Earth Day Briefing Unveils Five Rational Principles For A Better Environment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In celebration of Earth Day a panel of environmental experts gathered in Washington, D.C. at a National Center for Policy Analysis Congressional briefing that urged lawmakers to move away from accusations of who values restoring, protecting and conserving the environment most to focusing instead on sensible environmental policies.

"The best chance we have to improve the environment is to break the stranglehold of the command and control policies promoted by the EPA and the extremist environmental lobby," according to Scott Spendlove, acting director of the Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Agricultural Task Force for the American Legislative Exchange Council. "Instead, it's time to start using the innovative market-based solutions that have been developed in the states," he said.

Panelists proposed a set of principles for a better environment. First among them is the requirement that government policies do no harm.

Jonathan Adler, director of environmental policies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, pointed out that reducing the size and scope of the federal government can, in many cases, help protect the environment. He said that too many federal programs actually subsidize pollution, inefficiency and waste. "Even the tax code has anti-environmental components," he said. "The estate tax, for example, spurs unneeded development by walloping rural families with large tax assessments on underdeveloped land that is passed down. Often subdividing and developing that land, and destroying whatever habitat exists is the only way to cover the tax liability. So even tax cuts can encourage greater environmental protection," he said.

Another principle, according to Sterling Burnett, environmental policy analyst with the National Center for Policy Analysis, is allowing markets to work.

"A healthy environment depends upon a healthy economy," he said. "The worst environmental problems are found in impoverished countries with stagnant economies. For instance, Haiti has the lowest GNP in North and Central America and a negative growth rate. Poverty is the driving factor behind Haiti's high rates of deforestation.

Because less than 30 percent of the population outside of the capital has access to safe drinking water, deadly water borne diseases and parasitic infections contribute to Haiti's high infant and toddler mortality rates, the highest in the Americas. The same tragic tale is true around the globe from Madagascar to Kazakhstan."

"In contrast, in relatively wealthy developed countries, people demand environmental quality. As companies in competitive market economies seek to become more efficient, they reduce the amount of pollution produced," Burnett said.

Angela Antonelli with the Heritage Foundation stressed that federal mandates and environmental regulators often hamper environmental progress by focusing on catching paperwork errors and punishing harmless activities. "A better environmental future can be had, but only when environmental laws are limited to setting standards that assure human health and safety, then allowing individuals and businesses to find the best ways of meeting those standards. When people cause harm, they should be punished – after the government proves the crime," she said. According to Antonelli, federal mandates too often regulate miniscule, hypothetical risks rather than combating serious environmental harm. "In general, markets stimulate responsible behavior far better than one-size-fits-all bureaucratic regulations," she concluded.