More on the environment

I was thinking about the appearance by Charles Lollar at the Hudson farm earlier this month, particularly in the wake of a federal judge’s decision allowing the EPA to continue with its assault on our agricultural livelihood. U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo, a Carter appointee, ruled the EPA is within its rights under the Clean Water Act to “partner” with the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in cleaning up the Bay. Yes, Judge Rambo, putting a proverbial gun to our heads is truly partnership from the federal government.

While we know a little bit about where Charles stands on environmental issues, how do his GOP opponents weigh in?

Perhaps the biggest environmental enigma about David Craig is Harford County’s on-again, off-again flirtation with ICLEI, or the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. (It’s better known as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.) In 2010, to much fanfare, Harford County became one of Maryland’s ICLEI members, saying it had “taken another step towards achieving the goal of environmental stewardship” by joining the group.

But less than three years later, the county more quietly withdrew from the group, with the local Harford Campaign for Liberty taking credit along with an assist from the county’s Republican Party and a resolution it passed early this year. Perhaps they read the group’s charter?

Somehow, though, that notice of withdrawal has escaped the county’s Sustainability Office, which is instead in the midst of promoting another cherished leftist scheme, Car-Free Days, next weekend. (I’ve discussed this before because the CFD date always falls on my birthday and I have better things to do than worry about going without the freedom of having the means to go where I wish on my own schedule.)

So the question is whether the ICLEI withdrawal was a fig leaf designed to burnish Craig’s conservative credentials at a time where he has to “run right” to win a primary election. Seeing that the Office of Sustainability is still in operation leads me to believe David is making that a priority. There’s no question efficiency is important, and “waste not, want not” is a valid way to approach government. But I draw the line at advocating for those entities in which I have no say dictating how my life and time should be spent, and a group like ICLEI falls into that category.

Unfortunately, Ron George also has a reputation for this type of issue advocacy. In a past campaign, Ron George billed himself as the “Green Elephant.” Here’s a list of some of the environmental restrictions he’s voted for in the past eight years – many of which he cheerfully admitted voting for in his 2010 campaign. The number in parentheses afterward is the number of opposition votes in the House of Delegates.

All of these votes were graded in previous editions of the monoblogue Accountability Project.

  • Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 (17 votes)
  • Clean Indoor Act of 2007 (39 votes)
  • Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund (30 votes)
  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (25 votes)
  • EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008 (33 votes)
  • Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (15 votes)
  • Smart, Green, and Growing – Local Government Planning – Planning Visions (7 votes)
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (30 votes)
  • Smart, Green, and Growing – Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009 (12 votes)
  • Natural Resources – No Net Loss of Forest Policy – Forest Conservation Act (23 votes)
  • Agriculture – Lawn Fertilizer – Low Phosphorus Fertilizer (19 votes)
  • Smart, Green, and Growing – The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010 (27 votes)
  • Stormwater Management – Development Projects – Requirements (13 votes)
  • Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (31 votes)
  • Smart. Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (20 votes)
  • Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program (27 votes)
  • Natural Resources – Forest Preservation Act of 2013 (27 votes)

I will note, however, that the majority of these votes came during Ron’s first term in office (2007-10) and he has moved somewhat away from the “Green Elephant” designation – one key example was voting against the Septic Bill in 2012. But how do we determine Ron’s line in the sand?

It goes without saying that the Democrats won’t refuse any restriction couched in such a way as to “save the Bay.” To me, the problem is that we have no idea what approaches work best because we don’t give them any time to work. My thought is that we need, at the least, a five-year moratorium on new regulations in order to better gauge the success of what we already have. An even better case scenario would be rolling back restrictions to the level of, say, a decade ago and telling the EPA to go pound sand and pick on the states which are really causing the problem upstream. Dealing with their sediment behind the Conowingo Dam would be a good beginning.

What we don’t need is to keep the trend line going in its current direction, lest there be no agricultural industry remaining in Maryland.

Time for a guilt trip

I manage to somehow forget about this every year, but the Competitive Enterprise Institute reminded me once again that tomorrow is “World Car-Free Day.” (I should remember because I usually get a card or two, have some cake and/or go out to dinner on the same day WCFD is “celebrated.” Yep, 29 again.)

So how did the day which they share with me get selected? Well, like most liberal ideas it comes from Europe, where the date falls within its “European Mobility Week.” Their idea is for “encouraging European cities to promote (public transport, cycling, and walking) and to invest in the new necessary infrastructures.” CEI’s point is that the automobile is among the most liberating inventions ever created, allowing personal transport and freedom of mobility. Try taking a bus to the mall, grocery store, or your place of work on their schedule.

Surprisingly, the state of Maryland (which is led by a notoriously anti-growth, anti-freedom governor in Martin O’Malley) isn’t doing anything special for WCFD, but Montgomery County and the University of Maryland are. Washington, D.C. is also participating, with a mixture of private- and public-sector sponsors. (I’m definitely disappointed in the Washington Nationals’ participation, which makes little sense because they’re playing this week at Philadelphia. Did the players use public transit to get there?)

Certainly if someone wants to participate, well, more power to them. Walking or riding a bicycle presents health benefits, although those can be negated if you don’t follow basic traffic rules (walk outside travel lanes and against traffic but ride a bicycle with traffic. If there’s no dedicated bike lane, bicycles are entitled to the 3 feet of pavement closest to the extreme right-hand shoulder as I recall.) But the idea expressed in the Mobility Week credo is more the true aim of organizers – just read “invest in” as “subsidize” things like bike paths few use or mass transit that not many people ride because it’s not possible to take everyone from their thousands of different origins to thousands of different destinations. Even something which has point A to point B ridership, like Washington’s Metro system, still needs a heavy subsidy to survive.

Again, it all comes down to freedom. Having access to my car makes it possible for me to do my job because I cover a large geographic territory. But it also allows me to drive to a so-called “Smart Growthmeeting where I can say my piece and then come right home to write about it, without having to wait for a bus or traverse dark streets at night for an hour.

We already have restrictions on how fast we can travel and what we do within the car, but we still have that opportunity to get up and go where we need to when we want to. Others can be car-free for a day, a week, or even a lifetime, but don’t force me to do the same.