Rio Grande Foundation Asks EPA to Withdraw its “Waters of the U.S.” Proposal

(Albuquerque, NM) —The Rio Grande Foundation today joined with 375 trade associations and chambers from 50 states representing a wide range of industries to voice strong concerns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ flawed proposed rule to dramatically expand the scope of federal authority over water and land uses across the U.S. and called for the proposal to be withdrawn. The effort was led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The comments are available here.

The rule is simply an attempt by Washington, D.C., bureaucrats to take over the economies and the livelihoods of everyone in the western U.S. It has little to do with environmental protection, and everything to do with a political takeover of our most precious resource – making everyone in the west dependent and beholden to Washington bureaucrats.

As the groups’ comments state, “The proposed rule is really about the Agencies’ overreaching attempt to replace longstanding state and local control of land uses near water with centralized federal control. In light of the overwhelming evidence that the proposed rule would have a devastating impact on businesses, states, and local governments without any real benefit to water quality, the Agencies should immediately withdraw the waters of the U.S. proposal and begin again. The current proposed rule is simply too procedurally and legally flawed to repair.”

The comments detail several examples of the impacts of the proposed rule, including:

  • Maps prepared by EPA show the rule could expand federal jurisdiction over waters from 5 million river and stream miles to well over 8 million river and stream miles;
  • The rule would make most ditches into “tributaries.”  Routine maintenance activities in ditches and on-site ponds and impoundments could trigger permits that can cost $100,000 or more;
  • These permitting requirements would likely trigger additional environmental reviews that would add years to the completion time for ordinary projects;
  • Even if a project can get a permit, firms will often have to agree to mitigate environmental “damage” with costly restoration/mitigation projects;
  • The proposal would likely also result in more stringent storm water management requirements, which would affect retailers, companies with large parking lots, “big box” stores, etc.

 

Gessing and Webber pre-debate interview w/ Fred Martino on KRWG TV

Before our debate in Las Cruces (and thus before the election or the Virgin Galactic crash), I sat down to discuss the issues of the day with former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alan Webber for a discussion with Fred Martino on KRWG's Newsmakers.

Paul Gessing's KRQE interview on the Toby Martinez municipal courthouse restitution/pension situation

I was asked by KRQE Channel 13 to discuss efforts by the federal government to take funds from Toby Martinez' (who stole from taxpayers in the Municipal Courthouse scandal alongside Manny Aragon) pension in order to fulfill Martinez' restitution requirements. Unfortunately, according to my reading of New Mexico law, the Feds can't tap Martinez' pension under New Mexico law despite his criminal conviction. Astonishingly, according to the report, Martinez' pension is worth upwards of $473,000 which is illustrative of the incredible generosity of New Mexico's underfunded pension systems. Watch the full interview below:

Right to Work: on the agenda for 2015 session?

In the wake of the Republican takeover of the New Mexico House, the talk has begun over whether or not the Legislature will seriously consider adopting a Right to Work law.

Our friends at the Heartland Institute have some excellent research and information on right to work and its potential impact on New Mexico (including research from RGF).

Lastly, I had a letter to the editor in the Albuquerque Journal's Business section on Monday which may have been missed amid all the election activity:


Letters to the Editor
Albuquerque Business Journal

In his column on right to work laws, Marshall Martin concludes that “there is little question having right to work may signify that a state is business friendly, one cannot be certain that having right to work is the deciding factor…”

That is a true enough statement. In the real world, “scientific” studies of economic systems don’t work. “Proof” that right to work is indeed good for the economy is as elusive as is “proof” that any law or system works.

What we do know is that eight out of 10 of the fastest growing states in 2013 were right to work. We also know that between 1977 and 2008, right to work states produced 44.5% more jobs and saw per-capita personal incomes grow 10% faster than states that do not have such laws in place.

Of course, right to work is not only an economic issue. It is a freedom issue. Workers shouldn’t have to join unions or pay union dues if they don’t want to.

It is true that no single economic policy change made by New Mexico’s Legislature is our ticket to prosperity, but a right to work law – which unlike most other “economic development” schemes won’t cost taxpayers a dime – is a good place to start.

So, the Legislature, whatever its partisan makeup, must embrace a variety of pro-market reforms if New Mexico’s economy is to be turned around, but right to work, a policy which according to Gallup is supported by 65% of Democrats nationally, is a great starting point.

Who's grabbing New Mexico lands?

Recently, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich sounded off in the East Coast liberal establishment's favorite news outlet, The New York Times, about efforts by the Rio Grande Foundation and others who wish to devolve certain lands currently managed by Washington bureaucracies (specifically the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) to state control. Needless to say, he's not a fan.

I responded with an article that ran nationally (shockingly, not in the Times) and generated an interesting column on the situation from the Albuquerque Journal's Washington correspondent Michael Coleman.

I noted in my column that Heinrich (and Udall) enthusiastically supported federal monument designations in both Northern and Southern New Mexico. I was remiss in not pointing out that Heinrich and Udall have introduced legislation to designate an additional 45,000 New Mexico lands as "Wilderness." This bill is unlikely to pass Congress, but it is very possible that Heinrich and Udall will convince a lame-duck President Obama to "use his pen" to designate the land by himself in yet another federal "land grab."

Beer Industry Shows Economic Reforms Can Work

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This link is to a spreadsheet illustrating political control of New Mexico's Legislature over the past 80+ years (since 1931). In summary, Democrats have controlled the House and Senate for a combined total of 160 years between the two bodies with Republicans having controlled one body or the other for a total of 6 years.

Clearly, given New Mexico's economic and education outcomes, liberal, big-government policies have failed. But what works? In a new opinion piece, Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing discusses how reduced taxation on micro-breweries has led to a boom in micro-breweries in New Mexico:

It often seems that New Mexico’s economy is haunted by the ghost of Lew Wallace. Wallace, who also wrote Ben Hur, was territorial governor of New Mexico in the late 1800s. Wallace was apparently confounded by our State and was quoted as saying, “All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico.”

In dealing with New Mexico policymakers and the business community, Wallace’s attitude towards successful initiatives in the other 49 states seems to permeate discussions. Sure, they say, “Right to work states are generating jobs faster than forced-unionism states, but that doesn’t mean it will work here.”

If you like your health care plan, you can’t keep it

Repeatedly in defense of his marquee legislative accomplishment, President Obama claimed that “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

I can’t read a man’s heart, so I can’t say with confidence whether Mr. Obama was simply lying or, like then-Speaker Pelosi, he actually hadn’t read the bill, but I can say that my family and I recently learned that under ObamaCare, you can’t keep your health care plan no matter how much you like it.

By way of background, I have had a “individual” health savings account through Blue Cross since I started with Rio Grande Foundation in early 2006. Health savings accounts are the most market oriented of health insurance plans because they provide relatively “bare-bones” insurance policies that are supplemented by pre-tax savings accounts designed to pay for day-to-day health care expenses.

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