These truths to be self-evident, that all men are created over the years, a member of Congress, I get to have a lot of really interesting people and experts on what they're talking about. This is the podcast for insights into the issues. China, bioterrorism, Medicare for all in depth discussions, breaking it down into simple terms. We we hope we hold these truths. We hold these truths with Dan Crenshaw. Welcome back, everybody.
Another great episode for you today. And yeah, guess what? We're going to be talking about the environment and the EPA. And to help us with that conversation, we have Mandy Gannes. Sekara got that. I get that right. Yes, that's get I did it.
You're the former chief of staff for the Trump administer administrator to the EPA, Andrew Wheeler. And, you know, to put it lightly, you know, your stuff. And so, look, there is let's frame the conversation this way. If you read your typical headline, it'll sound like this. Biden needs the EPA. Trump destroyed it. Trump made lying about the environment and art form, you know, things like that. Trump the Trump administration throws out clean air rules.
So there's this there's this thought out there. There's this sort of disposition that if one clean air regulation is good, if you just label anything green, if you say it's good for the environment, well, then 100 would be better.
And there's really no going back. It only goes in one direction. And I think people don't realize that the EPA is not this neutral body. They tend to be very formative. They tend to be pushing an agenda in one direction and one direction only. And so you've just got a lot of insight on that. But but give us your back.
I mean, before you were before you were chief of staff, what were you doing and how you gain such expertise on this? So I grew up my career essentially interning from college through law school, and I ended up doing various roles in the House side and Senate side and personal offices and committee offices. And ultimately where I ended up was at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, starting in twenty fifteen. And when I was there, I was in charge of committee oversight of air and climate regulations in twenty fifteen and twenty sixteen.
So this was the year after the Climate Action Plan under then President Obama came out. It was the lead up to the Paris Climate Accords and the final reveal and finalization of the Clean Power Plan. So you had some large shifting dynamics in terms of the extent of authority that EPA assumed it had to effectuate certain regulatory outcomes. And we perform extensive oversight in the Senate. And when the administration changed, President Trump won. Our staff director at that time was Ryan Jackson.
He became the first chief of staff and he brought those of us that were interested from EPW over to the EPA. And we were part of the initial team. There was a small group of us, about 10 in the beginning, essentially handling a lot of the political responsibility at the agency. And we hit the ground running. And so I you know, I had I spent time exploring the ins and outs of the Clean Air Act, as well as the conversation around international climate policies and studying the ins and outs of the Administrative Procedure Act.
Now, I'll tell you this from the outside looking in, it's a little bit different from the inside looking out. So the extent of my expertise and wherewithal is how everything actually works increased dramatically once I got in the agency, but had a pretty good starting to try to work from to come into the agency and start Trump's vision within the EPA and a very successful manner.
So, I mean, you know, Trump is famous for promising to cuts to getting rid of new regulations for everyone put in. I think I think the ratio ended up being maybe one to eight.
And I would imagine that most of those ended up in the EPA's hands. How do we navigate that?
And then how do we navigate the narrative that I laid out previously where, again, if one regulation is good, then 10 must be better. And what the environment this becomes very emotional for people.
Nobody is actually thinking through, you know, the costs and the benefits here, because, you know, if you ask any reasonable person, you know, what sort of parameters you must go through, what kind of process you must go through to add another lane to a highway, we would probably develop some consensus.
No reasonable person thinks that you should do an endangered species study for, you know, for a simple off ramp.
OK, but we do do things like this.
We do crazy things like this. I mean, how do you how do you navigate that? What's the overarching philosophy that we should be thinking about? And what does the media get wrong when they're, you know, lambasting you guys as killers of the environment? Well, there's a lot there's a lot to discuss there. One of the overarching elements is that more regulation is not always good because you get to a point of diminishing returns. You can understand this in the application of anything, but certainly you get to a point where regulations become so onerous they generate unintended consequences that can have negative impacts for people, which EPA's mission is to protect public health and the environment.
And you can have negative consequences to the environment. So what we were very thoughtful and when we came into the top administration was the environmentalists and political motivations and groups had taken environmental laws that were put in place for good reason, but distorted their application to become barriers to growth and barriers to economic development. We threw that out from the get go and basically said, look, you can have a clean environment, but it also has to be balance next to a growing and robust economy because wealthy countries have the cleanest environments.
It's not the inverse of that. So we understood that and we applied that to the regulatory framework. And the other thing that we prioritize from the get go was the extent and limitations of the rule of law. The last administration showed a consistent tendency to take their authority and expand it well beyond what Congress had ever thought. So we came in and respected the four corners of the law, so to speak, and and didn't overstep our relative authority. And at the end of the day, what we achieved in the Trump administration at the EPA is we had a five to one ratio.
So for every one regulatory action, we had five deregulatory actions. At the by the time we walked out the door on January twenty twenty one, we had completed around seventy seven deregulatory actions, saving ninety nine billion dollars. But most importantly, at the same time, positive environmental trends continue. Our air pollution continue to decline, water quality improved, and we cleaned up legacy pollution all over the country that had been holding communities back. And so we proved out this concept that you can pull regulations off the books, you can reduce the economic impact and responsibility that falls to stakeholders while maintaining important standards.
