Former Commissioner Dennis Linthicum

Aug 25, 2012 — by: Commissioner Linthicum

(You might consider this article as “Clearing the Air - Part 5.” Find previous articles here...)Unplugged

On Tuesday, August 21, 2012,

“The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality had two public hearing sessions regarding its proposal to adopt rules as part of an attainment plan that will bring the Klamath Falls area into compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate, or PM2.5, by the federal deadline of December 2014.”

All agencies drafting implementation procedures, or regulations, that will be published in the Federal Register must allow a public comment period before their plan can be approved.

So, public comments are a must - but...  that’s all. There is no requirement that anyone must listen to your spoken thoughts.  The only legal requirement is to provide the opportunity for you to speak your mind. Nothing else. So, none of the questions, answers, or comments from the open session at last Tuesday’s events got recorded. The recording gear was presented for those  individuals wishing to provide “spoken testimony,” during the last 10 minutes. By not recording the entire conversation, ODEQ guaranteed the absence of continuity, or follow-up, from one participant’s question to the next.

What didn’t get recorded?

In both Public Hearing sessions numerous individuals asked, “Why is Peterson School the only Air Quality Monitoring Station in the County’s Air Quality Management Zone?” (This same question has been asked repeatedly during Klamath County Commissioner Work Sessions and in many more Klamath County Air Quality Advisory Committee meetings.)

The answer given is quite absurd. Although, you’ll not find it on any recording.

The answer given goes like this:

  • The EPA ‘requires’ ODEQ to use the worst air quality score for any measured period.
  • More monitors would certainly provide more opportunities for more scores,
  • However, ODEQ does NOT average good air quality readings with poorer air quality readings; therefore, the worst score, from any monitor, would always prevail.

Common sense will tell you – this “we don’t average” mindset is absurd.  In the private sector this is easy to see. It doesn’t work for determining how your child is doing with his lessons in math, science, or spelling. Would you be happy seeing the worst score in his/her classroom assigned to every kid?

It doesn’t work for the Olympic games, either. Today in Olympic scoring, the highest and lowest scores are discarded to eliminate possible bias. The other scores are then averaged. If the IOC were to adopt this “we don’t average” paradigm... Would the lowest score carry the most accurate assessment of the athlete's performance?

If  these illustrations prove incongruous in the private sector, is the public sector any different?  I’ll use a couple of simple, but contradictory, news quotes to make a point:

  1. “The figures on obesity are startling. According to national survey data, the number of overweight children has quadrupled since 1960, jumping from 4 percent of the youth population to 16 percent in 2002.”
  2. “In 2014, all states must allow districts to opt in to a federal program requiring all students at a participating school to eat taxpayer-funded school breakfasts, lunches, and snacks at no cost to any student, regardless of individual students’ ability to bring or pay for their food.”


The facts in Item #1 don’t comport with the program in Item #2. Yet, any regulatory agency can monitor,  manipulate, manage and enforce the statistical model of their choosing. The tax-paying public is essentially powerless against the plethora of agencies that have added 82,419 two-column, 9 point (small type-size) pages to the Federal Registry - just last year.

But don’t worry, all of these pages were added after completing the requirement which allows the opportunity for a public hearing.

An evaluation of the U.S. federal regulatory enterprise by economists Nicole V. Crain and W. Mark Crain finds annual regulatory compliance costs hit $1.752 trillion in 2008. In 2010, with actual government spending at $3.456 trillion, the regulatory burden was a “hidden tax” on the private sector of an additional 50.7 percent above those official federal outlays.

Overwhelming evidence declares that government bureaucracy is inherently inefficient and costly. Using Klamath County’s status as a “non-attainment area” for the PM2.5 air pollution standard is a perfect example. First, the dangers to the residents of Klamath County are not accurately stated, understood, or properly valued. Second, neither are any of the proposed solutions.

Why? Because government inefficiency is the unavoidable weakness of any centrally administered, one-size-fits-all plan. Our county’s unique situation is not important because the bureaucrat can only see a set of instructions. He is not privy to any material, circumstance or economic data outside of his operational model. He is bound to obey rules and regulations created by some other department, in some other building, or some other state. He has no right to embark upon innovation without the blessing of his superiors. His duty is in obedience to his organization – not to the tax-paying public.

 Additionally, it is in the economic interest of the bureaucracy to work the problem, to hire specialists, to hire administrators, to lobby for congressional funding and to be very concerned about a quite un-quantifiable result. (Note: There are no models that accurately describe any causal health risk associated with exceeding the PM2.5 standard.)

The scenario, as I have described it, has great explanatory power. Nothing else can explicate how an enormous government entity, with vast human, scientific and technological resources could manage to ignore simple logic and sound reasoning in their data collection and reporting strategies.

Therefore, stand with me to demand limits on the funding and regulatory power of the ODEQ and EPA. Burdensome regulation on individuals, families and businesses will not fix a problem that wisdom, intelligence and a some good old common sense can solve.




  1. Phil J. ~ Aug. 25, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

    So I'm confused. If the EPA's logic is more monitors means more opportunity for a "worst" score, and if the goal is to not have bad scores, then fewer monitors means a better chance for compliance. How about we carry this thinking to its logic conclusion and say "Let's get rid of all the monitors. Then we can be assured we will never have a worst score." The goal should be to find the truth - what is the real air quality, and to do that you have to average. One, single measuring station is not enough to cover the area that is supposedly being measured. A third grader would understand that logic. #
  2. Paul Clark ~ Feb. 4, 2013 @ 10:47 am

    It sounds to me like the DEQ is missing an opportunity. If they are looking for the highest particulate matter in the air why don't they put it up someone's tail pipe? If they choose the location and don't have to average, what is to stop them? In either case their readings have nothing to do with the quality of Klamath County air! #

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Commissioner Dennis Linthicum

For current postings by Dennis Linthicum, visit the Dirt Road Economist website.