A group of Democratic state attorneys general has taken 80 legal actions against the Trump administration over environmental policies, and is promising even more.
by Remo Diventura
The Trump Administration’s budget cuts include reducing federal environmental protections by millions of dollars. As a result, state governments are filling the gaps, with 23 states (including PA) proposing a combined total of 112 new policies to limit exposure to toxic chemicals. This isn’t about emissions or pollution specifically, but about what one is calling “common sense chemical reform”. This includes banning some pesticides, paint removers, fire-retardants, plastic additives, and water regulations. The belief behind this is to help not only the environment by removing harmful chemicals, but with public health. Many of these regulations are aimed at fixing the overburdened healthcare system. In Pennsylvania specifically, two bills have been proposed. One bans the use of a certain chemical (bisphenol-A) in food and beverage containers. The other requires the Environmental Quality Board to adopt a limit on perfluorinated chemicals in drinking water.
What these regulations will do to either public health or the environment is not really known. But the fact this is panning out in the current presidential administration is interesting to see, especially with many of these states also vowing to continue with the Paris Agreement regardless.
Some Democratic states are suing the Trump Administration over EPA’s delay of the Clean Water Rule. See the story here: http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/372586-states-greens-sue-trump-over-obama-epa-water-rule-delay
by Zachary Coppick
Widener University Political Science Major
Last Tuesday New York joined a growing number of states that are suing the EPA. This law suit is over the EPA’s lack of regulation on wood burning heating systems. In 2010 all outdoor wood burners were ordered to cut emissions by 90 percent by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. However, the EPA has not followed suit by mandating the same change for the entire country. New York and other states are saying that the EPA’s 25 year old emission limits on wood burners are outdated and need to be revised by the federal agency.
Due to the nature of wood burning pollutants this is a large problem for New York. Wood smoke has been linked to having pollutants that can cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death. Sounds a little harsh but that information was published by the attorney general’s office in 2008. Also the EPA has stated that wood heaters soot contributes 13 percent to the soot pollution in the country. This would be a very good reason to have them regulated better. Since 1988 the EPA was supposed to review and revise the wood burning regulations ever eight years, but as we can see that didn’t happen. These regulations and policy were outlined in the Clean Air Act which is the state’s main point. An estimated 14,500 outdoor wood burners have been sold in New York since 2000 which is cause to have them regulated properly. The EPA has made no comment on this so far and this does not come at a surprise because due to the government shut down they are no longer working.
by Katrina Kelly
Widener University Political Science Major
There has been much talk in Congress about Obama’s latest plan to expand pre-school education at the federal level. The President wants to use federal money to support state-based pre-school programs around the country by hiring higher paying teachers that undergo yearly evaluations and making it more affordable and accessible to people. The new early education plan by the President seeks to increase the number of children in pre-school, especially from low income households. This plan could cost up to ten billion dollars a year, which is almost a tenth of the entire current federal education budget. There is a major split in the House on this issue between Democrats and Republicans.
House GOP conservatives are worried that expanding an already large entitlement program is a slippery-slop towards even bigger government. One of the arguments against expanding this program is that there are already numerous early education programs at the state level as well as the federal level. Many in Congress want to know what exactly this proposed program will do differently than the ones that already exist. Another House GOP fear, justifiably so, is an increase in the ever expanding deficit by this program. Many feel that there is not enough evidence that large-scale pre-school programs like the one Obama proposes will even be of much significance for children in the long run.
On the other side of the aisle, many House Democrats are supportive of Obama’s early education expansion program. Many agree with the President that high quality pre-school education makes a distinct and significant difference in children’s lives over the long run. Many feel that children are our future and we need to cultivate them starting at the earliest age possible. There have been numerous tests and studies shown that the earlier a child starts school, the more acclimated he or she in society as well an overall improvement in the long-run in terms of education and progressive development.
