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California Farmer Fights Government Claim That Dirt Is a Pollutant

No one told Jack LaPant that he could be in violation of the Clean Water Act for farming his own land.

That’s mostly because the federal law includes a clear exemption for “normal” farming activities. But it’s also because the government officials LaPant consulted didn’t view overturned dirt that has been tilled and plowed as pollution.

In 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the Clean Water Act with the Environmental Protection Agency, began legal action against LaPant for plowing he did in 2011 to plant wheat on a ranch property he owned in Northern California.

But in March 2012, LaPant had sold the property, located in Tehama County about four miles south of the city of Red Bluff.

Before plowing his field to plant wheat, LaPant conferred in person with the Farm Service Agency in California, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“All of these government officials I spoke with, and they have all been deposed, they never once suggested that I should go meet with the Army Corps of Engineers,” LaPant said in a phone interview with The Daily Signal.

“I asked them if it was OK to take this piece of land and grow …read more

 

Western Lawmakers Prepare Bills to Modernize Endangered Species Act

Local conservation efforts, not U.S. government regulations, boosted the population of a bird species in Colorado, one lawmaker said during a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill focused on practical reforms to the Endangered Species Act.

Other House members who belong to the Congressional Western Caucus, along with “industry stakeholders” and policy analysts, described how the federal government’s designation of “critical habitat” often undermines conservation.

They also expressed concern about how environmental litigation violates property rights while failing to protect wildlife.

The Sept. 24 roundtable, involving 15 lawmakers and 27 business leaders meeting in the Senate Visitors Center, suggested broad agreement on the need to reform the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

The law has resulted in a recovery rate of only 3% for the wildlife it was designed to protect, according to the Congressional Western Caucus, which counts 72 members of both parties from 32 states and territories.

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., vice chairman of the Western Caucus, emphasized that localities and states need to have more latitude to pursue their own conservation efforts without federal intrusion.

Tipton pointed to efforts in Colorado to preserve the sage grouse, a chicken-like bird species, as an example of successful wildlife protection done locally. …read more

 

With Millions in Dues at Stake Across US, One Man Fights His Union for a Refund

Francisco Molina got a refund check from his former union compensating him for dues collected after he resigned his membership.

This means that the money Molina earned on the job since that time can’t be used to finance union political activity he doesn’t support.

But what about the dues he paid as a social services aide for Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, prior to resigning from the union? This question remains unresolved.

That’s because a Pennsylvania law makes it possible for labor unions to collect dues from government workers who decide they no longer want to be union members.

Molina, who was a shop steward for Service Employees International Union Local 668, ran into difficulty a little more than a year ago when he resigned from the union.

He told SEIU officials to stop collecting dues from his paycheck.

What happens next in his case, and others raising similar legal questions, could have ramifications across the country. Millions of dollars, perhaps tens of millions, in union dues and fees are at stake, according to legal filings.

Related: He Tried to Quit His Union. The Law Didn’t Let Him, and He Lost His Government Job Instead.

Molina has said he resigned from SEIU membership because his …read more

 

Union Scandal Coincides With GM Auto Workers Strike

Resolving the strike against General Motors that began Monday may be harder because of an internal corruption scandal inside the United Auto Workers.

The strike officially began at midnight, when tens of thousands of workers walked off the factory floors of the multinational automobile manufacturing company headquartered in Detroit.

Vance Pearson, 58, the UAW’s Region 5 director, was arrested and charged Thursday with embezzlement, money laundering, and other offenses as part of a federal investigation, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

Pearson, of St. Charles, Missouri, is accused of embezzling union money; committing mail and wire fraud; money laundering; and conspiracy, the Free Press reported.

Pearson attended the union negotiations with General Motors on Sunday, which was three days after he was charged by federal prosecutors, the Detroit News reported.

A series of tweets from the Detroit News details Pearson’s participation and advisory role in the GM contract negotiations.

A little detail from the sidelines of UAW-GM meetings yesterday… pic.twitter.com/Ys0swDGNAp

— Robert Snell (@robertsnellnews) September 16, 2019

UAW’s Region 5 covers 17 states: Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Alaska, Washington, …read more

 

EPA Touts ‘Accelerated’ Cleanup of Hazardous, Contaminated Sites

The Environmental Protection Agency has hit the acceleration button to clean up Superfund sites across the country on President Donald Trump’s watch, according to a new task force report detailing progress over the past two years.

The Superfund Task Force, commissioned in May 2017, developed a list of sites requiring the EPA’s “immediate and intense attention.” Formally known as the “Administrator’s Emphasis List,” EPA officials released it in December 2017, less than a year after Trump took office.

The new task force report spotlights the sprawling Tar Creek Superfund site as one of several where the government has made “substantial progress.”

Tar Creek includes thousands of acres of lead and zinc mining areas in northeast Oklahoma, southeast Kansas, and southwest Missouri. Because of the site’s “complexity and size,” the report says, a cleanup that goes back to 1984 will take several more years to complete.

The work includes “plugging” abandoned wells and excavating contaminated soil in Ottawa County, Oklahoma. State and federal officials first became aware of potential environmental hazards in 1979, when water began rising to the surface from underground mines.

