Magazine article Insight on the News

Waste & Abuse

Magazine article Insight on the News

Waste & Abuse

Article excerpt

Franz Kafka: Call Your Publisher

Many Americans undoubtedly have experienced firsthand the teeth-gnashing frustration of being ensnared by reams of government red tape. But for others -- the individuals unlucky enough to earn a place in this year's National Directory of Environmental and Regulatory Victims, produced by the National Center for Public Policy Research (www.nationalcenter.org), for instance -- encounters with unwieldy rules and regulations often have led to nightmarish ordeals worthy of the surrealist writer Franz Kafka.

"Regulatory abuse is about people -- our friends and neighbors," writes Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, a Republican from Idaho, in introducing a report that puts a human face on those who have been hounded by the excessive, irrational application of asinine rules, often promulgated by ivory-tower ideologues in contravention of common sense. It's also about retirement dreams and small-business ventures crushed by the weight of overzealous regulators and ax-grinding, litigation-happy special interests.

Among the victims profiled in this year's edition:

* An elderly couple living in Mount Vernon, Va., who were prevented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or USFW, from building a small, wheelchair-accessible modular home on their property because it allegedly posed risks to a bald eagle's nest 90 feet away. The couple could go ahead with construction, USFW eventually ruled, if they agreed to contribute money to salmon restoration (because eagles like to eat salmon, though no salmon swim in the nearby Potomac River) and a bald-eagle exhibit, construct two eagle platforms on their property and agree never to mow their lawn or permit children to play there;

* The owner of a New York state gravel mine whose requests for expansion were denied because a fence on the property would inflict "physiological stress" on nearby rattlesnakes, which are protected by the state's endangered species law;

* A 72-year-old widow in Washington state and her 82-year-old neighbor who have been prevented from selling their combined 18 acres of land because a local environmental group claims (without any scientific justification and contrary to the findings of state scientists) that a usually dry ditch running across the property is vital to the survival of the federally protected Puget Sound Chinook salmon;

* A New Jersey man who was prevented from building his lakeside dream house because a small portion of the 1.27-acre property might someday provide ideal habitat for the barred owl -- though none is known to inhabit or visit the property right now;

* A Colorado woman, whose small weekly Bible meeting was stopped because of a Denver city zoning ordinance banning more than one "prayer meeting" per month in a private home; and

* A Maryland girl, confined to a wheelchair by muscular dystrophy, whose access to a creek running behind her house was blocked when state regulators, in robot-like obeisance to a law severely restricting construction within 100 feet of the waterline, ordered that the brick pathway built by her family without permits be torn out. …

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