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Nancy Smith

EPA Busters Barney Bishop, Adam Putnam, Heroes; Virtual Voyeur TSA, Zero

November 21, 2010 - 6:00pm

This Weeks Heroes: Barney Bishop, Adam Putnam, et al.

Barney Bishop is a Mississippi gambler if ever I saw one and Ive seen a few. An EPA administrator overplays her hand, the Associated Industries of Florida president calls her bluff and bets the farm. EPA folds. Game over, Bishop triumphs.

Better than a James Bond movie.

Gwen Fleming, regional administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, last week scoffed at Florida officials calculations that implementing the agencys new water standards would cost the state $20 billion.

Dont be ridiculous, she said. Its all speculation and guesswork. Were looking at a figure between $135 million and $206 million. It wont cost Florida any more than that.

Hand overplayed.

Without a blink, nerves of steel, AIFs Bishop looks across the table. Here comes his bet and his bluff: "Those numbers are out of fantasy land," he says. "They have no basis in fact."

Bishop offers to write a $130 million check to the EPA if they agree to pay anything over that.

"(Fleming & Co.) didn't take the deal, says 007.

EPA folds.

Of course they didnt take the deal. And they wont. More than two-thirds of the municipalities in the state of Florida have significant retooling work to be done on their utilities in many cases millions of dollars in replacements all to meet a standard for which the science has not been proven.

I'm going to sign up Barney Bishop for the World Series of Poker.

And then there's Adam Putnam.

EPA buster Putnam caught my eye and won my heart not two weeks after he trounced Democrat Scott Maddox in the Florida agriculture commissioner race.

Whats not to admire about an officeholder with the guts to dive into this sump pit of a legal mess with the autonomous EPA? He did that by stepping up on Nov. 15, the day the EPAs not-so-scientific numeric standards for water quality were due to take effect.

In a statement saying the EPA essentially ignored the blow implementation would deliver to Florida's economy, and the bipartisan effort to back up the new rules with sound science, Putnam said this:

"While the EPA heeded our calls for additional time (15 months) the issue remains unresolved, and regardless of when implemented, the federal mandate will have a dramatic impact on our states economy.

He said the regulation "not only unfairly treats Florida differently than the other 49 states, it jeopardizes jobs throughout the state.

I urge my colleagues, as well as other state and federal leaders, to continue to press on for Floridians against this federal overreach and let sound science prevail to sustain our states economy and natural resources.

Putnam has never minced words on the subject, from the beginning decrying the agency for singling out Florida in one of the worst economic crises in the states history.

Until January, he is still a U.S. congressman more proof that weve got the right man in place to knock heads with one of Washingtons biggest bureaucratic bullies. Putnam has no fear. His knowledge of the corridors of power in the nations capital gives him confidence to speak his mind. Florida taxpayers should celebrate that hes on their side.

In fact, Putnam was among several newly elected officials who signed a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson calling for a delay. Among the other officials, signers who thumped an already headachy EPA, were Gov.-elect Rick Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Speaker of the House Dean Cannon and incoming Attorney General Pam Bondi. I apologize for not singling them out as heroes, as I did Bishop and Putnam, because they certainly are.

Scott, Haridopolos and Cannon, the Power Triumvirate at the Capitol, are united against the EPAs nonsense. And with the new attorney general chipping in, the Sunshine State is not without serious ammunition of its own.

This Weeks Zero: TSA

The wars we declared werent the only events that exploded America's budget after 9/11.

A treasury-gobbling behemoth that flies under the radar is the Department of Homeland Security a department created in direct response to the 9/11 attacks, and a department Congress loves to enrich with annual increases, and has again this year, magnificently so.

The Obama administration's 2011 DHS budget will rise by 3 percent, to $43.6 billion.

Nearly $1 billion of the increase -- in fact, nearly $1 billion of the Transportation Security Administration's total $8.2 billion budget -- is to bolster airport security.

Funny, isn't it, how little $1 billion sounds like anymore. Its the word trillion that scares us these days. One billion dollars? Nobody flinches.

But wait. Let's think about how much money a billion dollars really is.

What if you knew $509 million of that TSA increase will be going to a company called Rapiscan, so it can build more full-body scanners enough to make sure 1,000 of them are deployed in 75 percent of the nations airports by the end of 2011?

Now think about whats really happening here: The American public gets to pay all that money so its government can give them two options whenever they have to fly: either step into a machine that bathes them in radiation and takes apicture of their nude bodies; or submit to whats popularly known as a freedom frisk a molestation, basically the rubber-glove pat-down.

You would think, wouldnt you, that the head of the TSA, seeing his frighteningly expensive new measures relentlessly ridiculed for the last week, would talk to the American people humbly, honestly, even apologetically.

But Sunday, appearing on CNN, TSA chief John Pistole said flatly, We are not changing the policies. He modified his statement later in the day, saying TSA will work to make them minimally invasive, but his arrogance was big as a billboard, an announcement that here is another federal government bureaucracy with a license to do what it pleases while taxpayers foot the bill.

Its just a little alarming that at $1 billion to develop and produce these body scanners, no one was overseeing their design. No one was charged with thinking about the passengers who would be forced to use them. No one was thinking about our right as American citizens to be free from searches and seizures.

Nobody used common sense.

If you can develop a machine that undresses a body and keeps it real, why cant you develop a machine that maintains a passengers dignity? Would that have been beyond American ingenuity? Would that have been more than $1 billion could handle?

I had another look at the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I didnt see any fine print about voluntarily surrendering my rights when I purchase an airline ticket. Maybe John Pistole can tell me where he finds it on his copy.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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