The EPA has joined with the state of Oklahoma and the Quapaw tribe of Native Americans in a …read more

 

Trump EPA Praised for Proposal to End Use of Animal Testing in 15 Years

The Environmental Protection Agency’s move to curtail its use of animal testing, ending it within 15 years, is drawing praise from members of Congress and a broad cross-section of advocacy groups.

The Trump administration’s EPA this week set in motion an abrupt change in policy that requires the agency to seek alternative research methods.

A memo signed by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler calls for a 30 percent reduction in the agency’s requests and funding of research studies using mammals by 2025, according to a press release.

Wheeler’s memo Tuesday also calls for the elimination of all requests and funding for mammal studies by 2035.

Wheeler’s directive puts the onus on the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and the Office of Research and Development to produce “measurable impacts in the reduction of animal testing while ensuring protection of human health and the environment.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the prominent nonprofit group promoting animal rights, is among advocacy groups expressing strong support for the EPA initiative.

“PETA is celebrating the EPA’s decision to protect animals certainly—but also humans and the environment—by switching from cruel and scientifically flawed animal tests in favor of modern, non-animal testing methods,” <a target="_blank" …read more

 

EPA Repeals ‘Power Grab’ Water Rule It Says Stifled Innovation, Economic Development’

Help is on the way for homeowners and landowners, businesses, developers, and farmers who have been victimized by “regulatory uncertainty” and federal “overreach,” Trump administration officials told business leaders Thursday.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, joined members of Congress and leaders of trade associations to announce the completed repeal of the Obama administration’s so-called Clean Water Rule of 2015.

The much-criticized rule had expanded the definition of “waters of the United States”—or WOTUS—under the Clean Water Act.

The Trump administration’s announcement, which drew criticism from environmental groups, was made before an audience at the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group based in Washington.

“When President Trump took office, he set in motion a process to remove and replace regulatory burdens that were stifling American innovation and economic development,” Wheeler said, adding:

The Obama administration’s Waters of the United States definition was at the top of the list.

We are gathered here today because EPA and the Army [Corps of Engineers] are officially repealing the 2015 definition. Today’s final rule puts an end to an egregious power grab, eliminates an ongoing patchwork of Clean Water Act regulations, and restores a long-standing and …read more

 

Big Labor Said to Exploit ‘Weakness’ in State Laws Despite High Court Ruling on Dues

Labor unions are working with allies in state legislatures to counteract a Supreme Court ruling that invalidated mandatory union dues and fees for government employees, according to a new report from a free-market think tank.

In June 2018, the high court ruled that “agency shop” laws requiring nonunion government employees to pay the union violate the First Amendment rights of those who object to the union’s political agenda.

“Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned,” Justice Samuel Alito said in his majority opinion in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

But in the months following the Supreme Court ruling, the Commonwealth Foundation’s report says, “Big Labor” has sought to exploit “policy weakness” in state laws.

One example, according to its report: “the lack of clear statutory language prohibiting or limiting union privileges such as release time, the payroll deduction of union dues and other political money, and the scope of collective bargaining.”

Enactment of these privileges potentially jeopardizes the free speech rights of government employees while adding costs to state budgets, the Commonwealth Foundation argues.

“We are seeing that, …read more

 

Alaska Moves to Comply With Supreme Court on Deducting Union Dues

Alaska’s labor policies need a “course correction” to ensure the First Amendment rights of public employees are protected under a recent Supreme Court ruling, the state’s attorney general has told Gov. Michael Dunleavy in a legal opinion.

Because public sector employers no longer are permitted to deduct labor union dues or fees from an employee’s paycheck without that employee’s “affirmative consent,” the state’s payroll deduction system “fails to satisfy constitutional standards,” Alaska Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson says in the written opinion dated Tuesday.

Clarkson recommends to Dunleavy that Alaska implement a new payroll deduction system to ensure that a government employee “freely consents” to payroll deductions for union fees, and does so in a “knowing, intelligent, and voluntary” manner.

In response to the opinion, Dunleavy said it “clearly articulates” that Alaska doesn’t comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“In the coming days and weeks, my administration will be working to ensure the state is in full compliance of the law and that Alaskans are informed of their rights,” the governor said in a press release.

Clarkson and Dunleavy are Republicans who took office in December.

Six months earlier, in June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of …read more

 

Nurses Union That Backs ‘Medicare for All’ Prevails at This Hospital

MIDDLETOWN, Pennsylvania—Not every nurse at St. Mary Medical Center supports “Medicare for All” or the political goals of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

But every nurse at that Bucks County hospital soon will pay dues to a labor union that has backed Sanders and government-run health care, now that a majority of their colleagues has voted to join the union.

“Medicare for All is a horrible concept that is not rooted in reality,” Vicki Zaino, a nurse manager in oncology, told The Daily Signal before the second day of voting began Friday. “The proposal would greatly burden taxpayers while destroying private insurance opportunities for people across the country.”

Other nurses who asked not to be named also expressed misgivings about being required to pay dues to Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, a union that already represented more than 8,000 nurses statewide.

“I don’t want to pay union dues to an organization that is devoted to politics instead of health care,” another nurse in oncology told The Daily Signal.

“It’s fine to support whatever candidate you want to support and it’s fine to support whatever policies you want to support,” this nurse said. “But it’s not fine to do this with …read more