To The Point

by Caren Cowan

Let Me Get This Straight  . . .

We can burn trees up in quantities of hundreds of thousands of acres annually with apparently unmeasured air pollution consequences . . . yet we can no longer heat our rural homes with wood burning stoves because of impacts on air quality???

The latest in a series of social engineering, if not cultural genocide, steps by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the new ban on wood burning stoves. Never mind. Discover Magazine recently stated: “Some theories about early human diet and behavior suggest that our ancestral species, Homo erectus, used fire to cook meat as much as 2 million years ago, more than 1.5 million years before our own species appeared on the scene.

According to an Associated Press (AP) story picked up by ABC News, “Wood-burning stoves are a staple in rural homes in many states, a cheap heating source for low-income residents and others wanting to lessen their reliance on gas or electric furnaces. Outdoor models often cost several thousand dollars, but indoor stoves can cost as little as a few hundred dollars and sometimes double as fashionable centerpieces in homes.

“Most people who own wood stoves have other means of heat, such as electric or gas furnaces. But about two percent U.S. homes rely on wood as their primary heating source — a figure that has been rising over the past decade.”

You don’t have to think very far back to remember the challenges to New Mexicans collecting fire wood on state and federal to heat their homes and cook with — a battle those folks won. Is our federal government going to let people freeze to save a fraction of the air pollution that a single forest fire creates?

According to a regulatory proposal put out by the EPA in January, that might be the case. There are about 12 million wood stoves in U.S. homes, including about nine million that are less than half as efficient as the newer stoves, according to the EPA. The agency’s proposed rules would not affect stoves already in homes, according to AP writer David A. Lieb.

It also worth noting, according to thinkprogress.org, “So-called “pellet stoves” that burn compressed wood or biomass are not currently covered by any federal regulation.” Are the key words here “not currently?”

What happened to “green” energy and the reduction of dependence of fossil fuels? What about “recycle, reuse, reduce?”

“It seems that even wood isn’t green or renewable enough anymore,” writes Forbes contributor Larry Bell in his piece “EPA’s Wood-Burning Stove Ban Has Chilling Consequences For Many Rural People”.

“The EPA has recently banned the production and sale of 80 percent of America’s current wood-burning stoves, the oldest heating method known to mankind and mainstay of rural homes and many of our nation’s poorest residents. The agency’s stringent one-size-fits-all rules apply equally to heavily air-polluted cities and far cleaner plus typically colder off-grid wilderness areas such as large regions of Alaska and the American West.

“While EPA’s most recent regulations aren’t altogether new, their impacts will nonetheless be severe. Whereas restrictions had previously banned wood-burning stoves that didn’t limit fine airborne particulate emissions to 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the change will impose a maximum 12 microgram limit. To put this amount in context, EPA estimates that secondhand tobacco smoke in a closed car can expose a person to 3,000-4,000 micrograms of particulates per cubic meter.

“Most wood stoves that warm cabin and home residents from coast-to-coast can’t meet that standard. Older stoves that cannot be traded in for updated types, must instead be rendered inoperable, destroyed, or recycled as scrap metal.

“The impacts of EPA’s ruling will affect many families. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 survey statistics, 2.4 million American housing units (12 percent of all homes) burned wood as their primary heating fuel, compared with 7 percent that depended upon fuel oil.

“Local governments in some states have gone even further than EPA, not only banning the sale of noncompliant stoves, but even their use as fireplaces. As a result, owners face fines for infractions. Puget Sound, Washington is one such location.   Montréal, Canada proposes to eliminate all fireplaces within its city limits.

“Only weeks after EPA enacted its new stove rules, attorneys general of seven states sued the agency to crack down on wood-burning water heaters as well. The lawsuit was filed by Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, all predominately Democrat states. Claiming that EPA’s new regulations didn’t go far enough to decrease particle pollution levels, the plaintiffs cited agency estimates that outdoor wood boilers will produce more than 20 percent of wood-burning emissions by 2017. A related suit was filed by the environmental group Earth Justice.”

Does any of this sound familiar? Hint: Karen Budd-Falen

Then the plot thickens, according to Bell. This is but another example of EPA, Bell writes in Forbes, and other government agencies working with activist environmental groups to sue and settle on claims that afford leverage to enact new regulations which they lack statutory authority to otherwise accomplish.

“Sue and settle” practices, sometimes referred to as “friendly lawsuits”, are cozy deals through which far-left radical environmental groups file lawsuits against federal agencies wherein court-ordered “consent decrees” are issued based upon a prearranged settlement agreement they collaboratively craft together in advance behind closed doors. Then, rather than allowing the entire process to play out, the agency being sued settles the lawsuit by agreeing to move forward with the requested action both they and the litigants want.

