Friday, December 28, 2018

Who Put Machiavelli In Charge?

     The moral equivocation that passes for political representation these days is a
The Prince Returns
disconcerting if not altogether alarming consequence of the 2016 election. 
You saw it fully blown a few days ago when President Trump visited our front-line troops in Iraq and stood there, without batting an eye, telling them "You protect us.  We are always going to protect you.  And you just saw that, 'cause you just got one of the biggest pay raises you've ever received . . . You haven't gotten one in more than 10 years.  More than 10 years . . . They had plenty of people that came up, they said, you know, we could make it smaller.  We could make it 3%, we could make it 2%, we could make it 4% . . . I said no.  Make it 10%.  Make it more than 10%."  
     That boatload of malarkey was quickly exposed for what it is. Our troops get annual pay raises, averaging between 2% and 3% since 2008.  This year's raise, not even close to Trump's ridiculous claim of 10%, came in at 2.6%. South Dakota's congressional reps--famous for repeatedly touting themselves as exponents of "South Dakota family values"--haven't made a statement or given any indication that they're even aware of this and Trump's many other lies during the course of his presidency nor the campaign that preceded it.  This morning's USA Today has a piece that tallies Trump's lies, coming up with an average of 10 a day that he's told since taking office.  At what point can we expect our Senators Thune and Rounds, Congresswoman Noem (and Congressman-elect Dusty Johnson, for that matter) to come out and say enough is enough?  Habitual lying isn't a South Dakota value, so why do they silently tolerate it in Washington?  It's all about political reprisals, of course, so our federal reps just keep their mouths shut, to heck with their not-so-bold commitments to values.
     I fear that we have entered a dark era of the darkest Machiavellian principle, the one where lying leaders can function with impugnity because their utterances are possessed of "effectual truth."  In a nutshell, the 16th century political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli posited in his treatise "The Prince" that a lie is effectively the truth (verite effetuale) because it is sometimes necessary to do evil in pursuit of what the leader perceives to be the good.  Dangerous stuff, this "ends justifies the means" system of governing, but a danger of necessity, says Macchiavelli, because "a man who wants to make a profession of good in all regards must come to ruin among so many who are not good."
     That cynical view of human nature makes it clear that President Trump fits Machiavelli's profile of successful leadership. But our elected reps embrace a higher standard when avowing their commitment to South Dakota values.  I just wish that they and the rest of Trump's congressional enablers  didn't make it look like they're among the "many" who are not so good.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Guest Poster David Ganje On Interstate Water Compacts

One state’s water is another state’s gold
The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System (L&C), a non-government
corporation, uses a series of wells to tap into an aquifer adjacent to the Missouri River in South Dakota.  The system provides water to 20 member cities and rural water systems (all called member users) in a large area of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.  The L&C is the biggest rural water system in South Dakota.  The L&C has no interstate water use agreement with its members in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.  Such an agreement is called an interstate water compact.  There are 23 interstate water compacts in the U. S.  Since 1943 South Dakota has had a congressionally approved interstate water compact with Wyoming for the Belle Fourche River.
In 2015 in a public statement the U S Bureau of Reclamation stated, “the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System is the largest, by volume, rural water system that has been authorized by Congress.”  In water system projects the Bureau acts as a federal supervising engineer.  It does not step into the role of an overseer or regulator of the operations of the system.  That matter is left to the parties using and providing the water.
One purpose of an interstate water compact is to guide a variety of interstate policy concerns regarding water use and management.  The U.S. Constitution (Art. 1, Sec. 10, Clause 3) gives states the right to enter into cross-state agreements. Congress must approve any compact before it is binding.  Although Congress has funded several different phases of the L&C it has not directed that the parties enter into such a compact.  That is not unusual.  Congress does not want to step into regional turf battles.  Political discretion dictates that ‘locals’ should deal with the issue of water management.  The L&C has not dealt with the issue.
Voluntary cooperation among water users and its single bulk provider will prevail – so the old argument goes.  An emergency should await a serious emergency.  You must have a demonstrated need, otherwise cooperation is the best way to manage water use among the provider and the multiple users.  Really?  Cooperation among the different states and water users is indeed a good thing.  ‘Cooperation’ however quickly leaves the party through the back door when ‘Crisis’ enters the room carrying a big stick.  As my high school guidance counselor said, “If you aint got rules this whole place turns into bedlam.”
An interstate water compact avoids federal intervention and federal preemption of individual state powers when a problem occurs.  Is it not better to have disputes managed and settled regionally rather than by federal or court intervention?  A written compact allows the local parties, users and experts to write a regional water-use roadmap on water rights and water resource management.
Think of the cross-border distribution of water from South Dakota as a commercial marriage.  Premarital contracts between spouses are called ‘prenupts’ in the arcane world of lawyerspeak.  Is it better to have a prenupt when a problem occurs, or is it better to go hell-bent for leather and litigate a full-fledged divorce trial? Which is more economic? Which more administratively efficient?
An interstate compact can be completed as well as approved by Congress even after an interstate water project has been started.  The Supreme Court has stated that, “. . . where the agreement relates to a matter which could not well be considered until its nature is fully developed, it is not perceived why the consent may not be subsequently given.”
I am not aware of any adopted formal water apportionment schedule or scheme in the L&C project.  A contemporary interstate water compact would have a decision-making process to deal with droughts and emergency events.  Nakedness is an invitation to litigation.  This litigation, in interstate water matters, is handled directly by the U S Supreme Court.  Interstate fights become territorial.  No one likes their neighbor telling them how to run their operation. The U S Constitution has no guidance on how to resolve interstate water disputes between states.  Thus the Supreme Court as the court of first and last resort has punted and has created a body of federal common law for water allocation known as “equitable apportionment.”  The U S Supreme Court is not an ideal forum for resolution of interstate water disputes because:  it takes too long; it’s too expensive; the court historically ducks the issue and assigns the problem to a court-appointed Master to find the facts and make a recommendation; and the Court often bounces out or bounces back the Master’s recommendations.  I will add that a court is a bit of a blunt instrument as a “water manager” for a modern, complicated water system.  The ten or so established “equitable apportionment” cases of the U S Supreme Court do not tend to address important contemporary management issues such as water conservation or environmental questions.
David Ganje of Ganje Law Offices practices in the area of natural resources, environmental and commercial law