And then those impacted stakeholders, whether it's a factory or a power plant or refinery, they can take money that would be spent complying with procedural expectations and put it towards investing in the latest and greatest technology, more efficient processes. And that proves much better for achieving better tangible environmental outcomes than growing the bureaucracy and just trying to curb and stymie economic growth.
So one of the things the left likes to say is that the Trump administration's EPA was directly attacked scientists and, you know, and tried to engage in this sort of Orwellian censorship of anything that had to do with climate change. I mean, what do you say to that? What's what's the truth behind it? And maybe hit on the science transparency rule, which I think came in at the end of the administration, and tell us what that is and how the left reacted to it.
Yeah, that was a totally false statement and there are a lot of misrepresentations that stand out in the media for all manner of reasons which we don't necessarily have to get into. But the truth is, we were we were very welcoming of all sorts of conversations. That was another element that we prioritize when we walked in, was listening to everyone who had had had adat skin in the game or steak at the table or whatever you want to use.
But we brought in our engineers and our scientists and our economy and our epidemiologists. All of these experts reside at EPA. So any time we were making regulatory decisions, we brought them and to hear them out and they all speak a little bit different language. And all of that comes together and ultimately be presented as a policy decision that the administrator would make. But we prioritize the advice coming from our science. It's largely housed within our Office of Research and Development at the EPA, and they provide advice on everything from air quality standards to water quality standards to the presence of different pollutants and what may or may not be working in particular areas across the country.
So not only did we listen to internal scientists, but also external scientists, because science is better when there's more people involved. That's why peer review is very important and it's actually an embedded part of EPA's regulatory process. And so one of the things to that that we learned, it was also interesting, a lot of us coming from the Senate and then working at the agency during the Obama years, we had heard from a number of outside folks who felt like they were impacted by regulations, but they didn't understand either underlying justifications because there was a proverbial black box, whether you're talking about the underlying scientific assessments or the underlying cost benefit analysis.
So when we came in, having experienced that for multiple years, we wanted to fix that within the EPA. And so on the science side, we put out, as you referenced towards the end, the science transparency rule, which really is what it is or what what's in the title is increasing public access to the scientific work that goes into EPA's decision making authority. This is something that has been fixed, is controversial, but it shouldn't be. I mean, there should be a bipartisan endeavor.
And it's it's that is the nature of the scientific process. You put something out there, you test it, and then you share it with your equally expert, like minded or experienced friends to cross-check. And the name of the game in science is reproducibility. And there are some variations within that, especially if you're dealing with hard, hard science versus social science. But nonetheless, that's very important in allowing the public to have access, one I think improves outcomes.
And then, two, improves the credibility that the public has in what's coming out of the agency that they can, in fact, trust it because it's been it's been double check you guys took took over.
What were some of the most shocking, I guess, pseudoscience examples? You know, trying trying to trying to justify an excessively costly regulation based on a set of supposed scientific facts that turn out to be pseudo science. Well. It's hard to come up with that in the context of the science. I mean, there is there is an instance there's one study that basically underlies a lot of the standards under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards Section. So the heart of the Clean Air Act, where we set the standards for criteria pollutants to protect public health.
And there is an analysis or there's a study that was done decades ago. It's called the Harvard Six City Studies. And that is something that hasn't been revisited in a really long time. And me just mentioning this, if anyone on the other side is listening, their head is exploding right now is very it's a very sensitive subject. People are very protective of it. And they come up with all sorts of reasons why we shouldn't go back in. And we studies that were done decades ago where there are some questionable metrics that were put into it.
So it is real science. I wouldn't say it's pseudo science.
So it doesn't necessarily say, let's call it weak science. And I in the point of the transparency rule is to at least at least demonstrate that. I mean, look, I would call it weak science. If you're if if, for instance, you're proposing a multitrillion dollar plan to, you know, to to completely destroy the US economy for the purpose of reducing carbon emissions. But what are you fighting and then you actually look at the U.N. data and what you're fighting is a well, you know, if we do nothing right now within our are.
Our GDP per per capita globally decreases by about four percent. Now, that's according to the U.N. data that I thought we all agreed on. So, you know, it becomes a cost benefit question. And, you know, to your point, I guess it's not just about exposing the the science being used, but also exposing the cost benefit analysis, which is maybe even more important, in which, you know, again, because it gets back to this premise that that the that the left like stop and the radical environmentalists like to operate off of, which is which is no cost is too high.
Right. An additional regulation must be better as long as you say it's for clean air or clean water. But it's like wait for this tiny marginal benefit if there even is a benefit, but an enormous cost.
