Just earlier today it was reported on KSL that the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to make Utah’s air quality standards even more stringent. EPA air quality guidelines and the efforts to comply with the currently existing guidelines are more invasive than you may realize.

Before the current re-construction of Downtown Salt Lake City, people did not want TRAX and actually voted in elections against it several times. Because of the State of Utah being forced to try to comply with EPA regulations, TRAX was built. These additional air quality restrictions limited the amount of parking spaces that could be built in Salt Lake City and the big hammer the EPA has is to withhold federal funds for projects in Utah including federal highway development funds. Most people think that air quality is adversely affected by automobile traffic, so for the EPA to withhold federal highway funds may do more to help clean up the air than the other measures implemented by the State of Utah in efforts to comply. The Irony Police is conducting a full investigation of the matter.

The EPA is a Federal Administrative agency. It is unelected, makes rules, determines if they are being violated and can enforce penalties for non-compliance. The EPA is one agency among many including the FDA, FCC, USDA, TSA, BATF, and others. These agencies make things more expensive and onerous for people to comply with. Your TV, cell phone, cordless phone, car-lock remote, radio, CD player, and blackberry all had to comply with FCC regulations in the construction and use of the devices. The Federal Government has a massive reach into our lives. But this was originally about air quality.

There are areas of the country that are often out of compliance with EPA air quality regulations. The EPA actually gives states an allotment of days of non-compliance as far as measuring overall air quality. Southern California is one of them. California tries hard, they have the most stringent vehicle emissions restrictions in the nation. Utah also has emissions testing in the most populous counties in the state as well as oxygenated gas in Utah County during the winter and also has restrictions on burn days. It is an interesting experience to feel the need to check to see if our government will allow me to fire up the fireplace in the middle of winter in the land of the free.

The single greatest factor in whether Utah has clean or dirty air is the weather. Really. Same thing with southern California. If we have windy or rainy weather, the air cleans right up. Utah is a desert with stagnant air. It is reported on the weather all of the time that we need a big storm to move out this inversion and all of the bad air out here. The EPA cannot possibly be so stupid as to not realize this. So what is the point of all the regulations?

The simple (and happy) answer is that the EPA is a Federal Agency that needs to justify its’ existence and therefore must continue to get in our way in order to continue to employ thousands of federal employees on the taxpayer’s dime.

The scary (and paranoid) answer is that the EPA is another tool of oppression that will regulate in ways that make things more expensive for the subjects/citizens of the United States. Think about it for a moment. We have sales tax increases to build public transit so that the people who use public transit don’t have to pay the full cost of using it. Some of the public transit was already put in place because of EPA requirements. If the government enacts “no-drive days” much like red burn days, people will be forced to use public transportation or work from home. If you use public transit, that is more money in the pockets of the government. Red Burn days are another example of people becoming used to regulations in our every day lives.

There is another reason to think that the EPA is not really that interested in cracking down on air pollution and is more interested in helping businesses out. Emissions Trading. Companies are allowed to buy and sell pollution credits so that they can be in compliance with air pollution requirements. Let’s say that a company in 1990 when these pollution caps were instituted was assigned an allowable amount of CO2 emissions of 50 million pounds per year and then had to close down operations in 1995 for some reason. This company is allowed to continue to sell that 50 million pounds of CO2 emissions to the highest bidder even though the company is not voluntarily reducing their own emissions. It happens all the time and is a farce. It happens to be good for the business owners that had to close down operations but bad for the employees because the cost of closing down is less severe on the business owners because of the ability to sell the pollution credits.

The government is in way too many areas of our lives where no regulation should be made at all because the Constitution does not permit it.

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