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Memo to commentors.

I just deleted a comment that didn't meet my standard for decorum:  If I wouldn't have wanted my old-fashioned Greek Orthodox grandma to see it, it won't get posted here.

Our South Dakota Senator Thune Blows Off The Rule Of Law

     Our Republican U.S. Senator John Thune has moved up the chain of Congressional
Does the Constitution Matter?
command to a position as majority whip in the Senate. 
That's reason for some good cheer among us South Dakotans, at least on the surface, but Thune spoiled the merriment by disclosing that he doesn't think much of the rule of law.  Telling the Sioux Falls Argus Leader yesterday that he hopes there are accomplishments in the next Congress and "not just a lot of investigations of the President," Thune exposes his dismissive attitude toward the workings of the law in this country.
     Considering that Senator Thune has sworn to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," his casual attitude toward the Mueller and other investigations of President Trump and his inner circle is disconcerting, if not altogether outrageous.  As of now there are eight investigations from the Special Counsel, four investigations by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, one by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, two by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, one by New York City, one by New York State, and one by the State of Maryland. If further probes are launched in Congress next year, they'll be consistent with one of the most important non-legislative powers of Congress--the power to investigate.  
     You can holler "politics" and "witch hunt" all you want, but it's a Congressional function that has a long-standing history and one that fulfills the public's right to know just what the heck is going on in D.C.  I wasn't a fan of the Benghazi hearings, but in the end, the fact that they didn't result in any post-investigative actions is irrelevant.  They gave the American public a good airing out of the elements that led to that disaster.  Now with all the convictions proving that there was indeed some criminal activity surrounding Trump, Americans have every reason and right to expect a full look-see by Congress.  By characterizing these as "just a lot" of investigations, Thune doesn't show much of a commitment to supporting and defending the Constitution.  Even though the document doesn't explicitly enumerate investigations as a power of Congress, they were assumed to be part of the legislative process, the first investigation having occurred in 1790, when the First Congress investigated Robert Morris' handling of the country's money during the Revolutionary War.
     Thune's rhetorical brushoff notwithstanding, Congress has a right and a duty to look into Trump's activities.  These are not "just a lot" of investigations.  A great deal has been disclosed and trying to stall the process or, like Thune, hoping it will go away just makes them seem more relevant than ever.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Folly

