Western Caucus Examines Washington Barriers to Prosperity and Property Rights in the West

February 29, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Senate Western Caucus Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Steve Pearce (R-NM), Hearing Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Members of the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses hosted a bicameral hearing entitled “Washington Barriers to Prosperity and Property Rights in the West.”
Caucus Members and witnesses, including Idaho Governor Butch Otter and Mike and Chantell Sackett of Idaho, examined the Obama Administration’s environmental and natural resource policies and their negative impact on jobs, economic growth and private property rights in western states and communities.
Highlights from the Hearing:
“Often the voice of the West is lost among the powerful special interests that comprise the environmental lobby and their allies in this Administration.  Every day these witnesses face aggressive bureaucratic red tape and litigation that cost thousands of jobs.  The quality of life in America’s western and rural areas depends on policies that promote economic growth, not constrain it.  Principles such as protecting private property rights, supporting limited government, advocating for local control, and protecting the multiple use of our public lands, are essential to achieving that economic growth.”
  • U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Senate Western Caucus Chairman

(From remarks as prepared for delivery)

"When it's a federal agency [changing the law], acting within what some refer to as our fourth branch of government or what others refer to as just part of the executive branch of government, they can just make the change of law, notwithstanding the fact that not one of them is a senator, not one of them is a representative, or the president. Not one of them has ever stood for any election. Not one of them serves in their current job subject to re-election. And as a result, your only recourse is to take them to court and to prove that what they've done is 'arbitrary and capricious' or outside their statutory authority, which is a very, very high hurdle to satisfy. I see this all over our state, I see it all over the West, this problem of lawmaking by executive fiat. There was a very good reason why our Founding Fathers, 224, almost 225 years ago, sat down and said, 'The lawmaking power is a quintessential component of what it means to be a government, and we're going to entrust that power only to those who are elected and who will stand for re-election at regular intervals.' We've got a problem with that, I'm fighting every day to try to overcome that." 

  • U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)

“Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, gas prices have doubled, unemployment has increased, and our national debt has skyrocket.  Today, we heard from people across the West who feel the pain of this administration’s indifference.  Whether from an elected official focused on helping their state, county or town succeed, a fourth generation farmer trying to pass down the family farm a little better than he found it, or just a couple trying to build a home, we heard example after example of our federal government getting in the way of the American dream.  The West and the rest of our country deserves better.”

  • U.S. Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM), Congressional Western Caucus Chairman
“We are not here today to question the merits of protecting our environment.  We all support clean air and water and the protection of our treasured landscapes and resources.  But we must be concerned when enforcement starts becoming an end unto itself and we start ignoring the impacts that arbitrary, heavy-handed federal enforcement can have on the lives of people and their communities.”
  • U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Hearing Chairman
“I am proud that the Western Caucus is constantly trying to highlight the barriers to success placed in front of the West by an overreaching federal government.  Today’s hearing was enlightening, and I am very appreciative that Governor Butch Otter (ID) spent time helping my colleagues in Washington understand the unique challenges facing Western states.  It’s been my experience that resources managed by the state, by the people that live there, the people that genuinely care about the future of the land, water and wildlife where they work and raise their families, are in better health than areas under the command and control structure dictated from Washington.”
  • U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Congressional Western Caucus Vice Chairman
“As one can see from these statistics, the federal impact on Idaho is vast.  Relying on federal land managers in Washington, D.C., to make most of the decisions about what happens on Idaho land too often leads to poor choices, mismanaged resources, local resentment and distrust.  We need more flexibility, more local control and regulations tailored to the unique characteristics of our western states.   For the economic future of Idaho and its sister states in the West, federal land managers must provide balance in the management of these lands and respect the individuality of the states and citizens their decisions impact.”     
  • Idaho Governor Butch Otter
“The Mountain West holds some of the most beautiful and prosperous areas of our country, but it’s increasingly come under attack from bureaucrats in Washington. Whether it’s cutting off public lands to American energy production or the EPA issuing restrictive rulings, Utah and our neighbors in the West have been a target from bureaucrats thousands of miles away in Washington.”
  • U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
“It would be nice to say these are unusual stories, but those of us who represent western states hear these things every single day.  Where is the common sense?  It is absolutely gone.”
  • U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID)
“Hopefully, as we gear up to reauthorize the Farm Bill we can give the USDA the necessary tools to help producers feed a growing and troubled world rather than building barriers that limit their success.”
  • U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS)
“EPA issues thousands of wetlands compliance orders every year – and, like us, the landowners can’t appeal them directly to court.   So we don’t know how many of these orders are based on real environmental facts, or on superficial, shoddy, drive-by reviews, as in our case.    In our case, EPA never did any testing on our property before ordering us to stop work and walk away from our dreams.  We know this much about EPA’s wetlands compliance orders: They stop people from using their property, and that destroys jobs.   From what we can see based on our own experience, EPA must be one of America’s most efficient job-killing machines.”
  • Mike and Chantell Sackett—Small Business Owners from Priest Lake, Idaho
“Imposing the nonattainment designation on our rural area that is trying to stimulate growth, attract new businesses, keep old businesses and otherwise survive in this economy is simply unfair.  It appears that the EPA having been challenged and shown to be wrong, is unwilling to take any of the new wind data into account and make any adjustments to their flawed modeling.   Rather, the EPA comes across as acting like a bully, unflinching in its intention to impose its will while giving lip service to scientifically sound evidence that contradicts their view.”
  • Dr. Dennis Fife—Mayor of Brigham City, Utah
“As a whole, agriculture in my region has felt the weight of increasing federal regulations bearing down on our family operations.  Each one adding costs to my family operation, until one day those costs will be too high to sustain.  Environmental regulation seems to have less to do with protecting the environment and more to do with driving businesses out of the country.  It keeps our operations from doing what they need to be doing. Instead of feeding my cattle or looking after their health, I am in the office putting zeros in boxes on days we had no rain.”
  • Mark Knight—National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Kansas Livestock Association
“PLF’s current caseload is heavy, because the federal government’s approach to environmental regulations is seriously out of balance.  ESA’s vague language about what constitutes a species is also a cause of regulatory mischief.  Federal regulators pick and choose whether they’ll consider the status of a species as a whole, or focus on a few specific localities, regardless of its overall health.  These are the kinds of issues that my organization deals with in the trenches, day after day: Environmental regulations that ignore the law, bend it, or push vague statutory language to the limit, imposing damaging economic costs with environmental benefits that are uncertain at best.”
  • Damien Schiff—Principal Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF)
“All of these counties and towns in northern Arizona and southern Utah are directly affected by uranium exploration, mining and milling, and therefore are tremendously negatively impacted by the Department of the Interior’s recent withdrawal of 1 million acres of the country’s richest uranium resources.   Uranium which is critical for our long term nuclear power needs.  Nuclear power provides base load power.  We have plenty of fuel waiting to be used if only we could unlock the lock which the environmentalists now in charge of our government, would be made to turn the key.”
  • Buster Johnson—Chairman of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, Arizona