07.21.2011 0

Tea Party Republicans Who Challenge Green Policies Rile the New York Times

By Kevin Mooney — Republican Lawmakers are standing up to green pressure groups at the state level and The New York Times is getting nervous. The action in Maine, Florida and North Carolina has attracted media scrutiny because it demonstrates that Tea Party activists are exerting influence in an area that was previously dominated by leftists. Property owners and business owners who have been back on their heels fighting environmentalists have allies in government for the first time in recent memory.

The headline on the front page reads “Push in States to Deregulate Environment.” This is not meant to be complimentary. In fact, it suggests that Republicans elected with Tea Party support in 2010 have struck a raw nerve by rolling back anti-business practices.

In Maine, Tea Party-backed Republican governor Paul LePage is rolling back environmental regulations with support from new Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature. He faces a “green iron triangle” that is deeply entrenched, lavishly funded and closely aligned with state and federal government agencies.

In an interview, Ron Arnold, the executive director of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, had this to say: “The Big Green disaster that’s destroying Maine has been gnawing away at every state for years. The influence and reach of green pressure groups has gone unchecked and unchallenged far too long, crushing private citizens and business owners nationwide. The Iron Triangle, as I describe it in Maine, shows rank collusion between the Maine Audubon Society and the DEP [Dept. of Environmental Protection], jointly concocting false ‘science’ to justify catastrophic regulations.”

Gov. Page and incoming lawmakers need to show some guts and throttle these cabals so they can never hurt anyone again. There is no reason to let fictitious ‘ecological concerns’ continue to overwhelm the state’s economy. It’s time to strip Maine of its anti-business regulations and regulators, restructuring the bureaucracy to promote economic development and force environmental protection to help growth, not demolish it.”

LePage has a 63-point plan to cut environmental regulations and open up 3 million acres of the state’s North Woods to development. But the governor has a long road to travel. Erich Vehyl, a local free market activist and landowner, notes that environmental groups have collaborated with state officials for decades in framing laws and in staffing agencies devoted to regulating land use and prohibiting natural resource development. An umbrella organization known as the Northern Forest Alliance, which operates throughout New England, coordinates many government takeover efforts, Vehyl said. Other key players include the Maine Audubon Society, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT).

There’s a long road ahead for free market activists, but at least the battle has been joined.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, another Tea Party favorite, has proposed cutting millions of dollars for various environmental projects that he views as being too costly to business. Meanwhile, Republicans who won control of both houses of the state legislature for the first time in 140 years are aiming their arrow against Department of Environment and Natural Resources. They intend to cut the agency’s funds by 22 percent, according to the NYT.

The report laments: “The strategies have been similar across the affected states: cut budgets and personnel at regulatory agencies, prevent the issuing of new regulations, roll back land conservation and, if possible, eliminate planning boards that monitor, restrict or permit building development.”

Robin Edwards, a co-founder of the Louisiana Tea Party Federation and president of the Baton Rouge Tea Party, has watched in frustration as environmentalists in the Gulf Coast have held their conferences and organized their coalitions. There is a certain logic to having Tea Party activists go local where they can burrow in and push against special interests that are out to impose costly restrictions on business and private citizens, she said.

“Budgets are on everyone’s minds these days,” Edwards noted. “The Tea Party has become a growing force and there is no reason for us to play defense.”

Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinMooneyDC.

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