    Man-oh-man, talk about a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking. This Trump-obsessed stock market is beginning to make it look like The Grinch isn't such a bad sort after all.  What happened this year to South Dakota's farmers was tough enough, being the fifth consecutive year that they (along with farmers nationwide) saw their incomes drop.  I note that there was actually a bit of an upturn during 2015 an 2016, but from there, the prospects of a tariff war just overwhelmed the ag trade.  Our state's farmers made $2 billion in 2016, the year Trump was elected, but from then on it's been nosedive city.  SD farm income fell to just $700 million in the fiscal year that ended last summer.  Given the awful prices that soybean farmers are getting for this year's recently harvested crop, I doubt that this second half of the year has provided much relief.                                       Farmers' financial woes have been softened a bit by a stopgap program that provides some federal cash compensation to those who've been financially strapped because of Donald Trump and his demented tariff war, but stopgap it is.  The few nibbles on American farm products that Chinese buyers have made during the past week or so have been noticeable, and soybean prices have edged up a bit--but they're still well below their levels of last Spring, when the tariff war broke out in earnest, by a factor of nearly two bucks a bushel.  Considering that South Dakota soybean farmers will harvest something on the order of 275 million bushels this year, you can see how much this state's ag sector has been hit by the Trump tariff tsunami.  We can only hope things turn up in 2019, but as I've noted here, the Chinese are working at remaking their livestock production industry into one that has a vastly reduced need for American soybeans.                                                                          But the folly of it doesn't end with the ag sector.  Every South Dakotan--and I'm sure there are plenty of us--with a position in the stock market, either through brokerage or retirement accounts is getting pounded as mercilessly as our cousins and compadres in the country.  Despite on-the-surface positive economic numbers, markets are focused on the structural economic disrepair that has been created during the past two years, probably initiated by the years-long commitment to low interest rates by the Federal Reserve Board.  The "Fed" has been making money so cheap that it looks to me like the country is in a debt-inflated asset bubble.  This is not a brilliant flash of insight emanating solely from yours truly, by the way.  Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan said earlier this year that "we have a stock market bubble."  Just yesterday, talking about the likelihood of more stock market "corrections" (a too-benign-sounding word that's defined as a steep and often frightening selloff) Greenspan warned investors "to run for cover."                                                          If the Fed's policies in recent years (reversed lately by some upticks in the bellwether interest rate that it controls) have been folly, they've only been aggravated by President Trump's budget busting tax cuts.  Trump and his enablers, including South Dakota's Congressional all-GOP trio of Senators Thune and Rounds, along with Congresswoman Noem, has taken the country's debt to highs that haven't been seen since the end of World War II.  The Congressional Budget Office last year warned the government that "our structural fiscal imbalance puts the economy at risk over the long term."  But did the government, including our South Dakota federal reps, listen?  No they did not. And the results have been? No big deal.  The 2 million jobs created in 2018 about matches up with the 2 million created in 2016.  As to wage growth, real (inflation adjusted) wages haven't budged.  Forbes magazine notes that real wages have actually declined a bit in the past two years. And even that low unemployment rate we're experiencing has to seen in the context of a still low "labor participation" rate, which hasn't come back to the levels it reached before the 2008 recession. A lot of people who are no longer in the labor force don't get counted as "unemployed."
     The folly of Trump's tax-and-budget policies is twofold.  First are the policies themselves, and second is the fact that Trump and his enablers in Congress are trying to convince us of the rosiness of the present scenario.  But the fact is, deficits are soaring, interest rates are rising and markets are reeling.  What William Butler Yeats expressed poetically ("Things fall apart, the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world"), Alan Greenspan made bluntly prosaic:  "Run for cover."   

Friday, December 14, 2018

Um, Senators Rounds And Thune, About That November Budget Deficit? Your GOP Crackpot Economics Seem To Have Gotten Something Wrong

