Washington, DC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/13/2017 --BENNETT: Steve Milloy is the publisher of the popular website Junk Science that debunks popular science myths, which I have no doubt led him to his new book, Scare Pollution: Why and How To Fix the EPA. Steve is the perfect guest this week as a Senate panel last week approved EPA critic Scott Pruitt to head the agency. Steve, welcome to Financial Myth Busting.
MILLOY: Thanks for having me, Dawn.
BENNETT: Steve, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is a climate change skeptic, right? He has fought EPA regulations on carbon emissions and now he's a clear step closer to heading the agency's leader. Is there an issue that Pruitt approaches regulation from the perspective of a "polluter"?
MILLOY: That sounds like a loaded question, but no I don't think there's an issue. One of the great myths that the environmentalists have successfully perpetrated is that our air is polluted. Our air is clean, our water is safe. It's no longer 1970 or 1960 or 1950. EPA and Americans and states have spent the last 46 years cleaning up the air, and the air is clean. As a matter of fact, the air was clean 25 years ago. The reason Scott Pruitt has sued EPA almost a dozen times is because EPA regularly engages in regulatory overreach. By that I mean they are exceeding the authority granted to them by Congress, and so as AG of Oklahoma, Scott has had to sue them to try to put them back in their box.
BENNETT: He also has significant conflicts of interest. Is that going to be a problem? He has significant ties to the oil and gas industry.
MILLOY: Well, he's from Oklahoma. There's a lot of oil and gas out there, and he's representing his state's interests. That's been his job. As EPA Administrator, he is going to be working for the president, executing EPA's authority. EPA has various authorities, for example under the Clean Air Act to make the air safe. The air is safe. Scott will make sure that the air remains safe. What's the conflict of interest? As long as the air is safe, there's no conflict of interest.
BENNETT: Do you think that he lacks experience in environmental protection?
MILLOY: I think Scott knows more about the EPA and the wickedness, if you will, of the agency, than most people, because he has sued the EPA almost a dozen times. He is well aware of how the EPA overreaches, and he's probably the perfect administrator for reigning in the EPA and bringing this rogue agency within the law.
BENNETT: So you don't see what his counterparties are saying, that he has a lack of experience in focus on environmental and public health protection?
MILLOY: You know, I've worked on EPA issues for 25 years now, and to be perfectly honest with you, I have yet to see the environmentalists not lie or distort or otherwise befog the truth. They don't like Scott Pruitt because Scott Pruitt is not going to implement their agenda, which is an ever-expanding EPA, to hell with the economy, we want to control the economy. That's what's been happening for the last eight years, and of course our energy industry has suffered because of that, and consumers have suffered with higher prices.
BENNETT: The EPA began with a seemingly innocent mandate, keep the environment clean, but today it is one of the most powerful Federal bureaucracies, with the power to regulate anything that could possibly affect the air, the water, the earth. In other words, practically everything. Do you think the Founders ever intended creating a Federal government that had these kind of broad, unchecked powers.
MILLOY: This is one of those areas where the Founders never envisioned what society would become. As societies develop, needs change. Ours changed. Until the 1950s, 60s and 70s, no one really paid attention to the environment. All anyone cared about was, and rightly so, economic development. When we became wealthy enough that the environment started bothering us, well, we took action, and over the past 45 years, we cleaned up the environment. As a matter of fact, we cleaned it up a long time ago, it's been clean for a while. There's really nothing left to do but maintain what we have, and if we have accidents, yeah, let's take care of it. But, people should not confuse that with what the environmentalists are saying, that the environment's in terrible shape and this guy Scott Pruitt, he's going to let industry run wild.
BENNETT: Let's talk about your new book, Scare Pollution. It focuses largely on how the EPA has declared the air that we breathe, filled as it is with CO2, is polluted, and therefore is enacting regulation after regulation to control what goes into the air. Pruitt made a name for himself as one of the Attorneys General who frequently sued the EPA for imposing all these rules. What do you think the people at the EPA, who spent years fighting the likes of Scott Pruitt, make of his potentially becoming their boss?
