Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 7:12 pm | Overcast 57º


Ron Fink: Politicians’ Insatiable Need to Use Your Money to Save Environment

California has the most stringent environmental regulations in the nation. Not to be outdone, Santa Barbara County "improves on" these regulations and is widely known for being the hardest county in the state in which to do business.

Not only do these harsh standards chase businesses away, they directly impact your pocketbook.

State regulators, and specifically Democratic politicians, make themselves feel good by passing new rules every session of the Legislature.

Overeager governors readily sign laws that impact each of us unnecessarily. All this costs money, but frequently the costs associated with these rules are passed along to local jurisdictions.

Community budgets all over the state are in serious trouble, and part of their problem is so-called unfunded mandates; that is, things legislators think are important for the environment, but not important enough to provide funding for them.

And, whether you live in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Lompoc or Sisquoc, you are going to have your budget impacted, too.

One example was a $90-million-plus project in Lompoc to upgrade the wastewater plant to meet new state standards that greatly exceeded the national standard for effluent discharges.

This cost rate-payers — that’s every family in Lompoc — significant wastewater rate increases for the next several decades.

Another are the landfill standards that require bundles of cash to be piled up for closure actions when the canyon gets filled up.  Of course, to pay for it, local agencies were required to raise solid-waste rates.

And, recycling programs cost you money when you buy many different items in your local grocery store, and even more because these rules now require three trash trucks instead of one to pick up your trash.

Yet another: gasoline for your car costs 65-cents-a-gallon more than the national average just so pompous politicians who rule California can claim they are “saving the environment.”

And, Gov. Jerry Brown just got approval to extend the cap-and-trade rule which is estimated to add another 24-73 cents per gallon.

Not satisfied with taxing the air we breathe, now there are new rules for rain. Rain water, known in the regulatory world as storm-water discharge, flows into piping systems designed to carry excess water downgrade to the nearest stream or river.

Folks commonly refer to these systems as the sewer, which clever politicians are seizing on as an opportunity to raise taxes again without your vote. The Assembly committee on local government correctly determined that:

“Local governments face several barriers to funding for storm water and dry weather runoff projects due to the constitutional requirements for special taxes, benefit assessments, and property-related fees.

"As regulatory burdens continue to increase, financially strapped local governments are forced to examine alternative funding mechanisms and regional strategies to address costs.

"For example, the costs in Los Angeles County alone are cited to be over $20 billion.”
And, the Senate found that since 2002, “state and federal water quality regulators have imposed increasingly costly requirements on cities and counties to clean up their storm water discharge.”

So, how did legislators solve a problem they created by adopting new requirements? For them it was to change a couple of definitions and eliminate the voter from the process to help with the decision-making process.

Finding money is tough when you must persuade voters, but not that hard when you only need to persuade a majority of council members to raise fees.

After passage of this legislation, the action would allow politicians in local jurisdictions to raise fees at will based on new storm-water requirements.

As we have seen in the past, local government officials have never seen a fee they weren’t willing to raise for almost anything. To you and me, it will mean rates will be increased, but what can we expect in return?

Let’s say reconstructing the storm-water system — including drainage from private property, sewers, catch basins and creating new filtration systems that don’t allow anything other than pure rainwater to leave your property — is going to require reconstruction of the entire rainwater disposal system in every part of California, including your driveway.

That will cost billions to accomplish, and when it’s over, all we will have is emptier wallets due to the rain tax.

To all of you well-meaning environmentalists who think your quest is noble, consider all the people who are paying for it.

Personally, I get tired of paying to save the environment and then have a new crop of pilgrims tell me the earth is still dying and if we just spend more money it will fix it.

Let’s face it, for all the trillions of dollars that have been spent, and lost through onerous regulation, by working folks and businesses to save the environment, are we any better off today than when we started?

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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