     The metamorphosis of South Dakota's two Republican U.S. Senators has been startling
Why Are These Men Grinning?
U.S. Deficits Are Exploding
and surreal. 
Who could possibly have imagined that our Senators Mike Rounds and John Thune can still smile away the federal budget deficit that has been created by the tax cut that the Trump administration and its GOP handmaidens in Congress foisted on us at the start of this year?  I mean, it was just a few years ago that they were sounding alarms about our country's federal debt.  Rounds in 2016 looked at the country's $18 trillion debt and called it "unsustainable," a sentiment echoed by Senator Thune, whose website complains that "our country is on an unsustainable fiscal path."  Though economists are forever debating about the sustainability of federal deficit spending, Thune and Rounds have made it pretty clear that they see it as the road to economic perdition. 
     Now that their alarm bells have been replaced by silence, Thune and Rounds have been exposed as the fiscal hypocrites that they are.  The budget-wrecking tax cuts they promoted have caused the fiscal year that ended last September 30 to show a deficit of $779 billion, a $113 billion increase (17%) over the prior year's gusher of red ink.  Since then things have only gotten worse, with the November deficit the widest in that month's history at $205 billion, nearly 32% higher than a year ago when the November deficit was $139 billion.  Typically, Republicans blame the red ink on "entitlement" spending, specifically Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, but a quick look at the last fiscal year's income and expense statement shows how bogus that argument is.  While overall federal spending for the year rose by $127 billion, revenue growth couldn't keep up.  Tax collections came in at $202 billion less than anticipated.  When your revenues don't grow as fast as your expenses, you've got a problem that no amount of politicizing about entitlements is going to fix.  For one thing, even as Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledges, "it's very difficult to do entitlement reform."  For another, history tells me that the same can be said about reforming the rest of the federal budget.  The only politically realistic way to close the budget gap is finding a way to increase government revenues.  The tax cuts tried to do just that, but came up way short.
     Crackpot economics gripped the Republican Party a year ago when these tax cuts were hyped, getting a lot of people to believe the long-debunked canard about how those tax cuts actually can pay for themselves with increased collections created by a stimulated economy.  Rounds and Thune certainly bought it, completely ignoring Congressional Budget Office warnings during the months before the tax cut debate that continuing deficits would create serious budgetary challenges that could hamper economic growth.  So now that those deficit warnings they ignored have come to pass, Thune and Rounds haven't had much to say about them.  I have no doubt that when they do, our senators will blame entitlements, not the revenue falloff from the tax cuts. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds Wants $25 Billion For A Border Wall Even Though Nobody Seems To Have A Clue About How Much It Will Cost. This Is Supposed To Be Responsible Leadership?

     The Republican fetish for building Trump's wall along the Mexican border is just one
What's Another $25 Billion?
story-switching endeavor after another. 
Pubs in general and Trump in particular have been changing their approaches to this multi-billion dollar venture from the moment that then-candidate Trump was pitching it to his mobs of supporters.  Which brings us to change-of-story number one.  During the campaign Trump kept telling us over and over again that Mexico was going to pay for that "big beautiful wall" and that "it would be named after me."  As is typical of megalomaniacs, Trump was full of hot air and Mexico won't be paying for a cent of it. 
     Per an act awaiting consideration in the U.S. Senate, the bill for this bait-and-switch gambit is going to be presented to American taxpayers. That doesn't come as much of a surprise, considering that the Mexicans were uniformly saying "no way" from the get-go.  Trump's litany of lies are so numerous and well-documented by now that there's no reason to believe anything the president says.  The ever-changing story on the wall is just the same-oh, same-oh and it looks like his politically infatuated (maybe intimidated is a better word) followers in Congress are not only willing to deal with it, but are capable of crafting policy to adjust for Trump's revised story lines.  Enter South Dakota Republican Senator Mike Rounds.  Yesterday he joined three other Republican senators to introduce a bill ("The Wall Act") that would provide $25 billion for the construction of Trump's border wall.  This brings us to change-of-story number two, which I preface with a question: How come this money Rounds and associates want for the wall is 3 to 4 times as much as Trump said it would cost when he was a candidate?  Back then Trump told Meet The Press that his wall would cost "$6 or $7 billion if I build it.  If somebody else builds it, it's going to cost $20 billion."
      Turns out both estimates were too low.  As it has happened, I've seen construction cost overruns and have felt the exquisite pain of them. Based on my experience, something tells me that when it comes to this wall, we ain't seen nothing yet.  Consider the wide divergence of estimates out there--in 2017 Mitch McConnell said $12 to $15 billion. That same year the Department of Homeland Security estimated $21.6 billion, and also that same year a minority report from DHS's congressional oversight committee came up with a whopping $70 billion.  Given that range, for Rounds and his co-sponsors to ask us taxpayers to fork over $25 billion is just plain ridiculous.  We need a reasonably reliable estimate of the costs before we start tossing billions of dollars into the project.  I can't believe Senator Rounds is being that irresponsible with our money.  As to how the money gets raised?  I think it's pie-in-the-sky.  Rounds claims that it will be paid for over the next 10 years by fines and penalties assessed to people living here illegally "when they get caught."  I might be missing something, but if this wall is going to be as effective as its backers believe, how will that many people be getting here illegally?
     In his haste to ingratiate himself with Trump, it looks like Rounds has put a pretty slapdash proposal together.  We need more analysis on how much this wall is going to cost and just how that money from illegally residing individuals is going to materialize before we consider handing over 25 billion smackers to the project. Without answers, I have no doubt that we will end up hearing change-of-story number three, which will be a collective realization that this whole border wall thing was dumb idea in the first place. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Guest Poster David Ganje Writes About The Impact And The Maintenance Of The Lewis And Clark Water System