MILLOY: Well, I think they realize they're in for a culture shock. They're going to be like the universities after Trump was elected, they're going to need safe spaces with teddy bears and coloring books. There's a new sheriff in town, Donald Trump, and then Scott Pruitt. Scott Pruitt is going to have a different set of marching orders from his president, and to the extent EPA staff has gotten used to, over the last 45 years, just willy-nilly writing rules that hurt the economy and don't really do anything for the environment, well, that's going to come to an end. And if that shatters their world, well, too bad for them.
BENNETT: Do you think he's going to reduce the size of the EPA dramatically?
MILLOY: I think Mr. Trump promised during the campaign that he was going to basically whack EPA back to a very small portion of what it was. And that's not as harsh as it sounds. When EPA was formed 46, 47 years ago, there weren't any state environmental protection agencies except maybe California. 46 years later, 85 percent of environmental protection is done locally by states and local governments. There still is a role for a federal EPA, but it's a much smaller role. It has to do with interstate issues, maybe some international issues, and something that's national like pesticide registration. But the fact is that most environmental protection is done by the states. We don't need this massive, economy killing federal EPA.
BENNETT: If Pruitt is indeed our new EPA administrator, what do you expect he'll do? And what should he do? What, in your opinion, are the most badly needed EPA reforms.
MILLOY: Well, I think as Mr. Trump promised during the campaign, the first thing that's going to be happening is EPA's war on coal and the climate rules are going to end. There will be no more federal government climate bed-wetting, if you will. President Trump is going to roll back the mindless restrictions on the coal industry and let the coal industry compete with the natural gas industry for providing energy.
BENNETT: What about other functions? Most Americans believe we need the EPA to keep our water clean, and the air we breathe.
MILLOY: That's not going to change. Most of that is done on the state level, and you can even see where the crisis in Flint, Michigan last year, was a problem because not only did the local guys drop the ball, but so did the federal EPA, which ignored that situation for a long time. The cuts that are coming to EPA are not going to effect those water programs, and I think Mr. Trump and Mr. Pruitt are going to make sure that EPA fulfills its statutory responsibilities. EPA let that Flint situation get out of hand while it's worried about the silly issue of carbon dioxide in the air.
BENNETT: For young listeners out there, can you tell us a bit about the world before the EPA existed? Was pollution entirely out of control, and honestly, can the EPA take credit for cleaning things up?
MILLOY: That's a great question, and a complicated question. For most of the 20th century, we were just focused on economic development. We had two world wars, we had the Cold War, and no one was really worried about the environment. But about mid-century, people started cluing in, people didn't like dirty skies and dirty water. Several times during the mid-20th century, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. So, we stopped dumping. We stopped just spewing whatever into the atmosphere. You know, Congress set up the rules that the EPA is implemented. It's really been a national effort. I know the EPA likes to take credit and the environmental groups like to take credit, but it was really sort of a collective consciousness, and the fact is that we had the wealth to do it. You need a lot of money to have a clean environment. You look around the world, the countries with the worst environments are the poorest countries. The first requirement for a clean environment is wealth. We had a lot of that, so it was really sort of a team effort. That said, I think it's important to realize that, as bad as pollution was in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the peak of our sort of uncontrolled industrial development, as ugly as the skies were, and the river caught on fire... the environment was never a public health problem. Never.
BENNETT: That's interesting. Your book contains some fascinating and even horrifying information about the EPA itself intentionally exposing unwitting Americans to toxic gasses. Can you explain what happened?
MILLOY: Sure. My book is largely about the EPA's one of flagship regulatory programs, its air quality program for particulates or soot in the sky. EPA has gotten to the point where they claim that one out of four deaths in America every year is caused by soot in the sky. All they ever had to back this up was some really lousy statistical studies, and to provide their statistical studies with some actual medical or scientific plausibility, they started conducting experiments on humans where they would expose old people, sick people, asthmatics, combinations thereof, to extremely high levels of pollution, treating them like guinea pigs.
BENNETT: That's awful.
MILLOY: Of course this is illegal. We have laws and rules against this. They're actually trying to hurt these people to prove their lousy science. I discovered this, exposed it, there are several lawsuits, and investigations by the EPA Inspector General and the National Academy of Sciences. So, that is coming to an end. But yes, that was a pretty shocking program. EPA even experimented spraying diesel exhaust up the noses of ten year old children.
