Newspaper column: EPA Repeals Obama-Era Land Use Restrictions

Trump’s EPA rolls back Obama-era Clean Water Act rules. (AP pix via WSJ)

The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has finalized the repeal of yet another Obama-era regulatory 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 as the waters of the United States or WOTUS.

First announced in December but finalized this past week, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said, “Our revised and more precise definition will mean that farmers, property owners and businesses will spend less time and money determining whether they need a federal permit.”

When the change was first proposed, Wheeler said, “Property owners will be able to stand on their property and determine what is federal water without having to hire outside professionals.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston issued a statement applauding the change.

“The 2015 WOTUS Rule was an illegal effort by the federal government to assert control over both land and water, significantly impacting our ability to implement vital conservation practices,” Houston said. “After years spent fighting the 2015 WOTUS Rule in the halls of Congress, in the Courts, and at the EPA, cattle producers will sleep a little easier tonight knowing that the nightmare is over.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall released a statement saying, “No regulation is perfect, and no rule can accommodate every concern, but the 2015 rule was especially egregious. We are relieved to put it behind us. We are now working to ensure a fair and reasonable substitute that protects our water and our ability to work and care for the land. Farm Bureau’s multi-year effort to raise awareness of overreaching provisions was powered by thousands of our members who joined with an array of allies to achieve this victory for clear rules to ensure clean water.”

The National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Manufacturers also praised the repeal of the WOTUS overreach, according to The Wall Street Journal, which noted that roughly 25 percent of every dollar spent on a new home in this country is due to regulatory-compliance costs.

The change brings the EPA more in line with what the U.S. Supreme Court has said is appropriate. In 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.”

Chief Justice John Roberts during arguments noted the arduousness of compliance. He said a specialized individual permit, such as the one sought by Hawkes, on average costs $271,596 and 788 days to complete, not counting any mitigation costs that might be required. He said the permitting process can be “arduous, expensive, and long.” He failed to mention that is also often futile.

Then-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.”

Nevada’s current Democratic Attorney General is being quoted by the press as saying, “At this time, Nevada believes it would be in its best interest to remain under the pre-2015 WOTUS rule,” and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection is said to agree.

Though this change in the rules used by the EPA is welcome, some future administration could easily overturn them. Congress needs to act to clarify the Clean Water Act. Previously, the House and Senate passed resolutions that would have blocked the EPA water rules, but in January 2016 the Senate failed to override Obama’s veto.

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.

 

Our day that will live in infamy

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I wrote on the Sunday following that day of infamy:

“I sat down at my computer at about 6 a.m., unfolded the newspaper and switched on the television. There was smoke pouring from the top of one of the unmistakable landmarks of New York City, the World Trade Center. Well, I thought, there’s a story and photo for tomorrow’s front page, and started into the morning’s routine.

“Minutes later a fireball blossomed from the other tower, and it began to dawn on the commentators and me that this was no ordinary accident and Sept. 11 would be no ordinary day.”

I started making phone calls. Reporters and photographers were dispatched to Hoover Dam, McCarran International, City Hall, Nellis Air Force Base, the Strip and elsewhere. Editors huddled. The publisher called in and said we should add 24 pages to the Wednesday newspaper. All plans were scrapped and we started from scratch, hoping to help our readers make sense of a senseless act.

Every section of the paper kicked in its resources.

The press crew rolled the presses early and cranked out thousands of extra copies.

Then I wrote that Sunday:

“I was proud of what we all had accomplished, of the concerted effort and professionalism, as I drove home at 1 a.m. … until I heard the callers on the radio. People were saying they would gladly give up some freedoms for the sake of safety.”

I wanted to reach into the radio and slap some sense into the callers.

The column proceeded to tick off some of the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights and I wondered aloud which people would willingly sacrifice. The First’s right of assembly, lest there be a bomb, and no freedom of speech and religion, especially that one? The Second’s right to bear arms? The Fourth’s prohibition against warrantless search and seizure? The Fifth’s right to due process? The Sixth’s right to a public trial?

I concluded:

“If this is the consensus of the nation, the bastards have already won, destroying our will and our principles as well as planes, buildings and lives.

“We will have surrendered without firing a shot in the first war of the 21st century.”

The column appeared sandwiched between a Jim Day cartoon and a Vin Suprynowicz column with the headline: “The passengers were all disarmed.”

In a comment to a local magazine on an anniversary of 9/11 I called it “our Pearl Harbor.”

A version of this was posted on this day in 2017 and 2018.

 

Newspaper column: Annual Basque Fry will tout conservative values

Adam Laxalt addresses the 2017 Basque Fry. (R-J file pix

With Democrats holding strong majorities in the Nevada state Senate and Assembly, as well as every statewide constitutional office save one, there seems to be a sense of urgency about this year’s fifth annual Basque Fry coming Sept. 14 at the Corley Ranch in Gardnerville.

