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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Obama’s War on Coal reveals a strategy for Martin County against AAF

Now that our esteemed Board of County Commissioners has expressed its unanimous opposition to the All Aboard Florida plan to use Martin County as a doormat, perhaps it is time for them to show some real courage and to take timely steps to stop the “public-private” juggernaut in its “tracks.” Commissioner Heard

The national discussion about the Administration’s recent extralegal proclamation on clean-air standards, threatening to ruin the economies of many states, reveals a little-known strategy to stop federal overreach and the trampling of states’ rights. All federal agencies are required to consult with the EPA. If they have not, it creates a “cause of action” against the federal agency. The EPA almost never issues a report about the very impact we are concerned about - the human environment. This same strategy was used in Texas to stop (and re-route) the Trans-Texas Corridor which threatened to split the local jurisdictions into remote and inaccessible parts.

An article by James Simpson on Trevor Louden’s NewZeal blog discusses the method built into environmental regulations that makes it possible for local authorities to demand compliance with the federal government’s own regulations. These regulations are so restrictive, that any business plan that requires timely progress to reach its goal will be unlikely to succeed.

The Commission must do two things:

  1. Appoint or designate and official commission to regulate or oversee the business in question (we already have people in public transportation boards), and
  2. Have the “commission” file a complaint with the Department of Justice against the the Federal Rail Administration which issues permits for the building or expansion of railroads.

Commissioner HaddoxCoordination

The rule that enables this strategy is called “coordination.” As discussed in the article by Simpson,

Coordination is a little-known feature embedded in numerous environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970, the Endangered Species Act and other laws.

Commissioner FieldingCoordination requires the EPA and all other federal agencies to consider all effects of environmental regulations. These effects include:

    • ecological (such as the effects on natural resources and on the components, structures, and functioning of affected ecosystems), aesthetic, historic, cultural, economic, social, or health, whether direct, indirect, or cumulative. Effects may also include those resulting from actions which may have both beneficial and detrimental effects, even if on balance the agency believes that the effect will be beneficial. (emphasis added).

The federal agency must prepare an “environmental impact” statement that includes impacts on the human environment. This refers specifically to all those aspects listed above. According to the law, “‘Human environment’ shall be interpreted comprehensively to include the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment.” The agency is only exempt if the proposed regulation has “no significant impact.”

Commissioner SmithLike the “carbon” issue discussed in Simpson’s article, “these new… regulations will have a devastating effect on multiple aspects of the human environment, Commissioner Scottthe EPA cannot unilaterally apply them as proposed. The EPA must negotiate with state and local governments—they only have to ask.In our case, the agency that must negotiate with Martin County is the Federal Rail Administration that might approve the expansion of Florida East Coast Railway into All Aboard Florida.

Only an actual official body (or one designated by elected officials) can initiate these steps to invoke coordination from the federal agencies and it must be “timely.” The Justice Department is then compelled to action by those very environmental laws that literally choke the system. Some of our Commissioners should feel right at home with these environmental requirements.

Jim McGovern
Martin 9/12 Committee

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