The Eco Forum

Editorial Debate

Your editorial, "Protecting the Planet (Daily): A Job for Superheroes?" in the January/February 2003 issue of Environmental Protection left little doubt as to where your political, environmental and philosophical loyalties lie. I, as an Environmental Engineer with over fifty years of experience in the field, have devoted my life to improving our environment; however, I have become more and more concerned with such environmentalist attitudes.

Rational environmental laws and regulations based on proven science, measurable performance standards and reasonable risk potential are essential for ensuring ecologically sound environmental quality, human health, quality living standards for all and an economic demand that will not drain us to destruction. When Executive Director of the American Water Works Association, John B. Mannion wrote that:

"To be an environmentalist once meant being on the side of the angels, lined up with Godliness, cleanliness and motherhood. The movement has, however, been subverted and used as a cover for other interests, chiefly antidevelopment, anti-industry interests, which, when scratched, are revealed to be anti-growth, anti- progress, and indeed, anti-social. The welfare of society and of people in general counts for less than the welfare of a given species of butterfly."

When President Ronald Reagan vetoed the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1987, he was accused of being anti-environment, a concept which you apparently hold. However; his veto message accurately warned that these amendments would force unrealistic, unnecessary hardships on cities, industries and farmers. His message:

"This bill would also establish a federally controlled and directed program to control what is called "non-point" source pollution. This new program threatens to become the ultimate whip hand for Federal regulators. For example, in participating States, if farmers have more runoff from their land than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decides is right, that Agency will be able to intrude into the decisions such as how and when the farmers must plow their fields, what fertilizers they must use, and what kind of cover crops they must plant. To take another example, the Agency will be able to become the major force in local zoning decisions that will determine whether families can do such basic things as build a new home. That is too much power for anyone to have, least of all the Federal government."

Utilizing this new power, EPA's definition of guarding the quality of our Nation's streams imposes ultimate low flow quality conditions on streams during peak flow conditions resulting in the questionable spending of many billions of dollars, almost three billion dollars in Jefferson County, Alabama alone. The Water Environment Federation and the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies walked out of a meeting with EPA in an effort to make some sense of this nonsense as EPA would not budge. And now, EPA has come up with a method to impose additional costly treatment requirements on our municipalities and citizens with a program to impose Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) on all of our nation's streams and rivers.

You indicated a fear that the current administration is preparing to reverse trends in air pollution control. However:

"The National Acid Precipitation Program cost $570 million of government (our) money in a ten year study conducted by a number of major universities and laboratories. The study found that acid rain is not killing trees and that: "There is no evidence of a general or unusual decline of forests in the United States and Canada due to acid rains". However, prior to enactment of the Clean Air Act of 1990, it received only a one hour hearing before the Senate Subcommittee and was never even formally presented to the House of Representatives. Thus, with no anticipated improvement in the environment, the new Act is costing U.S. industries billions of dollars per year with a resulting substantial cost in utility bills and loss of jobs.

In the July 1994 issue of Environmental Science and Technology, Dr. Gordon W. Gribble wrote that information available in 1968 suggested that organic compounds containing covalently bound halogens are found only infrequently in living organisms. He then went on to say: 'Although this observation was undeniable 25 years ago, it is nothing but a myth today.' He indicated that 2,000 chlorinated and other halogenated chemicals including dioxins and CFC's have been identified that occur naturally. For example, man generates about 26,000 tons of chloromethane per year while the marine and terrestrial biomass is generating 5 million tons. Man's generation of CFC's is totally insignificant but the environmentalist precipitated ban on Freon 12 has cost billions of dollars in equipment modifications and reduced efficiencies of refrigeration and cooling equipment.

In 1997, EPA initiated a dramatic tightening of the air quality standards. The new eight-hour ozone standard included therein creates areas of violation in such places as Clay County, Alabama, an area in which there are no major highways, no major cities and no major industries but lots and lots of trees. The new particulate standard is based on a fatally flawed study that was used to generate totally unfounded conclusions." ("The EPA's Clean Air-ogance", Steven J. Milloy and Michael Gough, The Wall Street Journal, January 7,1997)

You also expressed concern that, when new judges are appointed, they will be "activists." Pray tell what are the present crop of judges if not leftist activists even to the extent that they protect every turtle egg while approving of the killing of the most precious thing on earth -- new human babies.