The Achilles Heel of South Dakota’s Largest Water System
     The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System (L & C), a non-government
corporation, uses a series of wells to tap into an aquifer adjacent to the Missouri River in South Dakota.   Raw water is collected from aquifers adjacent to the Missouri River near Vermillion. The water is then treated and distributed through a network of pipelines, pump stations and storage reservoirs.   The system draws from publically held water over which the South Dakota government is the legal trustee.  The system provides water to 20 member cities and rural water systems (all called member users) in a large area of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. It is without question the biggest rural water system in South Dakota.  The proposed maximum amount of water to be treated when the project is completed is about 45 million gallons per day.  To put this in context, the city of Minneapolis produces an average of 57 million gallons of drinking water per day.  In 2015 the state issued a report on the L&C system entitled “Investigation of the Impact of Ground Water Drawdown.” The analysis of the report was inconclusive.  The report recommended that the system “continue to be monitored” and add more observation wells.
     An official from L&C stated that the L&C system’s water source is “abundant and drought-resistant.”  This is a bold statement and one of uncertain accuracy.  The former Federal Reserve Chairman cautions us not to practice irrational exuberance.  Concerning management of a water resource he is right.  Water resources are not inexhaustible.  More importantly, no water resource should be assumed to be inexhaustible.  As consumers we tend to be disconnected from a natural resource used by society, and thus we are often indifferent to the proper management of a resource like water.  Making use of the resource is only one part of managing public waters.  As important as “What’s available?” should be “How do we properly manage, prioritize and conserve?” 
     The L&C water source may be strong but it cannot be looked at as inexhaustible.  L&C recognizes that its wells are integrally connected to the waters of the Missouri River.  The US Army Corps of Engineers by law manages these waterways and must balance many interests when controlling Missouri River dam and water flow.  Water management and use upstream in the Missouri is watched closely by regional politicians and commercial interests down South all along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  Water management policies of the Army Corps cannot practice favoritism.  Even in times of drought.  Droughts occur and effect the Missouri River flow.  No one user group can assume unlimited access.
     Under its state water permits L&C is the custodian of an immense amount of public waters which is distributed to member users.  What is the sustainability of the L&C water source?  How will increased water use affect the water supply?  Can the aquifer meet the demand?  Will the demand harm the aquifer?  Can the water source sustain the increased level of the growing system’s groundwater pumping?  Is there a public emergency water shortage and priority-of-use written policy? Where is a current L&C written public analysis and policy concerning the reliability and use of the water source?  The largest rural water system in the state certainly has the ability to answer these questions.
     One method of determining a diminishing water source is to look at historical information on water levels over time in observation wells for the source. When I looked at data from two longstanding state monitoring wells located near the water system, it suggested that from 2009 through 2018 there was a decline in the observation well water levels. Neither the state Geologic Survey, the DENR or the operator have provided any public reports on the system water levels since 2015.  This should be done.
     The L&C is a water system of great consequence to the area, and it is growing.  The L&C ought to provide a current written public analysis and policy concerning the reliability and use of its water source.
David Ganje of Ganje Law Offices practices in the area of natural resources, environmental and commercial law

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Is Detachment From Reality A Condition For Serving As A Senator From South Dakota?

