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View Diary: Bush signs the Open Government Act in semi-secrecy (91 comments)

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  •  The thing is, applicability still is so vague. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus, shirah, kurt, entlord1

    Under both the Clinton and Bush administrations, there was a big shift towards pushing responsibilities for enforcing federal law onto state agencies. For instance, EPA has very little to do with the day-to-day activities that enforce things like the Clear Water Act or NEPA or any other environmental regulations that have a permit or enforcement authority. In many, many instances, that authority has been delegated to a patchwork of state agencies who divide it across a bunch of agencies, however it best suits their existing government structure. In one state, water issues that have a federal hook could be administered by half a dozen different agencies and that assignment of delegated federal responsibility will vary broadly from state to state.

    So, here's the thing. Since simple enforcement went out of practice under Bush, it's even harder to get any attention from state or federal agencies about an issue that's of concern to somebody.  If the regulatory authority for something has been delegated (legally or otherwise) to a state agency, we've effectively lost the benefits from FOIA to a huge body of public issues that affect everybody. Unfortunately, that means that state officials will continue to indifferently apply a patchwork of state level sunshine and FOIA-type laws to what are, truly, federally regulated government actions.

    And that still truly sucks.

    "I'm not a humanitarian. I'm a hell-raiser." Mother Jones

    by histopresto on Wed Jan 02, 2008 at 08:00:57 AM PST

    •  very important topic, histopresto (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shirah

      Would you happen to have any cites on the subject of the patchwork of enforcement responsibilities and the problems it causes?

      •  It's a daily challenge for me (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        smintheus, shirah, kurt

        ...which would tend to put my ID a little further into the public venue than I would like. I can give you a big example which I've run across.

        The kinds of federal permits that developers tend to need for private commercial and residential construction are often reviewed jointly by state and federal agencies under the Clean Water Act. It's the wetlands issue, where we try to make sure we don't destroy all the damp habitat. Think of all the sprawl that's occurred over the last 15 years. Now, imagine that 50 different states may or may not have been delegated authority as an "Approved State Program" to review Section 401 permits by USEPA. Each state agency then gets its policy mandate from its own governor, who probably won't be too interested as being seen as limiting private development.  

        After the state agency does its review, any number of different USACE districts may have based their own approval of the required Section 404 permits, another related federal action, on the states' own local review of the 401 permits.  The states' review would never be questioned, since the USEPA is not conducting active enforcement and the Corps' own policies tend to discourage active challenges to private development.  

        Get the idea?  In this area, we've effectively trickled down federal regs so thoroughly that the trickly parts of the environment are no longer damp.
        Now, does anybody think that requesting records under FOIA is really going to get me anywhere if I call my state agency about water quality?

        (Histo heaves a heavy, bureaucratic sigh...)

        "I'm not a humanitarian. I'm a hell-raiser." Mother Jones

        by histopresto on Wed Jan 02, 2008 at 09:55:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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