As for following the Constitution, as reported in Saviors of the Earth? The Politics and Religion of the Environmental Movement:

The Clean Water Act of 1972 has done a tremendous amount of good in cleaning up our rivers and waterways, many of which at the time were little more than open sewers. Within Section 404 was language that permitted the Corps to exercise regulatory responsibility for the 'discharge of dredge or fill material into navigable waters of the United States.' The intent of Section 404 was to keep toxic waste from being discharged into major waterways and municipal water supplies and to control indiscriminate dredging and filling of navigable rivers. Nowhere does this law even mention the word "wetlands". Little did the lawmakers know that the environmental leaders and the Corps would eventually expand this definition -- without any further legislative action to include land that never saw a drop of surface water and that is often miles from the nearest stream of water.

Like the Endangered Species Act and many environmental laws enacted since it was passed, the environmental lobby saw in the Clean Water Act a made-to-order opportunity to expand its land-use agenda into the lives of most Americans. In a constitutionally questionable decision of Natural Resources Defense Council v. Callaway in 1975, a district judge expanded the government's 'navigable waters' jurisdiction to 'isolated wetlands' that were miles from the nearest stream, let alone navigable waters. The test that was devised to permit them to do this? As long a migratory waterfowl "might" land in the wetlands, there is a jurisdictional connection between the navigable waterway and the isolated wetland. Understandably, this has sarcastically been labeled the glancing goose test.

In lawsuit after lawsuit, liberal courts, with the assistance of well-funded environmental groups and bureaucrats, have expanded the interpretation of the 'navigable waterways' provision so that it eventually included dry land that could be many miles from the nearest flowing water."

On January 9, 2001, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, invalidated the Army Corps of Engineer's "Migratory Bird Rule." In its decision, the Supreme Court made clear that the definition of "navigable waters" under the Federal Clean Water Act does not extend to isolated, intrastate waters, which are not connected or adjacent to navigable waters. At a meeting I attended several months after it was rendered, the Corps was still trying to side-step the decision and control wetlands as though nothing had happened.

An additional illustration of environmentalism without reason or legislative authority is the use of10-6 or one chance in a million of developing cancer due to a lifetime exposure to a given substance guides the use of pesticides and food additives; it defines our allowable exposure to groundwater contamination and incinerators and so on. It is the most influential determinant in deciding what emissions should be allowed from stacks, how a hazardous waste site should be cleaned up and how much Alar to leave on apples. However, 10-6 is not of scientific determination and origin, not an EPA regulation or edict nor is it a Congressional law, mandate or directive.

If you think that the current administration is too conservative, consider the following:

"As a result of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the United States Senate came within one hour of ratifying a treaty, which would have placed about one half of the land area in the continental United States off limits to human beings! Then actions of the Tokyo Summit attempted to mandate the restriction of industry in the United States through B carbon dioxide limitations to guard against the nonexistent threat of global warming, but more ominously, these restrictions would not even be imposed upon most of the rest of the world!"

Lloyd R. Robinson, Jr., PHD, PE, DEE

Study Out of Context?

In your editorial, "Protecting the Planet (Daily): A Job for Superheroes," (January/February 2003) you quoted a "study" about activists sic conservative judges threatening environmental regulations. The Washington D.C. Court of Appeals was particularly noted. What the article did not indicate was the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals has a history of interpreting environmental regulations in a manner to greatly expand the traditional meaning of such regulations. The one issue I am personally aware of as a trained and practicing wetlands delineator, The D.C. Court of Appeals defined "Waters of the State" as any water in the state, no matter how ephemeral as waters of the state, rather than "navigable waters" that was long understood to be waters of the state. This ruling expanded a prohibition against filling wetlands from the congressional intent of coastal and major rivers to wetlands of very small size. I have seen wetlands in Southwestern Washington created by a tree blowing over and creating a depression 15 feet in diameter that collected water. These ephemeral wetlands and the related setbacks have been used to make building lots unbuildable sic. Making a building lot unbuildable sic is a reduction in value of nearly 100 percent and is cause for a claim of a taking.

