Greenies' Long-Planned Victory Is Near
If you think the environmental movement is a rag-tag bunch of whacky leftists out to feel good about saving the Earth Mother while raging against the machine for a bit, you are seriously underestimating the very real threat our society faces.
To use a terribly over-used but utterly appropriate phrase, we are at a tipping point. There are court decisions, new regulations and new laws pending that, if they all go the Greenies' way, will create a nearly insurmountable roadblock to development. Good thing, you say, thinking about that lovely little field you'd rather not see homes on?
Well, how about that new hospital or factory your town needs? Or the extra lanes on the highway that are necessary to stop the congestion and carnage? Or the school, church, mall or police station that you'd like to see built?
Forget about them. Nature rules because humans are fools.
For about 17 years, I have been the executive director of small group representing large landowners that is focused on avoiding over-regulation. All of our members understand that land development must be a regulated business, but none of them see any reason for it to be ridiculously over-regulated.
Yesterday, we had a new member at our meeting, representing one of the largest land developers in America. As we wrapped up, she said to me, "The was the most depressing meeting I've ever been in. I see why it was so important for us to join." Thinking about it, I realized that the perfect storm is building so I thought I'd share with you some of what we talked about.
Revisions to the Clean Water Act: In the last few years, the courts have ruled firmly against over-regulation of wetlands, which was needed because the regulators (EPA, the Corps of Engineers, states) had so expanded the law that land never anticipated by Congress as deserving wetland protection was.
Congress responded with HR 2421 and a companion Senate bill soon to be introduced by one of the most radical members of the Senate, Russ Feingold. As I said earlier in the week, the bill could make gutters and storm drains equal to rivers and ponds. That means that your town would have "gutter police" to monitor what's running off your lawn and driveway into the gutter, because standards would be required for the quality of the water in the gutter.
Flood Control: An offshoot of the Greenies' overwhelming urge to destroy dams is the hydromodification movement. There are legitimate concerns that runoff from development, which is greater than runoff from natural land, is causing too much erosion of streambeds. But the Greenies have prevailed on regulators to create new hydromodification rules that basically would require that water conveyances be returned to their natural state -- no more concrete-lined channels.
One of our clients has done this with new development and its beautiful (go to Smart Planning, then to About Smart Planning, then to River Plan) . But what do you do with the Los Angeles River or New York's West River or the Chicago River or thousands of other rivers and streams that are surrounded by development? Removing the concrete channels would put thousands of homes at dire risk of flood.
Meanwhile, FEMA and some states are considering changing flood control requirements from a 100-year flood planning level to a 200-year flood planning level, which would require a greater degree of flood protection.
It'll be interersting when those two trains meet head on.
Riparian Waters Policies -- Chances are, you're not sure what "riparian" means; you'd better believe that the regulated community does. It means the type of habitat that grows along streambeds. Riparian habitats have been very well protected for years because of their interrelationship to wetlands and because they are home to lots of species, frequently including endangered ones.
But Greenies are never happy, and here in California, the State Water Quality Control Board is considering a new set of policies that would apply to riparian habitats that one seasoned land use lawyer called the biggest threat the developers are currently facing in the state. He's seen a lot of threats and he's not given to hyperbole, so these are some impracticably extreme new proposals.
Water Supply -- As early as August 21, a federal judge will decide what to do with the Delta pumps that provide Southern California with much of its water. Water industry watchers are convinced he will order that the amount of water reaching Southern California be cut by 25 to 50 percent. If these predictions come true, voluntary and mandatory water rationing will be a necessary follow-on.
The cause of this is a small fish called the Delta smelt, that the Center for Biological Diversity, a Greenie litigation mill with a decidedly revolutionary bent, succeeded in getting listed as endangered. Because it becomes fish paste when the pumps are turned on, the judge has little choice under the Endangered Species Act but to keep the pumps shut off more.
C-SM readers will recall that the Center's founder, Keiran Suckling, has stated that this is all a very deliberate strategy to deprive Los Angeles of its water supply. Here's the quote from Range Magazine in 1999:
Walley: You're creating rural refugees!As victory draws near, is Suckling sitting on his laurels? No, rumor has it that the Center will soon be filing a petition to list another fish that will create new problems, the Long-finned Smelt.
Suckling: It's more than rural. I'm dealing with the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Los Angeles. Thirteen million people are used to getting their water this way, I say that's geat, but we're going to show them a different way to do it!
Walley: You are forcing change on society, and are you aware of it?
Suckling: Yeah! Isn't that what an activist is? What do you think an activist is? We change society!
Walley: Can't you do this in a humane and gentle way?
Suckling: It is sad, but I don't hear you put that in a direct relationship to the effect on the land. I hear you talk about the pain of the people but I don't see you match that up with the pain of the species.
Suckling: A loach minnow is more important than say, Betty and Jim's ranch. A thousand times more important.
Diesel Construction Equipment -- In California, equipment like this is regulated by the Air Resources Board, whose chair is Mary Nichols. A former eco-lawyer for the Center for Law in the Public Interest and the Natural Resources Defense Council, she is one of the highest-placed radical environmentalists in the land. That she holds the post is an outrageous conflict of interest, but it indicates the power of the Greenie movement.
Nichols just strong-armed through new regulations on off-road diesel equipment, i.e., graders, bulldozers and other stuff you need to build things. The regs require new, high efficiency diesel engines in this equipment, which is a good thing -- except that they're not available in the number needed to meet Nichols' aggressive implementation timeline.
Operators of small and medium sized grading companies will be particularly hard hit, and they begged and pleaded for leniency, but Nichols showed none. As the regs take effect, expect many businesses to go under, and many projects to grind to a halt because equipment is not available.
Expected cost of these regs: $15 billion.
Global Warming -- California's attorney general is sending letters to cities and counties throughout the state saying he will sue them if they don't incorporate methods to reduce global warming into the General Plans and into the plans for specific projects. CS-M readers will know that this is a Catch 22 because the state has passed no regulatory guidelines for how to do this ... if there is anthropomorphic global warming, and if we can do something about it at the level of a housing project.
Update: In reviewing the minutes from yesterday's meeting, I saw this: San Diego County, in trying to determine how to deal with global warming in its new General Plan is considering this: First it would remove a number of roads from the County Master Plan of Highways. Once the roads were removed, the County would no longer fund repair and maintenance. That would cause the roads to degrade, and would make funds for expanding them unavailable. Finally, faced with unsatisfactory roads in an area, the County would prohibit new growth there.
America used to be a nation that looked boldly to the future and built accordingly, creating an infrastructure network that is the envy of the world. Have we now become a nation that will purposefully decide to turn a cowardly back on the future? In San Diego, they're thinking about it.
And that's just the agenda for one meeting of one organization that's just concerned about Southern California. Throughout the country, similar Greenie action items are coming together to tighten the screws on what the Greenies see as the enemies: Humans that have crawled out of the cave.