Yeah, well, and bringing that up, there is a very egregious, somewhat known example in the context of Mat's, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, which was set in twenty twelve. And in that instance you had EPA lowered the cost benefit Dyce. So the fact that there were billions and billions of dollars in costs, they could amplify the benefits by by doing something called co benefits. So the Mercury rule was aimed at reducing mercury when he calculated the benefits in that rule to reducing mercury, you only had four to six million dollars in benefits generated.
Well, that doesn't that doesn't work out if you've got billions of dollars of costs. So what EPA did is they plus up the benefit side by adding a whole benefit of reducing PPM to point five. If you're reducing mercury, you're controlling for that, then you're also reducing particulate matter and two point five, and the benefit calculation is much greater. So they took millions of dollars and turned that into billions of dollars and then they could justify the rule.
So that was one of the purposes and motivations behind our cost benefit role, which is something we also did within the past year. Finalized was to ensure that when you're doing the analysis and setting standards, you focus on the costs and benefits of the targeted pollution first. And that way you don't end up in this instance where EPA set a standard that causes significant economic harm with very little actual benefit.
Yeah. And by the way, I'd point out that the Bush administration found a federal judge to vacate this rule and that should infuriate people. I mean, this is this is this is just transparency. Just tell us just tell us how you came up with this, because it's really easy, especially in the political world, for me to get hit with a headline that says, look, billions of dollars in savings and benefits and everybody just sort of accepts it, even though I always find that funny, like nobody trusts the media except when we're quoting them, but especially when it comes to environmental regulations.
You have to dig in like a bunch of layers deep. I mean, it's because you guys, you can you can manipulate the data and the stats and the cost benefit analysis to an exceptional extent.
And and it ends up with these really funny stories like, you know, it takes five years to put a telephone poll in, you know, or 10 years to get approval for an off ramp.
I mean, what is what are you know, as I saw an expression on your face when I said that.
So so I'll go down that path for me.
I mean, what are some of the ridiculous things that we do in the name of environmentalism, but in the end, just make our lives miserable for no good reason and no environmental benefit? Well, one of the things is permitting reform, so if you develop if you expand out of business, create economic growth, then you are likely going to be covered by some degree of environmental permit and an EPA under the Clean Air Act. We have something called the source review, which is something that has caused the opposite effect.
What it essentially has done is a company that's looking to invest in newer technologies. Let's say that's a 10 million dollar proposition. Well, if they trigger new source review and they have to go through that degree of EPA permitting, a 10 million dollar project turns into a couple billion dollar endeavor. And so when you're talking about companies where they're either operating on thin margins or they have other Kathak expenditures, or maybe they're trying to hire more people to grow their company, you know, millions of dollars to billions of dollars, that totally cancels out the project.
And what it also cancels out is the environmental benefit that would have been generated from that if you have a more efficient process for doing more with less. So you're using less energy or you have better scrubber technology and you're reducing the pollutants that are coming out of the relative stack. And we have under the new source review, that was one of the most egregious examples where you had such onerous regulations that it was deterring people from investing in more environmentally appropriate and environmentally friendly technologies to improve their operations.
It was actually so egregious that at the start of the administration, you may recall, the president had executive order directing people to write in about their deregulatory goals and what would reduce barriers to economic growth. And at the top of the list and Department of Commerce put this report together, it's still out there for anyone who's interested. But at the top of the list was EPA permitting and EPA permitting reform. And it's not just EPA that I like. What you referenced is that that we also made reforms under NEPA, the National Dialogue, the Environmental Protection Act.
And this was something that was headed by the White House over at CETA. But that was one of those instances where any federal project that triggered the application of NEPA, whether it was a road or a bridge, it basically made it impossible in this country to build roads and roads. Today, in certain areas, roads today are much better and more efficiently than even 10 years ago. But we have environmental standards that get in the way of developing that out.
And it's it's detrimental to the to the infrastructure of the country on a transportation side.
But also think about the infrastructure that's necessary to update the energy grid and and as we continue to evolve in a more energy grid process.
So, I mean, it sounds just like your beat your head against the wall trying trying to get these common sense regulations through or streamline these these things so that we can both protect the environment and live and do commonsense things. How was that?
I mean, how do you you know, you're a political appointee. And and underneath that, there's there's thousands and thousands of lifetime bureaucrats, lifetime federal workers, let's assume, many of which are just trying to do the right thing. But there's always going to be institutional resistance. And look, nobody nobody joins the EPA.
Nobody becomes a lifelong EPA bureaucrat because they love big business or, you know, I mean, that's not why they joined.
They joined to to kind of one goal in mind. And, you know, this is sort of an implicit bias. And I think it's a reasonable thing to say that their one goal is to protect the environment. And so I think there's a bias most likely to protect the environment, even if it comes at excessive cost to everything else. So what was that like dealing with that and how much how much institutional inertia is there and how much worse is it going to get under Biden?
Where? The political appointees he has are are not there to resist any of that. Yeah, it it was really interesting, I would say, going in, I, I had to shut off the media, especially coming in brand new to this and one of the things in this administration. So a lot of a lot of people who had previously worked at the administration in the Bush administration were not interested in coming back and working for President Trump for a variety of reasons.
