EDITORIAL: Setting it straight on EPA review, DC numbers games

In my Dec. 2 editorial on the peer review of the Environmental Protection Agency assessment of risks from mining to the Bristol Bay watershed, I advised the agency to “take its medicine” from experts who found fault with aspects of the hypothetical mine scenario used in the document.

Looks like I could use a spoonful of sugar right about now.

After reading the 193-page document it was clear that the summary of “key recommendations” from reviewers had disproportionately relied on the comments from Roy Stein, a fisheries scientist from Ohio State University who revealed an anti-Pebble mine bias throughout his review.

However, it was not, as I wrote, the EPA that heavily selected from Stein’s comments in preparing the summary. Rather, it was EPA vendor Versar that prepared the summary of reviewer recommendations.

Versar is a Springfield, Va., company that selected the experts including Stein who conducted the review.

An environmental services firm, Versar relies upon government work for about 90 percent of its income, according to the company’s 2012 annual report, and currently has several contracts worth potentially millions of dollars with the EPA according to the agency’s Office of Acquisition Management.

The broader conclusion still stands, namely, that both the EPA’s Bristol Bay assessment and the summary of peer review recommendations don’t measure up to quality scientific work, nor do they foretell a fair process going forward.

In this event, though, the mistake was mine and I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to you, our valued readers, and to the EPA for the error.

As we call on others to be accountable, we will expect no less from ourselves. That’s a statement I feel safe to say I won’t have to take back.

Numbers games

As we draw nearer the so-called “fiscal cliff” of expiring tax rates for all income brackets and across-the-board budget cuts required under the 2011 debt ceiling deal, there has yet to be any responsible leadership out of a White House that should no longer be in campaign mode.

After calling for a “balanced” approach during that campaign, President Barack Obama and his party remain firmly fixated on raising tax rates for the top 2 percent of income earners without proposing any spending cuts.

The GOP looks poised to cave, although it has proposed raising tax revenue through eliminating or capping deductions rather than hiking rates.

Higher rates on the top 2 percent are projected to bring in $80 billion per year.

With an annual federal deficit of more than $1.1 trillion, taxing the “rich” doesn’t get us anywhere, and it’s a silly argument to pretend that just taking a little more from some will make our fiscal problems go away.

The little-reported fact about the Bush tax cuts is that the reductions for the middle class and low income earners (10 million of whom were taken off the rolls completely) amount to $3.2 trillion over 10 years.

That’s where the real money is, and after the Democrats eat the rich, the government beast will be turning its hungry eyes on everyone else.

What is truly frustrating is that everyone in Washington appears to believe the only way to raise revenue is by increasing taxes.

That’s wrong.

Economic growth will raise revenue without raising taxes, but right now there isn’t anyone proposing anything that radical.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].

12/13/2012 - 10:49am