     After reading today's op-ed in the Rapid City Journal, in which South Dakota Senator
Here's A Sliver For Ya
Mike Rounds argues that "the benefits of tax reform continue," I'm tempted to say the answer is "yes." Oblivious to reality, Rounds says the Trump administration's Tax Cut And Jobs Act is a "win for farmers." 
As his main example in the piece, Rounds touts how doubling the tax exemption on estates from $5.5 million to $11 million is one of those "wins" for farmers.  This is actually laughable, as The Tax Policy Center found that last year there were a grand total of 80 farms and businesses nationwide that would have been forced to pay taxes over the $5.5 million threshold.  As to South Dakota, about a dozen estates had to pay the tax in 2016.  I'm surprised the number is even that large, considering that we have some competent estate-planners in law offices around the state who probably could have used their skills to minimize the tax liabilities of those 12 estates.  A wealthy handful of people got a nice break, but the vast majority of smaller estates gained nothing--which is consistent with the overall weighting of benefits from the tax cut, the brunt of which went to the rich.  The Center On Budget And Policy Priorities just released its findings on the effects of Trump's reforms and concluded as much.
     And how have South Dakota farmers fared, in the context of all that's going on?  Even Rounds concedes that the tax law has given them just a "sliver of relief and certainty."  A sliver?  Yes, a sliver.  Good grief almighty, this man has some chutzpah.  Farm bankruptcies have doubled in the upper Midwest during the past few years and Minneapolis Fed analyst Ron Wirtz expects that trend to continue.  Farm income, as even Rounds concedes, has been down 50 percent in the past five years.  Meantime, trade uncertainty has the whole farm belt twisted in financial knots, with Nebraska farmers having already lost $1 billion to Trump's tariff madness according to that state's Farm Bureau.  I have yet to see an assessment of how South Dakota farmers are weathering this storm, but I doubt it's much better than their Nebraska counterparts.  And as farmers look off to Washington, D.C., to see how their Congressional reps are supporting them, Rounds reassures them with a "sliver" of relief.
     Meantime, as Rounds touts his party's tax cut, he overlooks a few points.  Mentioning the 2 million jobs created this year, he doesn't notice that more than 2 million were created in 2016, the year before Trump took office.  2 million is fine, but we've been there, done that--and under Obama's watch.  Rounds correctly notes that incomes are rising, but that's more a function of people working more hours, not because they're getting better pay.  Forbes notes  that real wages are actually falling.  Yes, unemployment is low, but the Brookings Institution says the aging population has accelerated retirements and boosted labor participation as a result.  Much of this is about demographics, not tax cuts.
     What Rounds misses altogether, and I have no doubt that it was intentional, is the financial havoc that the tax cuts are wreaking on our country's budget.  The tax cut that Rounds is so proud of has resulted in a shortfall of more than $200 billion this year, which is the amount of revenues the government lost to the GOP tax bonanza to the rich.  Our federal debt is about to explode, and Rounds is completely mum about it.  The Republican mantra about the recent gusher of red ink being a function of "entitlement" spending is a bunch of bull, which they'll try to sell to the public with the same gusto that they used for pushing their tax cut.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

That Was Zen. This Is Tao.

     Coming out of last weekend's G20 confab in Buenos Aires, President Trump was all puffed
Why Is Xi Smiling?
He Has Found The Way 
up by what he took to be good news about his self-defeating trade war with China. 
 Why self-defeating?  Because the trade deficit overall, and specifically with China, has gone up, up, up since Trump started his frenzied tariff attempt to reduce it. The September deficit with China hit a new monthly record. In the meantime, South Dakota's soybean farmers are getting financially ripped by this awful initiative and farm bankruptcies in the upper Midwest are the highest since the aftermath of the "Great Recession" a few years back.   Of those bankruptcies, Minneapolis Fed analyst Ron Wirtz says that "current trends suggest that this trend has not yet seen its peak."  I'm not sure what Trump was thinking earlier this year when he said "trade wars are good and easy to win," but I'm certain he ignored legions of analysts (including this blog, as early as 2015) who warned about this outcome.
     As to Trump's self-puffery coming out of Buenos Aires last weekend, our President's proclamation about his talks with China are overstated at best, delusional at worst.  Trump called it "an incredible deal," adding that it's "one of the largest deals ever made."  That hypo-maniacal rhetoric may have some political value somewhere, somehow, but it contrasts starkly with his own administration's official version of the talks.  This is actually kind of weird, as it looks like the real levers of power and policy are wielded by his staffers, who go about their business while completely ignoring what their President is blabbering to the world.  For example, Trump's claim that China is "opening up" and "getting rid of tariffs," was watered down by a White House statement that there was a temporary agreement not to raise tariffs further.  This is such a far cry from "getting rid of tariffs" that it raises the question of who's in charge at the White House.
     Meanwhile, back here at the ranch called South Dakota, our congressional delegates--the all-GOP consortium of Representative Noem and Senators Thune and Rounds--appear to be helpless when it comes to curbing the irrational zeal of President Trump.  They really let their state down by not forcefully complaining about what Trump's tariff war ("so easy to win,"--yeah, right) would do our farm economy.  I have no doubt that they could see this coming and yet there was nary a peep from them, or at least a peep that was loud enough for us to hear in South Dakota.  A meekly-worded "request" to Trump, asking the President to "actively pursue" re-opening soybean markets in China was sent last week to the White House in a jointly worded and signed letter by Senators Rounds and Thune, but there doesn't seem to be much of a reply other than Trump's boisterous claims about a trade breakthrough that never was.  It looks like taxpayer-funded payments in the way of compensatory relief are about all the help from Washington that our soybean farmers, who got the rawest deal imaginable, can expect.  As to the rest of us, it looks like all we can expect is more of the same.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Lies Continue To Compound, But Our Senator John Thune Says "It's Time To Move On." So Much For South Dakota "Values."