And who pays for this litigation? All-too-often we taxpayers are put on the hook for legal fees of both colluding parties. According to a 2011 GAO report, this amounted to millions of dollars awarded to environmental organizations for EPA litigations between 1995 and 2010. Three “Big Green” groups received 41 of this payback, with Earthjustice accounting for 30 percent ($4,655,425). Two other organizations with histories of lobbying for regulations EPA wants while also receiving agency funding are the American Lung Association (ALA) and the Sierra Club.

In addition, the Department of Justice forked over at least $43 million of our money defending EPA in court between 1998 and 2010. This didn’t include money spent by EPA for their legal costs in connection with those rip-offs because EPA doesn’t keep track of their attorney’s time on a case-by-case basis.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has concluded that Sue and Settle rulemaking is responsible for many of EPA’s “most controversial, economically significant regulations that have plagued the business community for the past few years”. Included are regulations on power plants, refineries, mining operations, cement plants, chemical manufacturers, and a host of other industries. Such consent decree-based rulemaking enables EPA to argue to Congress: “The court made us do it.”

Social Engineering / Cultural Genocide

We made this assertion against environmental groups over 15 years ago. They took great exception to it. It seems fair to say that we were right then and we are right now. Taking this new regulation on wood burning stoves with the EPA’s attempt to assert federal control over all navigable waters in the United States and clearly there is a move to change how and where people live. Add in everything else that is going on in our country, and I don’t think the term “paranoid” applies to me anymore.

Roundhouse Review

Having completed something like my 23rd New Mexico Legislature (yes, I started when I was three), I can unequivocally state that there are no two alike. This was a slow Session. There were less than 800 bills introduced and less than 400 resolutions and memorials. That compares with over 3,000 bills in some years. The Governor sent down over two messages to the bodies.

There appeared to be several reasons for this slow pace. The biggest one was the total absence of two House members who were too ill to attend the Legislature. That narrowed the margin of Democrats versus Republicans to only one. Given that there are several conservative Democrats in the body, the House made for interesting watching.

The budget is usually started in the House as House Bill 2. After it passes the House it moves to the Senate for potential amendment and return to the House for concurrence. It didn’t work that way this year. The initial budget was never able to muster a majority vote in the House, with all the Republicans and one or more Democrats voting against it.

In what was an unprecedented move, the budget that finally passed the entire Legislature was initiated in the Senate and passed that body first. With hours to spare, the measure finally passed the House and is now on Governor Susana Martinez’s desk for action.

Another measure that was stalled in the House after passing the Senate was a constitutional amendment that would require a vote of New Mexicans on increasing the minimum wage. That too died with no votes from Republicans and a few Democrats.

The stakes were apparently pretty high on that bill. Vice President Joe Biden found time to contact Representative Sandra Jeff, a conservative democrat, to ask her to support the measure. She explained to him that she support an increased minimum wage but didn’t believe a constitutional amendment was the correct route to get there.

Jeff was also a hold out on the budget, for which she was roundly criticized. Clearly the situation wore on her, but she stood with the courage of her convictions and no matter where you fell on the issues, she needs to applauded for that.

Roundhouses To Come

As we are in an election year and there has been nothing short of an onslaught of retirement announcements, you can be sure that the State Capitol will be a very different place for the 2015 Legislature. We are saying goodbye to folks on both sides of the isle who have served all New Mexicans long and well. So far the list includes Representative Kiki Savadra, Tom Taylor, Anna Marie Crook (the only admitted crook in the body, as she jested), Don Bratton, and Bill Gray. These folks have been leaders on the Floor and leaders in key committees. We owe then a debt of gratitude and hope that we get someone as good to replace them.

Given the lack of legislation introduced and passed this year, we can look for a much bigger agenda to work on next year, which is also a 60-day Session where anything can be introduced. The ground work for next year needs to start today.

The entire New Mexico House is up for election in November. Please get to know the new candidates and spend some time getting to know incumbents better. Honestly, if the work isn’t done on issues affecting New Mexico’s ranching and farming families before the election, there is little hope that it will get done after.

There were several bills introduced this year that were germane to the budget session that give us a glimpse at what we might see next year.

Why Not Monitor The Land?

As some predictions regarding drought are dire, the U.S. Forest Service has begun notifying allotment owners of potential reductions in grazing. This is a prudent management strategy. However one sentence in a notification letter struck me the wrong way.

Grazing decisions need to be made on the ground based on what the land is saying. Rather than devoting resources to rangeland monitoring and working with those who live on the land, the letter says “We monitor predictive services and climate data from numerous sources…”

We are told that another letter advises allotment owners that they will not be allowed back on their allotments “until the monsoon season comes.”

How much forage is out there? How many head will it sustain and for how long? These are the questions that need to be answered. They won’t be answered by predictive services and climate data.

NMCGA is beginning to work with allotment owners and federal land management agencies to keep the damage to families and livestock as small as possible.

We also understand that allotment owners in New Mexico meadow jumping mouse critical habitat areas may be cut by as many as 2,000 head. Please keep us advised on what is happening to you. n