So what it did is it made people like me who coming into the positions I took, I would say that the people historically who have had them had 10 to 15 years more career experience before taking on these big initiatives now gave us great opportunities and we did a lot. But what we were missing was the institutional wherewithal of how to actually get the bureaucracy to work for us. And that was one of the hardest things. Luckily, I had a really good support network and one of my support network ended up being my direct boss, the assistant administrator for the office of our radiation bill, where I'm someone who had that institutional experience and knowledge.
But leading up to that point, you know, things would just not. Not move or not be achieved or there were a lot of instances where I would have a meeting meeting with a group and within the ER office alone, there's five different sub offices in each of those five different sub offices. I was dealing with anywhere from 15 to 20 different issue at any given time. So it's certainly the drinking from the fire hose mentality. So I'd have a meeting, make a decision and in the follow up meeting wouldn't be for four to six weeks.
But during that four to six weeks, the the people within that office, they wouldn't be working to achieve the decision. Sometimes they would come back in and just do a total repeat of the briefing.
I think they think they can outlast you. Yeah, totally.
Is this the deep state? I mean, is this the deep state that everybody talks about? I don't always like using that word. I mean, it's a little kooky, but this is what people mean by it for sure. And it exists.
And it's not it's sometimes it's subtle. The deep state isn't always someone jumping out of a closet and stabbing you in the back.
Well, I would hope not, because that would be weird. An odd day at the office.
But it's but it's it's the subtle slow down of what you're trying to achieve. Now, some of that is by the nature of the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy is is a system designed to slow down decisions to ensure that they're thoughtful and balanced and methodical. Unfortunately, that can be abused. And there were a lot of people within the agencies and there were some at EPA that use that to their advantage to slow our progress down. And so we there's also something within there's a process within the process.
It's called the ADP process, but essentially it's a series of checks to ensure when we have a major regulatory action, all impacted offices are included. Everyone has an opportunity to have a say. And then we have regular check ins with the administrator. So we streamline some of that and ensure that we didn't fall into this process where the administrator or or whoever is the head of the office would make a decision and then no actual work would occur until the next check in for a variety of reasons.
But yeah, I mean, the deep state's real it's not everyone. There's a lot of really good civil servants that I work with that were extremely helpful. But, you know, here's the thing to that that a lot of people may not understand is there's politics within the bureaucracy. And for every every civil servant that was being helpful to me, there was probably someone taking notes that is now sharing those notes with the Biden administration telling the Biden people that this civil servant was really helpful to the Trump administration.
You should either not of the process or punish them for some reason because they helped us achieve our vision of environmental progress.
I mean, that goes on to so it's there's there's lots of lots of internal politics that I think that I bet I mean, it's and it's looked at the political leanings of federal workers are almost always on the left and in the EPA, I'd imagine that's it's certainly not 50 50.
So it's probably extremely challenging. And those biases certainly manifest in actions if you're a red state of fear by Michael Crichton.
Yeah, I know. So great book. I mean, I read it when I was like, I don't know, like 12, maybe a long time ago, maybe a little older.
But it's so, you know, it's it's a it's a fictional story about I actually don't even remember the plot, but it's basically about environmentalists versus non environmentalist.
But but it but it uses and it's a bit about the climate change debate as well.
And but mostly what it's exposing is the massive, multi-billion, maybe multitrillion dollar business behind environmentalism.
And it is not all it's not all nice and pretty and sunshine. Right. There's it's a money making industry. There's massive consultancies, massive non-profits. There's a lot of money to be made here. And so, you know, how worried should we be that that some of our career bureaucrats are really trying to to please some of that industry, maybe look for a job out out there when they when they get out of this one. And, you know, does does that tend to affect some of some of these decisions as well?
Yes, certainly, I mean, they want to stay in the good graces. I'll say this to you, which may come as a surprise to Republicans. We always get charged that we're doing the bidding of corporations and industry. But actually a lot of the civil servants, they either want to work at an NGO or they want to go work within the regulatory department or compliance department of large corporations. And so this this is most prevalent in something called the heavy duty vehicle standards, where you had major corporations that were working with the agency and at the at the bureaucracy before they'd even put a proposal.
So kind of behind the scenes before the public knows what's going on, setting of standards and coming to an agreement in principle. And you have corporations in there wielding the regulatory process in a way that they can afford, but they know that smaller businesses or disruptive technologies, they're not going to be able to comply and they can squash their competition through the regulatory process. And they have great relationships with career bureaucrats that want to keep that good relationship, because whenever they leave, they want to go and they say they want to be a part of the corporate world.
So there is a revolving door. I'm not I you know, I think being in an industry and coming into an agency, whether it's legal or whether it's at a company or whatnot, is is good. Right. It informs the process when you're coming in as a regulator. But there's a hypocrisy to it, because if you're Republicans coming in and you work on one side of the equation, well, then you've got a corrupt heart or you've got corrupt morality.
