AJOC EDITORIAL: Jackboots and fines latest examples of federal overkill

Sept. 5 was just another day for the feds in Alaska.

Two stories moved across the wire that day, both neatly encapsulating how the Environmental Protection Agency, like most all federal agencies now days, has morphed from public servant to public enemy.

First up, we had the story from Gov. Sean Parnell expressing his outrage that armed and armored agents from the EPA and the Interior Department Bureau of Land Management descended on placer mining sites around the Fortymile area to check for violations in encounters described by the miners involved as “intimidating and uncomfortable.”

There is no doubt that EPA and BLM have responsibilities to ensure that rules regarding water protection are followed, but there is equally no doubt that there is no reason whatsoever that these agencies should be equipped with body armor and guns, in Alaska or anywhere.

Did they really consider shootout with the prospectors at Fortymile to be a possibility?

To be sure, the assumption is miners in remote areas of Alaska are armed, as is assumed of most Alaskans in general. If these jackbooted federales really thought the situation could be dangerous, though, they should have asked to be accompanied by Alaska State Troopers.

On the other hand, maybe it isn’t that often some bureaucrat gets a chance to play dress-up and go all supercop on the average taxpaying citizen who paid for the guns and armor being deployed against them.

Par for the course, of course, is the shameless hypocrisy of federal agencies that have failed utterly for decades in their responsibility to clean up the legacy well mess they made in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Instead of spending money on armor and guns, maybe some of that money could have been spent on cleaning up the protruding wells that are leaking who knows what throughout the NPR-A. Only a couple days after Parnell’s statement on the raids at Fortymile, BLM announced that issues with contractors were delaying any work on the legacy wells further into 2014.

Again, one can only wonder what the federal government could accomplish if it was focused on serving the public rather than harassing it with such thuggish tactics.

The hypocrisy extends beyond NPR-A as far as the Interior Department agencies go. Reports issued this year have shown that the Fish and Wildlife Service estimates some 573,000 birds are killed by wind farms every year. Stories from California document the deaths of thousands of protected migratory birds annually at Altamont Pass.

But wind farms get a pass from silly rules like the Migratory Bird Act or the Eagle Protection Act while oil and power companies get hammered with fines. To paraphrase George Orwell, “all industries are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

That brings us to the second Sept. 5 story reporting the EPA hitting Shell with $1.1 million in fines for air permit violations during the 2012 Arctic drilling season that the feds themselves admit didn’t cause any harm to anyone.

Amazing. If the EPA were actually serving the public, it would work with Shell to improve the technology being used for the first time in the Arctic rather than imposing fines based on standards that even when exceeded cause no harm to air quality.

Shell made plenty of mistakes in 2012 that it deserves to be accountable for, but slapping the company with a $1.1 million fine for something that did no damage is just another episode of EPA extortion of the sort we’ve become all too accustomed.

That kind of extortion has extended to the cruise industry and marine shipping where companies such as TOTE and Carnival are having to spend hundreds of millions to comply with an onerous 200-mile “Emission Control Area” off the coast of Canada and Alaska that will have zero benefit other than to proponents of the broken window theory. Not to mention the comfortable, jet-setting, backslapping bureaucrats imagining themselves exercising world leadership even as they exempt the dirtiest ships in the heavily populated Great Lakes region based on political favoritism to Democrats in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The ECA was imposed on Alaska by the EPA through an international Maritime Pollution treaty known as Marpol, to which the U.S. is a signatory. Remember that the next time someone tells you the Law of the Sea Treaty is a good idea.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].

09/12/2013 - 11:44am