 11th Special Session lasted from October 25, 1965 through November 13, 1965 and a plan was adopted to increase the size of the Senate from 17 to 20.