     The Mueller investigation has just put an unflattering spotlight on South Dakota
Swearing On The Bible
Republican Senator John Thune and his long time commitment to our state's "values."
  I've never bought the notion that there are South Dakota-specific values, but it's a theme that has long been popular with Thune.  It was a big item during his victorious campaign to unseat Democrat Tom Daschle in 2004, and it even swelled in geographical proportions when he gave a 2010 speech to a National Rifle Association gathering that was dubbed "a celebration of American values."  Given his rise to prominence as the number two Republican in the United States Senate, John Thune's commitment to "values" has long been a useful political adornment, to be flashed as necessary when campaigning and fully embraced when it comes to courting the financial favors of supporters like the NRA.  All of which is okay, of course, this being America and the way things work.
     Only problem is this.  Paying lip service to "values" when politically necessary and then turning around and abandoning them when the heat turns up reveals what a hypocrite Thune has turned out to be. The Mueller investigation has disclosed an ever-compounding and complex configuration of lies that have been used to support the Trump administration and its claims that there was no collusion with Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. We still don't know for sure about the collusion, but we do know for sure about the lies, and it's the lies that are really the point at this stage.  I mean, what is a more fundamental "value" than truthfulness, especially to an avowed Christian like John Thune?  It's encoded in The Ten Commandments and a quick google search will reveal dozens of Bible verses that emphasize the importance of speaking the truth as a matter of spiritual commitment.
     But does Thune care about the spiritual corruption among Trump's inner circle disclosed by that pattern of lies?  Doesn't seem like it.  Speaking to Fox News two days ago, Thune completely ignored the facts about lying among Trump's confederates and stuck to the no-proven-collusion meme, saying Trump "has argued all along there wasn't any collusion on the part of his campaign team or his administration with Russia.  And I haven't seen anything that disproves that,"  therefore, it's time "to move on."
     This is total baloney.  First of all, Thune himself says the final report should be "thorough and complete," so he can't possibly know what it does or does not prove.  Secondly, he dismisses a compellingly new dimension to the whole endeavor:  we're at the point now where lying to Congress
is in itself a crime that needs to be investigated further.  Laughingly,  South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham dismisses it as "a process crime," as if the modifier "process" makes it something other than a normal, garden-variety crime.  That ludicrous blow-off notwithstanding, we need to know if President Trump engaged in any kind of conspiracy to get his associates to lie to the American people via their tainted testimony to Congress and the Mueller team.  Apparently, our values-saturated Senator Thune doesn't think enough of this outrage to focus on it independently of the collusion investigation, but "process" or not, a crime is a crime is a crime.  Has John Thune gotten to the point where he can overlook a pattern of lying to Congress and investigators in his quest for "moving on?"  Expediency is the last refuge of hypocrites.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Internal Combustion Engine Is A Dead Man Walking. We South Dakotans Need To Look Ahead

    Now that South Dakota's soybean markets have been crippled by our elected leaders and
Fill 'Er Up
Hold The Corn
their demented trade wars, our state's corn producers should be looking forward to developments that will likely have some irreversible consequences for their markets and economic well-being. 
While the collapse in soybean prices is mostly due to possibly reversible geopolitical events, corn markets are soon to be vulnerable to global technological challenges that can be neither held off nor reversed. Specifically, that would be the development of a mass market for electric cars.  As it is now, corn prices and production are so dependent on converting grain into ethanol that corn and internal combustion engines (ICE) are economically and permanently intermingled.  Matt Merritt, speaking for mega-ethanol producer Poet, told Tri-State Neighbor last April that "biofuels and agriculture are tied together in a way that they can't really ever unravel."  In the same piece, Chester, South Dakota, corn farmer Ron Alverson said ethanol "created a lot of wealth.  It gave us a new market for our corn.  It's had a huge positive impact."
     That impact is reflected in corn production gains in the space of a generation.  Prior the federally mandated Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, the U.S. generally produced around 10 billion bushels of corn a year.  Production rose by about 30% during the immediately following years, growing steadily until reaching about 15 billion bushels during the past few years.  About a third of that corn is used for ethanol.  What does that mean to South Dakota?  A lot.  According to the South Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service, our state's 2016 crop was worth $2.6 billion.  Without ethanol demand you can lop $850 million off that total.
     That's an awful lot of dependence on gasoline engines and their dubious future.  I note that during the current brouhaha over General Motors  and its decision to lay off thousands of American workers and shut down several factories that GM CEO Mary Barra said the savings would be dedicated to further developing its electric vehicle (EV) technology.  I also note that Tesla--a big player in electric vehicles in this country--is installing a charging station in the community of Wall, adjacent to South Dakota's Badlands National Park.  When GM is spending billions on EVs even as charging stations are going up in communities the size of Wall, you can figure that the future of this technology is now.
     How quickly the transition occurs in the United States is open to speculation, but it's moving apace elsewhere, particularly China.  A September piece in Forbes is titled "Electric Cars=The Future Gasmobile Killers," and it singles out China as the place where this transition is happening quickly due to government demands for fuel efficiency and the favorable contrasts between EVs and their ICE counterparts.  One example:  the drive train in a typical ICE car has 2,000 moving parts.  In an EV, the drive train has 20.  Other aspects discussed include improving battery storage capacity and steadily dropping battery prices.  Despite a fair amount of justifiable skepticism about the near term prospects for EVs going mainstream, the contrasts are favorable enough for a sizable segment of American car buyers.  The Tesla Model 3 waiting list is a queue of pretty impressive proportions:  American buyers number in the tens of thousands, just a small portion of the worldwide list numbering 450,000.
     Much as I doubt that I'll ever put my name on that list, I don't doubt that the future of electric vehicles should make them a sizable portion of the cars on American roads.  It stands to reason that billions of dollars pumped into their research and development will only make EVs more competitive in the car market.  That doesn't bode well  for the future of ethanol production.  Considering its nearly $1 billion dollar a year direct impact on South Dakota's economy, ethanol's future needs to be taken into account by long-term thinkers in this state.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Guest Poster David Ganje Shares A Memo He Sent To State Officials About Wind Energy Development In South Dakota

