EPA seems coldly detached about real-life consequences of its policies

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — When a doctor delivers bad news, he usually does so with a certain dose of tact and humanity, and these are traits government bureaucrats, when placed in similar circumstances, often seem to lack.

Bureaucrats at the federal level, in particular, seem to possess the same coldly logical people skills as Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory.”

When I cover a story about a government policy that will worsen someone’s life, I consistently pose variations of the same question to the people who either enforce it or pushed hard to see it through.

BAZINGA!: Are central planners in our government as emotionally detached and blunt as Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory”?

Last year at a news conference in Memphis, for instance, I asked then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius what she would say to a person whose health insurance costs had increased because of Obamacare.

Sebelius, who had no problem answering other reporters’ questions about the supposed benefits of the law, suddenly had a deer-in-the-headlights look and said nothing.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, stepped up to the microphone in Sebelius’ place and said the following:

“Change is hard. Get over it. Barack Obama is president, and the Affordable Care Act is the law.”

Last month, the EPA ordered states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by an average of 30 percent.

I asked the public Tennessee Valley Authority officials about all the people who will lose their jobs because of this, not to mention all the families who will pay more in utility costs.

TVA officials, in their initial response, ignored my question and responded with a very dispassionate email about the need to reduce carbon emissions.

On Thursday I wrote about Ruston, La., farmer Joe Mitcham, who is about to lose his nearly 70-year-old peach orchard, which he inherited from his father.

EPA regulations prevent him from saving his dying peach orchards using the chemical methyl bromide, which effectively means he’s going out of business soon.

MITCHAM FARMS: Soon to go out of business because of EPA policies?

Readers, regardless of whether they favor or oppose EPA regulations, reacted all day with fierce passion in the comments section of my article.

Contrast that with what I got from the EPA.

EPA officials received my questions long before my deadline. When they finally answered my questions, via email, and only after my deadline, they followed the same dispassionate pattern as other federal agencies.

Not all questions were answered and, for the ones that were, EPA officials essentially copied and pasted text from their own website.

This was highly technical information I had already discovered on my own and reported on, briefly — information more appropriate for a scientific journal than a website that caters to a mass audience of people from all walks of life.

To be fair, the EPA did explain that state officials are responsible for penalizing people who use the chemical. I believe the EPA officials were sincere in their desire to help me and answer my questions.

Yet they ignored my most important question, the one that brings the story down to its most human, personal level: What would the EPA say to Mitcham and his employees who soon will find themselves out of work because of EPA policies?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that EPA’s science on this matter or on the supposed need for coal-emission reductions is sound and truly done in mankind’s best interests.

EPA: DO they realize what affect their policies have in America's heartland?

EPA: DO they realize what effect their policies have in America’s heartland?

And, let’s say for the sake of argument, that none of this is politically motivated or a way for government to infringe on individual liberty and micromanage the masses.

People still have lost their livelihoods, regardless.

There’s a human story here.

For those who may not know, Ruston is my hometown.

The good people there aren’t really accustomed — yet — to government policies killing jobs and industries.

The loss of the farm won’t necessarily devastate Ruston’s economy, which already benefits from a strong timber industry, not to mention Louisiana Tech University.

But the pending loss of Mitcham’s farm is a symbolic one and will take an emotional toll on many people in this small city in north central Louisiana.

I wouldn’t expect a detached government bureaucrat to grasp that kind of thing.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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