But the other side, because they work at NGOs or they work for, you know, morally superior corporations that do a lot of green washing. Well, that's OK. And that's actually encouraged. So there are those dynamics where the bureaucracy will happily work with corporations for a variety of reasons. And they don't care that the standards they ultimately set puts out those corporations. Business helps them grow or protect market share and then suppresses the ability of disruptive technologies that may be better from a variety of perspectives from ever actually taking off.
Yeah, that's exactly right. I mean, another example of that would be big oil companies support a carbon tax. And, you know, they know very well that that might result in them gaining market share because, well, one, they already have a huge international footprint. The two, they might swallow up some of those mid-sized producers and smaller producers that can't possibly work in those margins. And, you know, I don't like it. We could talk about carbon tax.
We might as well. Why not?
I don't I don't like it because it's unless it's international, it's useless. And I would make the argument and tell me this is a stretch, but you might actually increase global emissions because demand doesn't go away.
But if you tax if you tax our production excessively, what will happen is you might see production shift to countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and more likely that you get an increase in emissions accordingly just because they're dirtier producers, they're more harmful to the environment.
Another example I would say is, you know, why do you think Amazon wants a 15 dollar minimum wage? Because they can afford it because they're big and because they get most of their profits from Amazon Web Services anyway so they can afford it. They convert to signal and they can gain market share by putting all the smaller ones out of business.
So they respond to any of that. I think it's very timely, actually. There was there was a Wall Street Journal article about an association discussing this point yesterday. But I think, yeah, if you make energy more expensive here, demand's not going to go down. You're exactly right. And it will go abroad. It'll go abroad to Russia and to China. And China has proven very dishonest in the environmental discussion.
What, and shut the front door. Know, breaking news here.
They they the last time they updated their emissions. This is just one example. The last time they updated their emissions inventory, which is essentially every country is supposed to calculate the emissions that come from various industries. They measure all that and they submit it to the U.N. We actually do this in the precursor treaty to Paris called the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. You to see the Framework Convention on climate change sorry. China last submitted emissions data to that inventory in twenty fourteen.
And their emissions calculation, this has been proven, is off by an amount that is more than all the emissions of Germany and a few other European countries. It's something like 20 percent. And so they're not only dishonest in the data that they're submitting in the context of environmental discussion, but they continue to talk about being leaders in climate change and building out renewal. Meanwhile, though, they are building more coal plants than any other country and they're building them in ways that don't even comply to standards that are coal plants have been meeting for decades.
They don't use the latest and greatest pollution control technologies that reduce things like nitrous oxide and particulate matter from coming out. Which is why if you ever go to China and I haven't been since the nineteen nineties, nineteen ninety four actually, but my husband's been fairly recently and he was wearing face mask when he was there before covid just because the air pollution in the air quality is so bad when you walk outside, if you don't have a face mask on you literally cannot breathe.
They are suffocating their own people. But the international community and the administration have shown a propensity to turn a blind eye to that because China will say the right things in the climate change discussion. And it's just it's it's so dishonest.
Well, they don't just turn a blind eye. They, like, openly applaud China. There's a really weird thing going on. I can't tell if it's purposeful or if it's stupid. Like, are the Chinese really that good at propagandizing us? But, yeah, I mean, you hear that a lot from from not stupid people. I just saw an interview that drove me crazy.
I can't remember who is with, but I know you'd recognize the name. And I was like, well, I just want to like jump into that and be like, what are you talking about? Like, people are people are hailing China. Is this sort of this climate and environmental leader?
Is it just because they produce a lot of solar panels and ship them here? I mean, is that why, like, I don't know what people's what people's thoughts are on this? It's weird.
I you know, I won't pretend to be like a broader China expert, but I think it's some approach to soft diplomacy. But I do know enough that there enough of a threat on the economic side as well as other sides, that we shouldn't be treating them with kid gloves. And we certainly if you if you call yourself an environmentalist, just stepping aside from all that, if you call yourself an environmentalist, then you need to call out good behavior and call out bad behavior and not give anyone a free pass because of some larger soft diplomacy effort.
That's I mean, that's what I think. But but China is certainly a problem. And then, you know, back to back to your carbon tax. And it certainly makes things more expensive, but it also doesn't work. I mean, you've seen areas where they have embraced carbon taxes. Costs go up as new emissions, as you mentioned. And so it's ineffective. I mean, the effective way to to reduce emissions, if that's really what you want to do and not create a whole new bureaucratic institutions or raise a lot of money to pay for entitlements, then you invest money in technology or you encourage the marketplace to produce technology, because we have proved that we know how to reduce emissions.
It's by encouraging technology. It's not by just applying a strict fee, because ultimately, at the end of the day, that that just makes larger companies grow larger but doesn't necessarily reduce emissions or reduce other environmental impacts.
Yeah, you know, environmental is beside the point you've made over and over again. It's really important and worth repeating. Regulatory capture is a real thing and big business, big corporations tend to love more regulations, you know, so it's just important for people to realize that it always seems counterintuitive, but it's always true. And, you know, when it comes to the carbon tax, yeah, you can tax it more, but you don't have the technology to replace it now.