This comes down to the age old question in Congress between the Democrats and the GOP: how much or how little should government be involved? This program will be one of the biggest expansions of education at the federal level in over a decade. The conservative members of the House Republicans feel that this is a matter for the states to decide coupled with the fact that there are already many early education programs offered at the state and local level. Whereas, House Democrats feel that this is not an over-step by the federal government, more of a partnership with the states on an important issue. Federalism arguments at its best!
by Scott Hill
Widener University Political Science Major
With everything that is happening in the world, it is easy to lose sight of some of the important domestic issues. On Thursday, February 14th Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell asked Congress to consider a few options concerning our infrastructure. He suggested increasing the gas tax, allowing states to toll more on roads and providing more grants for multi-state projects that can help fund improvements to our infrastructure. Rendell says that “moving goods is one of the keys to American competitiveness, and we are getting our brains beat in”. Opponents to this are claiming that instead of looking for ways to cost-effectively improve conditions Rendell is jumping straight to increasing taxes. One controversial issue raised by Rendell is the institution of a user fee based on miles traveled in individual cars. This user fee can end up flirting with an invasion of privacy and will not be popular with working people who require a long commutes.
I think that it makes sense to use an increase in gas tax to fund infrastructure reform since transportation will be directly funding itself. I also see how a user fee can directly counteract the diminishing returns of a gas tax due to the increasing efficiency of cars. However, in-order to track movements in miles and to remove user error a tracking system will be placed in each car documenting movements, this can easily be viewed as an invasion of privacy. When it comes to increasing the gas tax however, Rendell says that “We need to figure out what is right…What we need for the future of this country…and accept the political consequences”. He goes on to say that there is not an American out there that does not want a better infrastructure, because each and every citizen benefits from it in some way.
by J. Wesley Leckrone
Assistant Professor, Political Science
The end of the Andy Reid Era in Philadelphia cannot come soon enough. Perhaps the current sad state of the Eagles could have been avoided if Jeffrey Lurie would have heeded the philosophy of the Founders that designed the American governmental system.
As Jeff McLane noted in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer:
In 1999, when Lurie last looked for a head coach, he had director of football operations Tom Modrak and team president Joe Banner to aid him. The new coach would have to defer to Modrak in personnel matters and Banner when it came to contracts and the salary cap.
Now most of the power is consolidated in Andy Reid’s hands and the responsibility for the decline of the franchise rests in a pattern of ill conceived decisions that he has made over the last several years. Reid made the decision to bring Michael Vick on as the franchise quarterback. Reid hired a defensive line coach with a gimmicky “wide-nine” formation before hiring a defensive coordinator. He then promoted his offensive line coach to defensive coordinator despite the fact that Juan Castillo had no defensive experience in the NFL. Castillo was replaced by another gimmicky offensive line coach, Howard Mudd, who’s scheme has failed to protect the quarterback. The list goes on….
John Boruk of CSN Philly defines the problem:
Clearly, the on-the-field product has suffered as a result of poor drafting, bad free-agent signings and an overall lack of identity, and the dual responsibilities Reid currently juggles should be separated moving forward. Giving one person that much power and authoritative control hasn’t produced the desired results.
The Founders warned against such concentration of power and designed a system of government that would prevent one person from obtaining too much decision-making capability over the country. James Madison described these safeguards in Federalist Paper #51. The first method of dispersing powers is adding checks and balances to our system of separation of powers. Subsequently each of the three branches of government (legislative, executive, judiciary) are given the power to impede the activities of the others. Madison argues that
it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others.
The Founders realized that separation of powers was not enough because over time one branch could consolidate power over the others. Consequently they put several checks in place to avoid this scenario. Madison states
the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others….Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.
Federalism provides the second method to prevent the consolidation of power. Madison makes the argument that while
all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.
The problem for the Philadelphia Eagles was that they initially created a system that divided power between equal and rival interests within their decision-making apparatus. However, as Andy Reid achieved success Jeffrey Lurie was lulled into believing that the head coach should administer the reigns of the organization with little or no checks. Reid installed staff dedicated to his football philosophy that were unwilling to expend their capital to challenge him because they were his proteges. Madison specifically warned against this:
It is equally evident, that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to their offices. Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other would be merely nominal.
The solution is to FIRE ANDY and create a new system of organizational governance that divides coaching, personnel, and contract negotiations into separate and rival interests. Of course, that could lead to the mischief of factions. But that’s an argument for another day when we examine Federalist #10.