The conservative speakers, family entertainment and lamb fries fest is put on by Adam Laxalt’s Morning in Nevada PAC and is modeled after the Basque Fries his grandfather Paul Laxalt, a former Nevada governor and U.S. senator, used to conduct in Nevada and Washington. Adam Laxalt is the state’s former attorney general and was the Republican candidate for governor in 2018.

“We’re very excited about the fifth annual Basque Fry,” Laxalt said during a recent interview. “We’re fortunate this event has taken permanent hold in Northern Nevada. We expect a very large crowd again and think a lot of people are going to be very enthusiastic about it. We’ve talked, leading to the event, about the importance of trying to take back our state and we plan on discussing that at the Basque Fry.”

The list of scheduled speakers include Mick Mulvaney, acing White House chief of staff; Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, and his wife Mercedes Schlapp, a former White House director of communications; Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney general; Corey Lewandowski, who served as President Trump’s campaign manager; John Fund, a columnist for the National Review; Katie Williams, who had her Miss Nevada crown taken away for expressing conservative political views; and, of course, Laxalt.

Laxalt said he expects he and other speakers will highlight how radical and left-wing the Democratic Party and its presidential candidates have become, saying their positions do not align with Nevada values and are not good for our state.

“Some of our Democrats kind of hide out and they are not put on the record whether they are going to denounce these things or whether they support them,” he said. “So, I think it is important to get these positions on the record and in the public consciousness of Nevadans, so they understand what the Democratic Party represents today. The old blue-collar, fairly conservative Democratic Party that existed in Nevada a few decades ago, maybe even closer than that, is long gone. So we have to draw that contrast for everyday voters, especially swing voters in our state.”

Laxalt cited for example the Democratic position supporting open borders and denigrating the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the laws they are duty bound to enforce.

He also expects the topic of media bias to be addressed. “It’s just frustrating, because for me it is the rule of law. I think that’s what has made our country unique and is an essential piece of what made America the greatest country in modern times. The other side will ignore the rule of law whenever it is politically expedient for them, and they rarely have the media holding them accountable for that kind of thing,” he said.

This year the Basque Fry is being held in conjunction with the Conservative Political Action Conference West, which is being put on by the American Conservative Union at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno the day before.

Laxalt said it is important for conservatives to build policy infrastructure. “To have such a nationally reputable organization like the American Conservative Union and CPAC to come to Nevada and create a CPAC West, I think is going to be great for us,” he said. “We need to rebuild the conservative intellectual base in this state, which we know was not encouraged in the last many years or supported. I think it is important that message is getting out and that people understand there is a strong alternative to progressivism, leftism, socialism, et cetera.”

One of the panels at CPAC West will address the Western lands policies over the past few decades, which have hampered the economic wellbeing of rural communities.

Laxalt concluded by saying, “This type of event is important to encourage people to engage, and if we don’t engage we will lose this state and we will lose this country. Unfortunately, many of our voters they don’t have politics as a hobby. They are raising families and running small businesses and things like that. It is just very hard to get people engaged in this otherwise ugly business, but we need people to get more engaged. I still feel confident if we get more and more people into the system, then we can win back this state.”

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.

Addition: Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is also speaking at the Basque Fry.

 

Newspaper spat: Tit for tat

This is the scrappiest the Review-Journal and Sun have been in some time.

On Friday the morning paper published an editorial explaining why it was seeking a court ruling to end its Joint Operating Agreement with what now is a daily insert. It said, “We are asking a court to rule that the Sun has not met a contractual obligation to produce a high-quality metropolitan print newspaper.”

That day’s Sun had a column by a Nevada congresswoman, a feature on historic preservation, a local editorial and editorial cartoon, letters to the editor and a locally generated sports story about Big Ten football. The rest of the 8-page section was syndicated features and columns.

Today the morning paper came back with a news story about the court filing, repeating what was in the editorial but also quoting the paper’s lawyer, as well as a journalism prof on the demise of JOAs. The story concludes by reporting, “The Review-Journal filing is in response to a 2018 Sun complaint that raised concerns about the distribution of profits under the joint operating agreement and how the Sun is promoted in the joint newspaper.”

Meanwhile, back in the insert, there is an editorial under the headline: “The Sun refuses to kneel before Sheldon Adelson — and you should too.” It declares, “It is a desperate move and behind a tissue of dishonesty lies the real motive: the R-J longs to silence the Sun and be the only voice in daily newspapers in this community.”

Actually, as the R-J points out, the Sun would be free to keep printing and trying to sell its feeble content. The Sun’s website today has what appears to be eight locally produced items that do not appear in the printed product. The printed product seldom contains any breaking news.

The Sun screed claims it won the 2018 litigation over distribution of profits, saying, “This move also comes after the R-J lost a recent arbitration between the Sun and the R-J. Not only did the arbitrator reject the R-J’s predatory interpretation of the contract and adopted the Sun’s interpretation, but the arbitrator made an award to the Sun for the money the Review-Journal has wrongfully withheld from the Sun each year. Those are funds that support the Sun’s newsroom. The consequences of that ruling in favor of the Sun will be in effect for the next 20 years.”