Now, they would say, but you need to incentivize them to invest in the technology to replace it. And, you know, and so, so fair enough. I mean, I understand it in theory for sure. And it works on a you know, on a graph and some in the classroom. But like you said, it's not it's not obvious that it works in real life. And for that reason, just because you don't have the technology to replace it with that, it's actually a baseload power source.
And so what are some countries that have tried it? I mean, do you have those examples off, off, off the top of your head? The word doesn't work that well.
Certainly Australia did. They they imposed one and then they backed away from it. At the end of the day, their electricity costs increased substantially and they saw that they weren't getting the environmental bang for the taxpayer buck. And that also has it also has major political implications. I mean, you saw some pretty shifting dynamics in Australia over the last few years. You also saw in Germany. Now I'm saying this. I know that they had some degree of a carbon tax.
They certainly had a significant investment in renewable energy sources. And I think that was mostly funded by relative taxes. But nonetheless, energy prices skyrocketed. The term energy poverty became commonplace, where you had people who just could no longer afford their energy utility bills they had to do without. And they had to do it in some extreme weather conditions that caused severe negative health consequences, most people can understand that. I'll say I was I'm in Mississippi right now and we had an ice storm come through the same one that went through Texas and it shut down.
I remember a couple of days in a place like Mississippi where it was 20 degrees outside with substantial humidity. That makes it feel even colder. And it's hard. I mean, there were there were a lot of people our church actually opened up the door. I saw to let people come in who are susceptible to being exposed to the extreme weather conditions to ensure that nobody lost their life or got sick, because losing power has real, tangible, immediate consequences, especially to vulnerable citizens.
So we experience that in a very small form here. But in Germany and places in Europe where they've been, they've been embracing either carbon tax policies or green New Deal type initiatives or over reliance on building grids that can't withstand disruptions and changes that are naturally going to occur. People are having to do without energy and typically they're having to do without it at times where they're exposed to extreme conditions. So not only does it not work, but it has significant health impacts that that people need to understand.
You need the power to be on when you need it to be on. And, you know, that was the big lesson. I won't be that Deadhorse too much because the last podcast we did was was on that last couple, really. And it's a big lesson coming out of the the issues we had in Texas with the power outages is is you need power that works all the time and you have to have that baseload. And so there's a natural ceiling to how much renewables you can have on the grid before it's just there's diminishing returns.
There's no point to it because there's definitely a flaw on on how much baseload you can get rid of. Now, you can still make it cleaner and, you know, promote things like nuclear. And I do want to I want to get to that actually here in a minute. But I want to pull on another thread that we we were talking about was sort of the again, the deep state, the the interest groups of the radical side of environmentalism and groups like Sierra Club, Greenpeace, who who lead the charge on this.
But talk to us about some of their strategies particularly weaponized in the court system. And and I wonder if there's a way for us to to fight back along those grounds as well. It doesn't doesn't seem so because it seems so easy to do what they do. And it almost seems like some of these regulations, especially that my colleagues like to propose, are almost designed for trial lawyers to take advantage of and and stop things, whether it's a pipeline or whether it's a new development or whatever it is, just to stop any kind of human development and sue and then settle and sue and then settle.
You know, I've talked to others in the administration about this about this this tendency on permitting for bureaucrats in Washington with good intentions take so long to permit something just because they don't want to get sued. Right. So when you should just be approving something like that, because it's so simple, they might write a thousand pages.
They might they might do that years and years of work just to avoid these frivolous lawsuits. Yeah, and there's ample opportunities for groups looking to slow down the process, for them to weigh in and allege things that they may be meritorious or not, but the effect will be delaying the receipt of a permit and then whatever it is, the permit is for to build something out or to grow something and create additional economic productivity to unsettle was a major problem.
And it was something that we from the start also sought to address by not totally doing away with the ability to settle with groups, because sometimes there are instances where it makes sense and it's more efficient just from a pure good governance perspective, knowing that at the end of the day we do have resource limitations, whether it's personnel or monetarily. But nonetheless, this was something that the environmentalists figured out how to do quite effectively, where they would sue the agency sometimes to sue the agency for not doing something.
And then that forces the agency to get on a court mandated time frame to actually do something. And there's all sorts of problems with that. If you're in a court mandated time frame, the agency, like people, also procrastinate. So at some point, the agency runs up to a court deadline and they have to regulate in haste. And that can cut short the consideration of public input. That can cut short the consideration of technicalities like nuanced differentiations between regulatory standards.
So it can it can cut out pieces of that process that are really important to ensure that regulations issued at the end of the day are balanced, achievable and move the ball forward in terms of environmental progress.
The other issue, too, with with the environmental groups, I mean, it's a revenue source for them. They can sue and settle with the agency on certain aspects and they can get they regularly get forty thousand dollars and attorneys fees just here and there and they'll see on all manner of things. So there's taxpayer dollars funding environmentalist organizations to sue the agency in perpetuity. It's just it's continual. So we tried we tried to slow it down, to slow it down, to limit its application, because there's also there's a there's a public component to it as well.
