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Recasting the EPA: Devolving power to the states

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Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A leading groundwater scientist who urged Congress to create the Environmental Protection Agency and pass landmark laws including the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act in the 1970s says liberal activists have so perverted the EPA that it should be replaced.

In a new report, Jay Lehr, science director at The Heartland Institute (, writes that since the liberal takeover of the EPA began around 1981, “not a single environmental law or regulation has been passed that benefitted either the environment or society.” And with EPA rules accounting for about half the $2 trillion annual cost of federal regulatory compliance and President Obama using the EPA to impose costly new energy rules that Congress won't, he says the agency's rogue nature is too deeply rooted to be fixed.

Mr. Lehr urges a five-year phaseout of the EPA while replacing it with “a Committee of the Whole of the 50 state environmental agencies,” which already have primary responsibility for implementing federal environmental laws and rules and are closer to regulated sites and situations. He says 80 percent of the EPA budget could be eliminated and its research labs could return to doing genuinely objective science as the 50-state committee reviews existing laws and rules.

It's an intriguing idea — one that deserves further attention as Americans increasingly ponder what should be done about what's gone so wrong with the EPA.

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