Tag Archives: environment

In miniature, November 19


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Judge zaps MoCo lawn pesticide ban

Overturning Montgomery County’s ban on many commonly used lawn pesticides [Washington Post], Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann

said that the law — the first of its kind for a major locality in the region — would conflict with federal and Maryland state regulations that allow the use of the pesticides. The case was just one example of Maryland counties’ “insatiable appetite to tamper with existing state laws,” McGann said.

Counties have also “tried to hijack a portion of the existing field of law” in areas including tobacco, guns and minimum wage, he said.

My Cato Institute piece on the county’s bald double standard — officials had sought to exempt playing fields and other county properties from the ban — is here.

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“Why Maryland lawmakers should not ban fracking”

“In fact, fracking has massive environmental benefits. The rapid expansion of natural gas production has prompted power plants all over the country to switch from coal to gas, which is both cheaper and burns much cleaner. Last year, largely thanks to this mass migration, American carbon emissions hit a 25-year low. Given its own grand green ambitions, Maryland ought to be embracing fracking.” [Chris Summers, Maryland Public Policy Institute]

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My letter in the FNP on illegal EPA lobbying

My local paper, the Frederick News-Post, ran an editorial on Monday that 1) saw nothing especially wrong in the Environmental Protection Agency’s illegally expending tax money to stir up pressure on Congress to support a wider interpretation of EPA power; 2) claimed that the fuss over tax-paid lobbying was for lack of any substantive critique of EPA’s “WOTUS” (Waters of the United States) rule, although a majority of states have challenged that rule, the farm and rural landowner communities have been up in arms against it all year, and a federal appeals court has agreed to stay it.

So I wrote this letter in response, which ran today. There wasn’t space for me to dispute the FNP’s peculiar notion that to oppose the water rule as exceeding the EPA’s statutory authority is to encourage the “anti-science, climate change denial crowd,” which tends to reinforce my sense that “anti-science” and “climate denial” are turning into all-purpose epithets increasingly unhooked from any particular relationship to science or climate. (cross-posted from Overlawyered)

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For me but not for thee: Montgomery County lawn pesticide ban

I’ve got a new post at Cato at Liberty about a proposed countywide ban on common lawn and turf pesticides in Washington, D.C.’s suburban Montgomery County. The best part is that county officials are frantically maneuvering to get the county’s own playing fields exempted from the ban. The piece concludes:

Libertarians often note that the state freely bans private conduct in which it’s happy to indulge itself — federal investigators can lie to you but it’s a crime if you lie to them, adopting federal accounting practices in your own business is a good way to get sent to prison, and so forth. But the double standard asked for here could wind up being — well, to coin a phrase, as bald as a Rockville lawn.

More: From the Washington Post’s piece, quoting a retired minister who lives in Silver Spring: “My lawn is such a little fragment of American Freedom. Please respect it.” [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

More: Kojo Nnamdi Show, Euvoluntary Exchange (more on provisions of bill, including enumeration of “non-essential” pesticides to be restricted, a list that incorporates by reference lists in use in other jurisdictions like Ontario and the European Commission and grants the county executive authority to name others; links back to this county document); Gazette in October; Brad Matthews, Watchdog. And: George Leventhal gets a less-than-fully-polite reception defending the proposal on WMAL.

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Environmental cronyism: not just an Oregon phenomenon

Green-barrel insiderism brought down Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, but as close observers of Maryland policy know, Portlandia’s not the only place with these problems.

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“Green in exchange for green”

Joseph Bottum in the Weekly Standard on the tax-credits-for-green-sermons arrangement in Prince George’s County. Earlier here.

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Permeable wall of separation: P.G. churches promised tax break for green sermons

The Washington Post’s reporter, Arelis Hernández, doesn’t seem quite to realize just how outrageous this story is about churches angling for exemptions from a state-mandated stormwater fee in Prince George’s County:

Thomas and other pastors also have agreed to start “green” ministries to maintain the improvements at their churches, and to preach environmentally focused sermons to educate their congregations.

In exchange for the commitments both as to physical upgrades to church property and the right sorts of exhortation addressed to their congregations, the churches are getting very tangible benefits, some coming directly out of the pockets of Prince George’s County taxpayers (emphasis added):

So far, about 30 churches have applied. Forestville Redeemer was the first. They are planning to install rain barrels, build rain gardens, plant trees and, perhaps, replace their blacktop with permeable pavement. The government will cover most of the cost. In return, a fee that was estimated at $744 a year will be reduced to “virtually nothing,” Ortiz said.

Organized churches play a central role in P.G. County politics, so it is not especially surprising to see a special deal cut for them. What we might not have expected was how openly pastors were willing to trade the content of sermons for government cash on the (rain) barrel. More coverage: WBAL, Derek Hunter/Daily Caller, and Ira Stoll, who writes:

But the bigger point is a problem with big government and taxes in general. The more burdensome the taxes are, the greater is the temptation of those crushed by them to trade their freedom and independence for a discount on them, and the more power the government has to dictate behavior. The tax becomes not a way to raise revenue for the government, but a method for exerting control.

Let’s hope religion-in-public-life pundits don’t pull their punches on exactly how bad this sort of deal is. They should be at least as upset as those of us on the secular side.

[cross-posted and adapted from Secular Right]


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In miniature, November 11

  • One reason GOP gained only two Senate seats: “In Maryland’s one-party environment, traditional economic donors that would be inclined to support Republicans (think Comcast) donate to Democrats. Which explains why Jim Mathias, the most vulnerable Democrat in Maryland’s Senate, will face a Republican with less than $50,000 all in to spend. Mathias will have north of $300,000.” [John Gallagher, Seventh State]
  • What Prince George’s County cops can do with impunity [Washington Post editorial via Balko]
  • Dem campaigns in Frederick County included plenty of demonization of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). For those who wish to learn at least learn a little bit about the group firsthand, a couple of links [American Legislator, Facebook account]
  • Internet companies, better think twice about doing business in Maryland since the state has a very special law that one law professor thinks severely restricts your freedom to do customer research [Mike Masnick/TechDirt]
  • “Supreme Court to hear case on right of Maryland to tax out-of-state income” [Ashley Westerman, Maryland Reporter; Comptroller v. Wynne; Joseph Henchman and Chris Stephens, Tax Foundation] More: Washington Post.
  • Unclear on the concept: Baltimore councilman says city should ban plastic grocery bags entirely rather than attach fee to them because Hogan election “showed voters don’t want more taxes” [@lukebroadwater]

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Brunswick proposes Pay As You Throw (PAYT) trash scheme

Former delegate Richard Weldon is doubtful (reprinted by permission from his Facebook feed):

Brunswick’s leaders are proposing a Pay As You Throw trash scheme. The proposed program will force residents to purchase special trash bags (Approx $1.00 per bag) in order to have the City trash hauler collect curbside trash. Trash that is not in these bags would not be picked up.

To help make their case, these officials brought in a company who makes and sells the bags to convince residents of the merits of this idea.

The consultant (who sells the bags) suggests that illegal dumping would not be a problem, and that residents could become trash detectives, by opening bags and reporting the offenders by the addresses they discover within.

While I disagree with this whole idea, and harbor deep concerns whenever these behavior modification schemes are proposed by those with a profit motive, I don’t think that the elected officials who propose them are bad people.

I just think they’re painfully misguided.

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