If the agency enters into a consent agreement with one party, it's a legally binding agreement that enjoys protections but limits the ability of the public to know what's going on. Limits transparency in those conversations. And those are typically attorney client protections. And so those are good things. But in this context, when they're abused, you're cutting the public out of something that, by its very design, is supposed to be very inclusive of the public. And so we slow that process down.
We set in place an internal mechanism to assess whether or not we should ultimately settle and invite other parties to to have a say in that process as well. At the end of the day, it's something Congress could weigh in on. I certainly think that that politically, you know, you know better than me right now that that would be a tall hill to climb. But it's going to take something like that to better define and limit those practices. Otherwise, it's up to whoever the political leadership is at that time.
And what we've seen with Democrats is they they have a strong propensity to sue, to engage in sue and settlement practices. And it ends up giving revenue a revenue source to organizations that sue the agency to force certain environmental goals. But then also those same organizations fund political parties and then political candidates. And so there is there's it gets it gets somewhat dirty pretty quick. Yeah. Yeah, it does.
And it's not just on the environmental side.
Obviously, the the you know, I say that about why were Democrats against covid liability, why this is a big priority. Should should be pretty bipartisan. You ask your average American, should there should their local restaurant be sued?
If somebody gets covid there, everybody's like, no, of course not. That would that would be bad. But we can't get Democrats to agree with that. They like their trial lawyers. Trial lawyers are out there spending money on like spending money on politics. So maybe what can we expect from the Biden administration? How radical is it going to be obvious to the Democrat Party as a whole has moved as lurch to the left as you as you probably have an ear to the ground and see who's starting to staff the all the political appointments at EPA on a scale of one to 10, 10 being AOK Green New Deal and in one being.
Well, geez, I don't know you or, you know, like, well, what's it going to be? Yeah, I think well it's it's interesting. It depends on who you're talking about. So the EPA administrator, Michael Regan, who comes from North Carolina, is a state based regulator. I mean, as far as I understand, I think he's in the six to seven category. Like he certainly leans Democrat is pro regulation. He's laid out and certainly bought into and repeated the climate change, environmental justice talking points that are going to be used as a justification to ramp up the regulatory actions from EPA.
But you do, I believe, will really be calling the environmental shots is going to be Gina McCarthy and former Secretary of State Kerry, who are at the White House. And you have a climate domestic climate czar and international climate czar, and they're going to be the ones calling the shots. And as far as that range, I mean, they're in the I would say like nine category. I hate to say 10 because kind that on our own.
But they they're they're pretty extreme. And the thing you have to understand about Gina McCarthy is she's been running the NRDC, which is an activist organization that has really been laying out a lot of these extreme environmental policies where they're finding ways to implement the Green New Deal through regulatory fiat. And I believe that she's going to be the one ultimately calling the shots, which is also totally different than the last administration. The thing about President Trump is he would essentially deputize his cabinet, his cabinet leaders.
He had the full trust in their keep their ability to achieve his vision, but he just let them go off and beat. And and if anything came up, Administrator Wheeler called the president. Now, it's going to be a situation where you had these climate czars calling the shots. And it'll be interesting to see if it's EPA soon to be confirmed, I presume, EPA administrator Michael Regan, something comes up. Is he going to have to go through the equivalent of White House staff to talk to the president, even though he's the cabinet member?
It's going to create a lot of interesting dynamics. And at the end of the day, he may have a propensity to be more moderate and considerate because he has state based experience where they keep ideals and implement them. But he's going to be taking orders from someone who is just the head of one of the more extreme environmental groups that engages in sue and settle, engages in these notions of carbon free by twenty thirty five and putting an end to the internal combustion system and really being dishonest and disingenuous about all the progress that was made from the environmental side under under the Trump administration.
You know what's interesting about that? This topic is, again, I think most normal thinking, smart people want some balance in their environmental regulation. And I think that's what our side stands for. We just want balance. And I think that's rational environmentalism. And nobody wants a bunch of sludge going into the rivers and nobody wants plastic in the ocean. Obviously, nobody wants this. We want sustainable forest management. All of these things, we don't think there should be too many.
We don't wanna look like China with with air pollution. And we don't by the way, it's kind of a whole other we could possibly talk about for another hour on, you know, on on particulates in the air and what's harmful and what isn't. And, you know, maybe assessing some of the Democrats claims that everyone you know, actually, I do want to ask you this one, because I I have heard some throw out a statistic that's like one out of five people die from from air pollution.
I don't know where they're getting this from.
It seems excessive. How do you even assess whether somebody died from air pollution in America, of all places?
Well, this goes into this goes into what I referenced earlier about when you're talking about social sciences, where human beings are involved in the equation, it's hard to have a scientific analysis, that analysis that is reproducible and therefore withstand scrutiny within the scientific process. It's most likely they're referencing one of those quick fire analyses where someone looks at, let's say, in a given day that ozone levels trigger and then someone will just take that one statistic and then they will see how many people went to the hospital with either like asthma attacks or heart attacks.
