"Public" Comments

Did you know there's a surge of interest in giving the EPA expanded authority?
When the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a major new rule intended to protect the nation’s drinking water last year, regulators solicited opinions from the public. The purpose of the “public comment” period was to objectively gauge Americans’ sentiment before changing a policy that could profoundly affect their lives.

Gina McCarthy, the agency’s administrator, told a Senate committee in March that the agency had received more than one million comments, and nearly 90 percent favored the agency’s proposal.
Amazing! Who knew the American public was so committed to expanding the range of the EPA's authority?
But critics say there is a reason for the overwhelming result: The E.P.A. had a hand in manufacturing it.

In a campaign that tests the limits of federal lobbying law, the agency orchestrated a drive to counter political opposition from Republicans and enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.

Oddly enough we were just talking about the difficulty for citizens in influencing the bureaucratic rule-making processes. Pretty much the only way is through the public comment period, when the agency happens to ask for one. If they are now permitted ("required," it sounds like) to game the system by flooding themselves with positive comments from full-time policy organizations that favor their position, that tiny bit of influence will be diluted out of existence.

Once again, the Obama administration is making a mockery out of the ordinary forms of our democratic republic. Rule of law can be set aside by prosecutorial discretion. Rule making comment periods can be gamed. The IRS can be tasked with paying special attention to your enemies. Pervasive surveillance replaces the need for warrants before prying into private communications.

It's a disturbing pattern, and one that will be hard to reform.


raven said...

It will not be reformed. It will get worse, as they double down on everything they do,in an effort to prevent their insane dream from collapsing. Zimbabwe is our future. Or maybe Argentina. They would rather rule in a landfill than admit and enjoy prosperity brought about by any other ideology. doublethink is strong- I know understand exactly what Yuri Bezmanov was talking about- it seemed fanciful 20 years ago.

Dad29 said...

When the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a major new rule intended to protect the nation’s drinking water last year

Talk about propaganda!!

The EPA proposed to assert EPA/Federal control over every single drop of water falling from the sky onto US land.

Drinking water, my ...ahhh...foot.

ALL water.

Cass said...

OK, I'm going to play devil's advocate here for a moment.

If there's a period of public comment, AND voters actually care about the issue submitted to them, don't they have a pre-existing duty to make their views known?

If someone can get 1 million people to voice their views, and however many millions who hold conflicting views can't be bothered to comment at all...

Not arguing that gaming public comments is a good idea. But surely you can see that the real problem here is that most people aren't even trying to take an active role in government. They don't even know the names of their own representatives at the state or federal level.

That means, necessarily, that factions who organize (or just citizens who care) have an outsized voice. If, as we've often posited, there's a great, silent majority who would oppose progressives if they could be motivated to speak up against the squeaky wheels who always get the grease, but that's just too much trouble...

Think about that one.

Cass said...

Put another way, what motivated those million people to comment?

What would have happened if they'd been contacted, but responded with a big yawn and a "Mañana"?

Grim said...

Two problems.

1) Even granting that you could foil the EPA's plan if we had millions of people willing to write letters on command without understanding the issue, the problem is that this public comment doesn't really affect the EPA in a binding way. If the game works, they get to say, "90% of the public comment approves of our idea." If that doesn't happen, they just say, "We have considered the public comment as required."

2) Playing the game with them would only serve to destroy the public comment process as a useful feedback mechanism. I've written public comment feedback on proposed regulations just from time to time, when the issue is something I know about and I think the government should take certain factors into consideration. Having one side bulk-drafting letters in ignorance dilutes the commentary from people who know what they're talking about. Having both sides do it means that any useful feedback is lost in the noise.

It's just a terrible idea. The response shouldn't be to play the game too. It should be to try to restrain the practice of gaming the system.

raven said...

It has been my experience locally,that although public comment is encouraged and in many cases there are comment periods required by law, the Dem politicians who run Western Washington state have a agenda which is going to be followed regardless of comments. The comments are just political cover, so they can say there was due process. Only when there is an absolute avalanche of protest (such as the BATF proposal to ban AR15 ammo) is there any change- and usually the item is just put on the back burner for a while.
And to paraphrase- "who counts the comments?"

Dad29 said...

Followup to my comment above:

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said:

“EPA’s attempt to redefine ‘navigable waterways’ to include every drainage ditch, backyard pond, and puddle is a radical regulatory overreach that threatens to take away the rights of property owners and will lead to costly litigation and lost jobs.

He says the House will write a law preventing this EPA action. Maybe the Senate will follow on.

But "protect drinking water"? Faddle-doodle.