I have also seen environmental lawsuits whose sole intent is to eliminate any resource use of the land. Such prohibitions and restrictions on logging have created scenarios where forests become overcrowded, disease infested and prone to devastating wild fires. A stand clearing fire is more devastating to forest ecology, wildlife, stream health, erosion potential and topsoil retention than even the most heavy handed rape-clear-cut of a forest. I have seen logging operations that were a clear case of mismanagement of a forest.

Next spring, I will be involved in the replanting of an overlogged sic 160 acres that should have been replanted 20 years ago. Mismanagement of timberlands is not proof that non-management is an improvement. Proper management of forestland is beneficial to the bottom line and to the environment. Non-management and mismanagement are both detrimental to the environment and to the resources that can be produced sustainably sic. I am responsible for the maintenance of a city watershed. It would make no difference whether I am trying to manage for water quality, water quantity, wildlife habitat or for maximizing timber production, I would manage the same! Any tree that is growing and thriving would be allowed to grow. When a tree ceases to thrive because of overcrowding causing a lack of water, disease and insect infestation, or merely old age, I would remove that tree or trees, so the remaining trees could thrive. Earlier this week I was touring a logging project of about 30 acres in a much larger forest. In the middle of the project area was a herd of about 30 deer who elected to be in the commercially thinned area rather than the adjacent undisturbed areas. The timber value will be greater in 20 years than if we had not done the commercial thinning, and the deer think it is still excellent habitat.

I also read this week about some 1996 EPA policy changes to the 1977 Clean Air Act that are being corrected. These new policy changes effectively prohibited any maintenance activities that would improve the efficiency of a power plant. Liken it to a provision that if you put upgraded spark plugs in your 1996 automobile, you would be forced to also upgrade the entire emission control equipment system to 2003 standards. Such a requirement would preclude raising the effciency of a vehicle by utilizing an improved spark plug.

Your editorial quoted the "Study," which was an out of context compilation of statements regarding court decisions that the authors did not agree with. You made no objective evaluation of the allegations. Remember allegations are cheap. Many feel good environmental decisions have unintended consequences that are very detrimental to people and the environment. Without scientific evaluation, there is much that can be done in the name of the environment that is detrimental to the environment, or in other cases, detrimental to the use of the land and costly to people without any benefit to the environment.

Dick Fleming

MacLean Wins Readers Over

Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your article "Sustainable Careers," EP Columnist Richard MacLean, January/February 2003. Your content is not written about enough or not as directly as you did here. Your thoughts on Rule 2, i.e., personal development, are especially right on. You may be interested to know that in my company environmental rolls up through risk management and that all of us have been with the company less than a year. All of us were laid off from our previous employer (three positions in the department are new). I would argue that each of us benefited greatly from previous development efforts. In addition, most of the people from the environmental, health and safety (EHS) department in my old company landed great jobs because of the professional development we did internally, both technical, including cross-training, and "soft skills."

I am a firm believer in it soft skills and on some days when I ponder my interest in teaching EHS, I think about how I could incorporate the soft side in particular. Things like listening, coaching, delegating through empowerment, management styles, communication styles, dispute resolution, etc. are practically devoid in grad and undergrad programs but need to be included to a greater degree. Technical skills are only going to take you so far; you need management/relationship skills to take you farther.

Name withheld by request

Your article, "Sustainable Careers," in the January/February 2003 issue of Environmental Protection magazine is right on the money. This is something that I have recognized for a while, but I'm still trying to break the habit of working so many hours when other co-workers work less hours and seem to have as much job security as I do. I tell my wife that I don't work long hours because I love it but to survive and secure the well being of my family. But you verified what I could make no difference.

