MACHIAS – Maine’s regulatory environment should strengthen rule-making transparency, accountability and reliance on sound science.

In particular, the spirit and direction of the National Environmental Policy Act should be revisited. NEPA requires that before action is taken, a careful and open consideration of likely consequences must occur.

Environmental impact statements are required before federal permits are issued. Impact statements required to offer an open estimate, based on sound science, of the environmental and economic consequences of proposed rules, will have a salutary effect on both rules and rulemaking.

One example of this approach is legislation I had introduced to the 122nd Legislature, the “Sound Science in Climate Change Policy Act.” It required that when the Department of Environmental Protection adopts rules designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the department must issue an estimate of the amount of global warming that will be prevented and the costs that will result from the rules requiring reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

This legislation was strongly supported by the regulated community and strongly opposed by the environmental left. Had it passed as presented, I believe it would have gone a long way toward bringing some badly needed honesty, transparency and possibly consensus to climate policy.

An example from the 123rd Legislature was “An Act To Require Regulatory Impact Estimates on Private Property,” which required an agency adopting a rule to develop an impact statement specifying how the rule would affect private property values.

The impact statement must specify whether the rule will have no significant impact, significant positive impact, significant negative impact or significant positive and negative impact. The impact statement must be made public no less than 45 days before the rule is adopted.

Again, requiring agencies to openly and honestly consider these matters will improve the rule-making process and results. Like NEPA, this approach does not set a substantive policy standard, but simply requires open and prudent review, based on sound science and agency discretion, before taking a policy leap.

The Regulatory Reform Committee should also take a careful look at how Maine deals with risk assessment and policy issues associated with the “precautionary principle.”

There are several different versions of the precautionary principle. One was part of the Rio Treaty and Agenda 21. Others have been developed by the environmental left.

In any case, the precautionary principle or some version of it has clearly influenced Maine environmental policy for some time, including climate change policy, toxic substances, land conservation, genetically modified foods and endangered species. An open discussion and evaluation of the precautionary principle and its varying definitions should be undertaken.

In the opinion of presidential regulatory policy adviser Cass Sunstein, the precautionary principle as enunciated by the United Nations provides little practical guidance for making risk-based regulatory decisions. In my opinion, the versions espoused by the environmental left are excessively risk averse and inconsistent with capitalism and growth.

An argument can be made that the application of the precautionary principle to the case of Iraq, WMDs and Saddam Hussein led to some very unfortunate and counterproductive policy decisions.

The environmental left argues that Maine’s environmental policies are protecting our “quality of place brand.” The Brookings Report and the sequel from Envision Maine argue that aggressive statist intervention to protect that brand are essential.

Maine’s political and bureaucratic liberal elites quote those reports to defend the green nanny state they have created and serve. I think protecting freedom would be a better choice for sustaining Maine.

Gov. LePage and the GOP majority in the State House should roll back the green nanny state. Two Nobel laureates, Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek, have persuasively argued that relying on the state and rulemaking will rarely, if ever, bring better results than markets, regardless of how flawed markets may be.

Simply put, they say that either the state (and its rulemakers) are not up to the job (the information requirements are too complex), or, the state will become an agent for special interests and benefit them at the expense of the less politically powerful.

That is what has happened in Maine, and we are indeed on a green road to serfdom. The Regulatory Reform Committee and Gov. LePage can move us off that road toward freedom and prosperity.

– Special to the Press Herald