BENNETT: What year was that?
MILLOY: That was in the mid-2000s.
BENNETT: Not too long ago.
MILLOY: Right. The story's in Scare Pollution.
BENNETT: The left likes to describe itself as pro-science, and people who question, the global warming theory, are derided as deniers or anti-science. Your book contains some damning information about how the EPA faked data just to justify its power grabs. Is the EPA really pro-science if it has to resort to those decidedly anti-science tactics?
MILLOY: No. When I first started working in this area more than a quarter century ago, a group of EPA science advisers issued a report saying the EPA adjusted its science to fit policy. And it got worse from there. EPA is terrible at science. What they wind up doing is they shovel money out the door to scientists who they know are going to produce results that the agency likes for its regulatory programs. And then, to make matters worse, EPA hires those same scientists to review their own work. Imagine if you got to review your own work as a student, to grade it. Crazy, right?
MILLOY: The program I talk about in Scare Pollution was $600 million in research, completely corrupted. So one of the fixes of the EPA is to take the science out of the agency. The agency has shown that it cannot handle science. The regulatory side of government and science funding needs to be separate.
BENNETT: One common gripe against the free market is that, absent regulations, as Obama frequently argues, companies would pollute the environment without thinking twice. I want to talk about something you must know about, called the Index of Environmental Indicators, which is published by the American Enterprise Institute. The basic conclusion it shows is that the countries that are wealthiest also have the cleanest environments. So in other words, as I read it, once basic needs are taken care of, we can afford to take care of luxury concerns like the environment. That would seem to indicate that the best thing we can do to clean the planet is to make our economy prosperous. You're a Libertarian. Can you be in favor of the environment and free markets at the same time?
MILLOY: Absolutely. That laid it out right there, and we talked about it earlier in the interview. The wealthier a society is, the cleaner its environment is. If you don't believe me, go to China, go to India. Remember what the Soviet Union was like, or go to Russia now. If a society has a lot of money, it's going to be able to have a clean environment, which is what we do in America. So saying, "businessmen would just pollute" is really just a straw man argument. That's not true at all. We have societal standards now. Now that everyone's aware of the environment, if you pollute, you get in trouble for it. It wasn't like that fifty years ago, so things have changed.
BENNETT: One final question. The EPA isn't actually a constitutionally mandated federal agency. It was only created during the Nixon administration. Obviously, if Trump were to scrap it altogether, the media would lose its mind. On a practical level, what would happen if we got rid of it? Would the water suddenly become undrinkable, and companies come up with new ways to pollute the air?
MILLOY: Absolutely not. 85 percent of environmental protection is done by the states. Issuing the air permits for industrial facilities, permits for water discharges. You know the water that comes out of factories these days is cleaner than what's in the lakes and rivers. The law mandates that. So, none of that is true. All we're looking at is stopping the regulatory overreach, the economy-killing part of the EPA, which has really put the "Employment Prevention" in EPA. We can do reasonable environmental protection so that it doesn't hinder the economy, and that's what Trump wants to do.
BENNETT: Steven, thank you for coming on Financial Myth Busting.
For over a quarter century, Dawn Bennett has been successfully guiding clients through the complexities of wealth management. Her unique vision and insight into market trends makes Bennett a much sought after expert resource with regular appearances on Fox News Channel, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and MSNBC as well as being featured in Business Week, Fortune, The NY Times, The NY Sun, Washington Business Journal in addition to her highly regarded weekly talk radio program - Financial Mythbusting. Through prudent and thoughtful advice, Dawn Bennett has strived to consistently provide the highest quality of guidance.
About Dawn Bennett
Dawn Bennett is CEO and Founder of Bennett Group Financial Services. She hosts a national radio program called Financial Myth Busting http://www.financialmythbusting.com.
She discusses educational topics and events in the financial news, along with her thoughts on the economy, financial markets, investments, and more with her live guests, who have included rock legend Ted Nugent, as well as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist. Listeners can call 855-884-DAWN a as well as take podcasts on the road and forums for interaction.
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