And then they will associate it. Yeah, both of them. And it's like, OK, maybe that's one factor. But life is pretty complex and being out in the world is pretty complex. And so the heart attack may have been triggered by someone's lifelong maybe they ate McDonald's every day or something like that. They were unhealthy. Or maybe there was a stressful. That that triggered a response, but those sorts of analyses, they don't account for everything else in life.
Another example, Mary, yet another example of that earlier in my early podcast with. No, it wasn't Oren Cass, was it? Who did that analysis anyway? There's analysis on you know, you always hear this giant number like, you know, this is the cost of climate change or, you know, the social cost of carbon.
And usually what they're doing is is is adding in there the human cost. So the human life lost to climate change. And then you look at how they actually analyze this and come up with this with these numbers.
It's pretty shocking and very easy to debunk. I mean, basically, what they're the premise of their argument is basically, OK, if Philadelphia's cold now, it's going to be warmer in 100 years and it's going to look like Mississippi or Houston. And so we assume that you're going to have one hundred and fifty times more poor, more heat related deaths in Philadelphia as a result, like hundred fifty times more than Houston. So so on its face, this doesn't make any sense.
And there's some tricky math. They come up with this. But but if you just take a quick step back and you're like, wait a second, because that's the that's the implication of this analysis and it completely falls on its face. Just not true. Yeah, it's it's if you were a lawyer and you were trying to argue before a court and you brought scientific information, it would be thrown out. Yeah, it is total junk. And, you know, it's super problematic because I feel like if we in Mississippi have figured out how to survive in hotter weather with humidity, people in Philadelphia will be able to figure it out, figure it out when there's less humidity.
I mean, that's that's the reality is as the climate changes as it has for forever, human beings have shown a ingenious ability to adapt and all sorts of ways. You mentioned or in case a little bit ago he had a really I think it was wearing Kassi. He had a really good point saying like, yeah, human beings have been living in in situations that would be otherwise uninhabitable. But we invented things like buildings and jackets so that we could survive extreme cold or extreme hot.
And it gets to that point about balance. I mean, you know, we're going we're going to adapt to an extent to climate change that, you know, we have to be realistic about the cost that it imposes. I don't think anybody wants it to spin out of control, which is fair, which again, gets to innovative solutions that we can reduce emissions. I've done a ton of podcasts on that already, though, so I don't want to really go down that track.
Maybe I want to end it with this and just that. On a positive note, you know, what are maybe better solutions to to clean air, clean water, cleaner oceans? Is there anything on the horizon or or is there a better, better regulatory philosophy or framework that we can explain to your average person and say, look, this is what we're for? Because we do as Republicans, we do get painted with this notion that we that we truly just don't care about the environment and conservation.
And that's that's really not true at all. No, that's not true at all, and we we just as much as Democrats, I think we all agree that we want we want a better planet for the future. What we disagree is how do we ultimately get there? And even those disagreements, setting aside the political rhetoric, that rhetoric that has evolved from that discussion, we're not that far apart. But the biggest thing for us is it's what you said, it's balance.
We believed in balance regulations where you continue to establish you address tangible environmental issues with practical solutions, and you do it in a manner that balances the natural impact of regulatory actions on the surrounding economy and the surrounding communities. So it's the hard part for us is it's a nuanced position, but I believe it's the right position. And the best news is that we had four years where we proved this out in an unprecedented fashion. Air pollution went down seven percent.
The clean water standards back in 1970 when EPA started measuring clean water, clean drinking water standards, only about 40 percent of water districts met low health standards. Today, 90 percent of water districts meet the highest level of drinking water standards. And then you also have the matter of greenhouse gases. We lead the world in greenhouse gas emissions reductions and we've actually done it by the nature of the litigation. Went not without a all encompassing greenhouse gas emission standard on the utility sector.
That's pretty complex that we don't have to necessarily get into that. But the good news is we in the United States have figured out how to do environmentalism. Right. I think we should continue to embrace that. And the core principles are balance and innovation. And we can continue to be leaders in this area. And we don't have to as conservatives. We don't have to forego anything we would otherwise want to do as freedom loving Americans. If you want to drive your car, you can drive your car.
If you want to go on a plane, but you want to eat a hamburger, you can do those things and we can do those and continue to improve environmental outcomes. We just may have to deal with four years of regulatory uptick. But the the thing about all of us that worked in the Trump administration is that when we have the chance to go back now, we really know what we're doing. We know how to shape the bureaucracy to achieve the outcomes that we ultimately want, and we're going to be primed and ready to go.
OK, is that a future future EPA administrator? Administrator right there talking. All right, Andy, thanks so much for being on and and helping us. This is a complex subject and appreciate the audience for sticking with us on this one, because it's important. It's important and unvarying. The the layers behind a lot of these headlines is difficult to do. So appreciate the help with. Many thanks for being on it. Thank you.