Expanding Government

Fox News had a report about another move by Big Government to “guide” us for our own good.  It seems the EPA has a Green Book (called “Sustainability and the U.S. EPA,” commissioned in 2010 for $700 thousand, and published last August) that it wants to use sub rosa (EPA representatives were reluctant to discuss the principles espoused in this document in public) to

integrate sustainability “as one of the key drivers within the regulatory responsibilities of EPA.” The panel who wrote the study declares part of its job to be “providing guidance to EPA on how it might implement its existing statutory authority to contribute more fully to a more sustainable-development trajectory for the United States.”

Or, in other words, how to use existing laws to new ends.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson insists that the EPA’s “sustainability” approach represents

“a new opportunity to show how environmentally protective and sustainable we can be,” and would affect “every aspect” of EPA’s work.

Using this approach, the EPA can become even more pre-emptive“anticipatory” in how it instructs our businesses in how they must conduct themselves.  Indeed, the study itself urges the EPA to change its already activist culture even further:

“create a new culture among all EPA employees,” and hire an array of new experts in order to bring the sustainability focus to every corner of the agency and its operations. Changes will move faster “as EPA’s intentions and goals in sustainability become clear to employees[.]”

So what’s the big deal here?  It’s in that “sustainability” bit that is the point of the study.  The Green Book says that sustainability is

gaining increasing recognition as a useful framework for addressing otherwise intractable problems. The framework can be applied at any scale of governance, in nearly any situation, and anywhere in the world.

“[A]ny scale of governance, in nearly any situation….”  This is as naked as it gets: the Green Book advises the EPA that, under the guise of sustainability, it can exercise even more control—through sustainability regulations—over our businesses.

By the way, sustainability itself remains carefully undefined.  The Green Book takes for a working definition the one carried in President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order 13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance:”

to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.

This is a carefully generic definition that can be given any meaning at all, and so bent to any purpose at all.

We already see one goal of this Green Book, and of the EPA that bought it, as the EPA takes its advice in this “advance” in capability.

Environmental impact assessment tends to focus primarily on the projected environmental effects of a particular action and alternatives to that action[.]


[Sustainability impact assessment examines] the probable effects of a particular project or proposal on the social, environmental, and economic pillars of sustainability…[.]  The culture change being proposed here will require EPA to conduct an expanding number of assessments.

Plainly, all that’s being sustained here is Federal power.

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