At least I have done some of the things you recommend in your article: I am a registered Environmental Manager and a Certified Associate Industrial Hygienist, a withheld by author of the withheld by author of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, have published eight articles between Industrial Safety and Hygiene News and the AIHA's The Synergist and I am an adjunct instructor of environmental science at the University of withheld by author. I was employed by a manufacturing plant five years ago after my retirement from the Air Force where I was a Bioenvironmental Engineer. But I am not counting on retiring from this company; it may close this plant or downsize my job. I have applied for a position with OSHA; I feel that the federal government offers better job security and retirement benefits. But I know even the Feds do layoffs. My last resort would be becoming a consultant. My wife wants to stay in withheld by author City, close to the married children and grandchildren but I keep warning her that, If was to lose my job, we have no choice but to go where the opportunities are.

My wife will agree with you about the criticality of the family as the clients for whom I'm ultimately working.

Thank you for the great article. I always find your articles extremely useful and valuable.

Name withheld by request

Client-Server Alive and Kicking

I enjoy reading your magazine each issue. I did find the January/February 2003 issue distressing in one aspect. While Lawrence Goldenhersh "2003 Executive Forecast" is to be commended for sharing his thoughts with the community, I feel that his discussion is very one-sided, and, to some degree, inaccurate. To paraphrase W. C. Fields, the reports of client-server?s death are greatly exaggerated.

The Web does not change the rules. It just provides another tool for satisfying them. Most large environmental databases systems (such as ERPIMS and STORET) are client-server systems and will stay so for the foreseeable future. Some projects use the Web to deliver data, and a few products, like Enviance, use Web tools for data entry also. And let?s not forget about the desktop. I?m sure there are more environmental database projects managed in Access and Excel than in Web and client-server systems combined.

Dave Rich
President, Geotech Computer Systems Inc.

Author's Response

While I agree with several of the factual observations expressed by Dave Rich in his letter to the Editor, I must respectfully disagree with his conclusions.

Mr. Rich is undoubtedly correct that, today, the use of Access and Excel far outstrips the use of 1990s' client-server technology, as well as the new Web-based technology of today. He also correctly observes that, at the present time, many large environmental database systems are based on old-style client-server technology.

Neither the predominance of simple spreadsheet programs, nor the existence of client-server products, however, supports Mr. Rich?s suggestion that client-server is here to stay or his contention that the "rules" will stay the same despite the introduction of Web-based technology.

Compliance products offered over the Internet are not merely an acceptable (but otherwise equal) alternative to traditional client-server and spreadsheet products; the Internet-based products have fundamentally changed the "rules" to which Mr. Rich refers by dramatically reducing the cost of compliance tools while, at the same time, dramatically improving performance. The prevalence today of client-server and spreadsheet products reflects nothing more than the fact that fundamental technology shifts take place over a period of time, not instantly. Industry has for years decried the inefficiencies of attempting to manage thousands of environmental data points on simple database tools, such as Access and Excel. These tools have no practical ability to alert an environmental staff to the fact that a data point is out of an allowed range or that a critical task is overdue. Company-wide reports on these "systems" require the consolidation of hundreds, if not thousands, of rows and columns of data and, in some instances, hundreds of separate spreadsheets. Of course, if multiple users and multiple facilities are involved, the row and column shifting required to coordinate the spreadsheets for reporting can consume significant and costly EHS resources, not to mention dramatically increase the chance for error. In addition, for many companies, client-server systems do not present an alternative due to their complexity, the need for expensive hardware and in-house technology expertise and the overall cost.

By contrast, the Internet allows a company to obtain the power of a multi-million dollar database product for the low cost of a monthly subscription and to tailor the use of the database and the cost to the precise needs of the business. With the Enviance system, for example, data is recorded in a centralized database, allowing roll up reporting on a push button basis, completely eliminating the row and column shifting associated with the use of Excel and Access. In addition, the Enviance system will issue automatic alerts when data points are out of range or tasks are overdue, automating a manual and time consuming process in the Excel-Access world. Finally, unlike the client-server systems, Internet-based products can be deployed at any desktop with an Internet connection, without the need to spend a single dollar on hardware, software or IT professionals to maintain the system.

One rule that the Internet-based products have not changed is the imperative for Industry to cut cost and improve quality. Because Internet-based products afford extraordinarily powerful products at prices never before available, the move to such products is inexorable.

Larry Goldenhersch, JD
President and CEO

This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Environmental Protection, Vol. 14, No. 2, p. 10.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2003 issue of Environmental Protection.

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