The amount of the settlement is not mentioned and no news story about the end of the arbitration is to found anywhere.

The Sun piece accuses the R-J of trying to “monopolize the ideas of the day,” though the Sun prints a weekly tabloid and maintains a website with more content than it deigns to print and there are competing websites produced by the Nevada Independent and the Nevada Current, as well as a number of local online commenters and bloggers. Countless national publications are available for home delivery and online.

Why the Sun even protests is a head-scratcher.

In January 2018 Sun putative editor Brian Greenspun posted an online note telling readers they would start being charged for website usage because profits from the R-J had dried up. “The current management of the Review-Journal plunged the newspaper into a loss immediately after purchasing the newspaper in 2015. To date, the Review-Journal’s management continues to run a money-losing newspaper,” he wrote.

Under the JOA the Sun was to get a percentage of the profits of the R-J. If there are no profits …

Apparently the Sun dropped the paywall after getting few takers.

 

 

 

 

Morning paper seeks to jettison insert

Who didn’t see this coming?

According to a front page editorial in the Las Vegas newspaper, the paper has filed litigation seeking to terminate the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) under which the Las Vegas Sun is printed as a separate 6- to 10-page section in the morning newspaper.

The editorial says the contract — which when first signed in 1989 had the Sun printed by the Review-Journal as an afternoon newspaper but was revised in 2005 to make the Sun an insert — obligates the two newspapers to “preserve the high standards of newspaper quality … consistent with United States metropolitan daily newspapers.” Instead, the editorial correctly describes the Sun’s print edition as a “stale combination of dated wire service stories and columns packaged around a couple of staff reports and photos that are sometimes a week old.”

The current JOA doesn’t expire for 20 years.

The problem is not so much quality as cost. Newsprint is not cheap and recent tariffs have made it more costly.

Back in 2013 the Sun’s putative editor Brian Greenspun filed an affidavit in court saying that in 2008, when the recession hit, the Sun’s share of profits from the R-J fell 90 percent to a meager $1.3 million a year.

In January 2018 Greenspun posted an online note telling readers they would start being charged for website usage because profits from the R-J had dried up. “The current management of the Review-Journal plunged the newspaper into a loss immediately after purchasing the newspaper in 2015. To date, the Review-Journal’s management continues to run a money-losing newspaper,” he wrote.

The R-J editorial accuses the Sun of neglecting its responsibility to produce a quality newspaper section. The Sun has been phoning it in for years.

The Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 reads in part:

In the public interest of maintaining a newspaper press editorially and reportorially independent and competitive in all parts of the United States, it is hereby declared to be the public policy of the United States to preserve the publication of newspapers in any city, community, or metropolitan area where a joint operating arrangement has been heretofore entered into because of economic distress or is hereafter effected in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

One question though: Where is the news story about the litigation?

R-J photo

When the morning paper agrees with Harry … something freezes over

My backup topic for items in this week’s rural newspapers turned out to be today’s editorial in the Las Vegas newspaper.

Though I settled on other topics, I had made a note that retired Nevada Sen. Harry Reid should get a tip o’ the hat for warning Democratic presidential candidates that Medicare for All and open borders are stances too radical for voters to accept. As my ol’ Pappy used to say: “Great minds travel in he same plane, but fools just think alike.”

The lede on today’s editorial reads:

If the Democratic Party keeps embracing the fringe left, Harry Reid might have to re-register as a Republican.

In a recent interview with Vice, the former Senate majority leader urged Democrats not to support “Medicare for All” and decriminalizing illegal border crossings. As recently as two years ago, those two radical ideas would have been seen as extreme among mainstream Democrats. Not now. Many of the party’s top presidential candidates have embraced both proposals.

Mr. Reid said “of course” pushing Medicare for All would make it more difficult for a Democrat to defeat President Donald Trump.

Though Reid has championed many liberal propositions over his lengthy stay in D. of C. — including the lamentable Obamacare — even he recognizes his party is listing too far to the left.

When was the last time Harry and the Las Vegas newspaper agreed on anything?

R-J file photo of Harry Reid.

 

A bit of advice for the president

I considered wading in on the Twitter twaddle between President Trump and the socialist “squad,” but figured enough mud was being splattered on the walls already. What could I add?

But today the morning paper’s columnist Victor Joecks saved me the trouble and said what I meant to say, only far more succinctly:

When your political opponents are rhetorically clubbing each other to death, you stand back, shut up and get out of the way.

Unless you’re Trump, who — blinded by his own genius at shaping political stories — decided this was a great time to criticize AOC and her squad.

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her “squad” had engaged in a social media slap fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dividing the Democrat Party, and Trump just couldn’t resist wading in and uniting them, resulting in last night’s near-party line vote in the House to condemn Trump.

USA Today recounts: “The resolution, which said Trump’s “racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color,” passed by an overall vote of 240-187.”

When your opponents are squabbling among themselves, let them, don’t unite them, Mr. “stable genius.”

The squad. (UPI pix)