Summing Up Big Green

The Washington Examiner is publishing a five-part special report in association with Pajamas Media on “Big Green”: the alliance of the Democratic Party, environmental groups, and activists in the progressive movement. It’s not just a band of flannel-shirted environmentalists any longer; it’s become a big-money, major player in Washington power politics and American elections.

In the last installment, we consider what Big Green wants -- with California as an example.

It's now almost 40 years since the Environmental Protection Agency was authorized, more than 40 years since the first Earth Day. Where do we stand?

It would certainly be wrong to say that no good has come from the environmental movement. The Cuyahoga River no longer burns, and in fact it's once again the center of beautiful vistas and parks. Lake Erie is recovering; steel mill towns like Pittsburgh and my own home town of Pueblo, Colorado, have been cleaned up dramatically -- no more red rain or coke-oven clouds. Comedians no longer tell smog jokes about Los Angeles. And with the collapse of the Soviet Union, we found out that the real environmental crimes were being committed behind the Iron Curtain -- but now there's even progress there.

So what are environmentalists to do when so many of their goals have been accomplished?

Why, redouble their efforts, of course.

Today, in the final installment of its series on Big Green, the Washington Examiner considers what effect the current environmental movement is having on California, on the theory that California today is the whole U.S. in ten years.

Oddly, there's been very little recognition of the gains that have been made. Instead, there seems always to be another crisis, another endangered species or wetland at risk or area that should be established as a wilderness. With the Department of the Interior, and the EPA's support along with the state government's cooperation, California has been at forefront of environmental regulation.

It isn't working out as well as the people of California might have hoped.

The most notorious example has been the restriction of water supplies to the San Joaquin Valley; thanks to the current drought, and a small population of endangered fish, water for agricultural purposes has been more and more limited. For the last several years, many farmers have been effectively unable to put in a crop. The San Joaquin Valley is, indeed, returning to its "natural" pre-irrigation state.

Elsewhere in California, other environmental crusades are bearing fruit.  There is general agreement on a "goal" of delivering 33 percent of California's power from "renewable" sources, like solar and wind energy, by 2020. That's ten years, which sounds like plenty of time -- until you reflect that it often takes 20 years to move a new power generation project through the regulatory process.