A Property Rights Solution to Endangered Salmon

Writing for PERC, R. David Simpson gives an intriguing example of salmon preservation: Native American tribes in Oregon considered bidding on a dam license (to change its operations in ways that would  protect salmon). The result: a productive relationship with the dam owners—a cooperative effort to protect salmon.

Here is an excerpt from Simpson’s paper:

Salmon had been in decline on the Deschutes River in northern Oregon, a tributary of the Columbia, since Portland General Electric began construction of the Pelton Round Butte Dam Complex in the mid-1960s. The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, a consortium of local Native American groups, were guaranteed the right to fish for salmon on the Deschutes River under an 1855 treaty.

As salmon declined, the tribes faced both economic and cultural impoverishment. Controversy and finger-pointing attended discussions of the causes of the salmon decline, with the tribes blaming the Portland General Electric dams and the utility pointing to both up- and downstream threats to salmon. Continue reading “A Property Rights Solution to Endangered Salmon”

How I Became a Free-Market Environmentalist in France

By Max Falque.

The managing director of ICREI, the International Center for Research on Environmental Issues, Max Falque is based in Aix-en-Provence, France. He tells the story of how he changed from a French bureaucrat to a proponent of environmental protection using private property and markets.  From his essay, “Why Did I Become a Free-Market Environmentalist?” in I Chose Liberty, edited by Walter Block.

Based on my family background, I should still worship central government and “service public,” like the great majority of French. My family shared two traditions: on my father’s side, conservative provincial and provençal bourgeoisie engaged in farming a family estate since the 16th century, and on my mother’s side, the value of the liberal, intellectual, Catholic beliefs. But everybody agreed about the sanctity of bureaucracy. Studying law at the Montpellier University in the 50s could not introduce me to classic liberal thinking, since the clear distinction between civil and administrative law was (and still is) a basic fact. In economics classes, references to Keynes and Samuelson left no room for unknown Austrian economics. The Communist party used to get nearly 30 percent at the general elections, and most “intellectuals” were at least fellow travelers or useful idiots, if not true believers.

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The concept of free market environmentalism (FME) came as a revelation to me when meeting R.J. Smith at a Lincoln Institute conference at Harvard in July 1983. R.J., in a plenary session, briefly explained that land could be best managed by property rights and market instruments. Ann Louise Strong, as chair of the panel, dryly answered that this was outdated and inappropriate thinking. I felt sorry for R.J. and I invited him to discuss the issue at a neighboring pub. It was quite a fascinating evening and, back in France, R.J. sent me his recently published article, “Privatizing the Environment” (Policy Review, 1982). I was then introduced progressively to the FME literature and scholars. Continue reading “How I Became a Free-Market Environmentalist in France”

The War on Roundup: A War on Science in Agriculture

By Blake Hurst

This guest post is by Blake Hurst,  a farmer in northwest Missouri, growing greenhouse flowers, corn, and soybeans. He is  also president of the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Farmers and what critics call “industrial agriculture“ are under public pressure—over genetically modified seeds, long-standing fear of chemicals, and concerns about animal welfare. Farmers’ methods of producing food are criticized in documentaries, in best-selling books, and of course, on Twitter. Heck, dairy farmers even got a starring role at the Academy Awards, when Joaquin Phoenix gave his opinion on the evils of drinking milk.

Not only are farmers in trouble in the court of public opinion, but we’re also faring poorly in actual courtrooms. Lawsuits against Roundup, the most ubiquitous crop-protection product on the market, have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments against the German chemical company Bayer. Bayer recently purchased Monsanto, the company that brought Roundup to the market. Hair-on-fire ads on TV and social media have convinced at least 42,000 people to file suit against Bayer, leading the company to signal a willingness to accept a multi-billion-dollar settlement.

The lawsuits claim that Roundup causes cancer, but regulatory agencies worldwide have failed to find a link between Roundup and cancer. In fact, the U.S. EPA has taken the unprecedented step of intervening in a related lawsuit in California that would require products with the chemical to be labeled as carcinogenic. The EPA has, in no uncertain terms, told the court that such a label would contradict the agency’s conclusions about the carcinogenicity of Roundup. Continue reading “The War on Roundup: A War on Science in Agriculture”

Why Should We Endorse Trump’s NEPA Reforms?

By H. Sterling Burnett

You may have heard that the Trump administration is proposing changes in the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which mandates federal regulatory environmental oversight of major infrastructure projects. These changes are appropriate and overdue. Here’s why.

NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions before they can go ahead. The actions covered by NEPA are broad, including projects such as building highways and airports, managing forestland, and constructing transit systems.

NEPA was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970. It has not been substantially updated in decades, during which time its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) requirements have been stretched beyond what the law itself requires. In fact, they have been stretched beyond what the law allows, under our federalist system of government under the Constituion. This a gross example of mission creep.

On multiple occasions, environmentalists have used NEPA to block federal land management plans that would, in fact, have been environmentally beneficial, and to halt local infrastructure projects that are neither federally directed or managed nor substantially funded by the federal government. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tacitly, and sometimes actively, supported these lawsuits.

‘Tied up and Bogged Down’

“America’s most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process, and I’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Trump said, when signing the proposed reforms on January 9. “These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground, and deny jobs to our nation’s incredible workers.

Continue reading “Why Should We Endorse Trump’s NEPA Reforms?”

Curbside Recycling: A Costly Mistake

Recycling companies are facing hard times. Partly that’s because in 2017 China started closing its doors to waste. It doesn’t accept mixed paper or most plastic or electronic waste.

Although some recycling (such as electronic waste) has been relocated to South Asia, the dwindling market for recycled material has sent prices downward, making it difficult for the entire industry. 

But the biggest problems face companies—and communities—that pick up and sort household waste. Approximately 60 curbside programs were canceled in 2017, “with even more drop-off site closures and material limitations,” says Waste Dive, a newsletter about the waste industry. (The newsletter does note that some dropped programs have come back.)   

Material that is supposed to be recycled is ending up in landfills, an Atlantic article said earlier this year. Companies are debating how to cope with the shrinking market. A debate over the “single-stream” versus dual-stream (requiring homeowners to separate recyclables) continues.  Continue reading “Curbside Recycling: A Costly Mistake”