A Response To The State Study Of Wind Energy Development

The South Dakota legislature this year requested that the state
Legislative Research Council (LRC) provide a report on Wind Energy Development.  A draft Memo report on the wind energy subject was issued by the LRC.  I then provided the LRC written comments and suggestions to their draft Memo.  The following is an abridged version of my direct comments and suggestions to the state LRC:
"I have reviewed the LRC draft Memo.  The Memo mentions a requirement “to provide funding for the decommissioning and removal of the wind energy facility.”  No further discussion is advanced in the LRC Memo on the “decommissioning issue.”  In the recent past I have spoken and written on public project decommissioning. I will outline some of the concerns I have.  I would ask that you (the state LRC) review my comments and share this memo with legislative leaders as they consider and review your Memo on the subject:
Business projects involving some type of government oversight are usually regulated because of a project’s significant environmental or property rights impact.  The purpose of regulation is to safeguard the public in the event of a problem arising from such a project. End-of-life decommissioning is a common contingency event.  Proper planning, evolving around the full life of a proposed project, is key.  But government is not always well endowed with the skills to protect the public from end-of-life events.

No owner, officer or director of a for-profit business is naturally inclined to consider the mortality of a business project.  Even more challenging are government regulators who oversee a project.  Regulators do not always require good exit planning or end-of-business planning for regulated projects. This shortcoming is shown when one considers a government agency’s duty to require a financially viable exit plan. It might be a mining project, a wind farm or a pipeline.  One need only look at existing requirements for decommissioning a project, or for reclaiming the property at the end of the life of a particular project. By way of example, in four different U. S. General Accountability Office public reports over the years, the GAO was critical of several federal agencies ability to set or determine such things as the costs of reclamation for a project. I am glad to share these reports with you at your request.
Decommissioning requirements are written to assure sufficient funds will be available to carry out closure, for reclamation of disturbed areas, for waste disposal, and for dismantling and disposal of facilities.  A U S court recently stated that by requiring financial assurance the incentive for safety is obvious: the availability and cost of a bond will be tied directly to the structural integrity of a facility and the soundness of a mining company’s day-to-day operations.  Agencies however do not in each case require good exit plans for projects they regulate.  I submit that decommissioning is the most significant long-term aspect to the government mine permitting process.
A state official stated publicly that we don’t have a “broken system” in South Dakota. That is not the issue. The issue is not whether lots of decommissioning bonds are liquidated on a regular basis. The whole system is not broken. The issue at hand is, did the called-in bond do what it was supposed to do when an unfunded facility closure, insolvency, bankruptcy or contamination occurred?
Do agencies have the staff resources to conduct adequate review of financial assurance issues? Recent experiences in South Dakota spotlight this problem.   A few years back a state-licensed grain warehouse (in the old days we called them grain elevators) by the name of Anderson Seed Company went belly up. Authority for setting bonds was then and is now given to the SD PUC. The bond for Anderson had been set at $100,000. However, $2.6 million in claims were lost. The insolvency of the company resulted in a little over 4 cents on the dollar paid back to those South Dakota parties who lost money in the insolvency. The setting of the bond was inadequate. The payout to the innocent grain sellers/producers was inadequate. The end-of-life planning was not well done. This experience resulted in a change in the law, but that change is itself an incomplete effort at planning project end-of-life contingencies. The second example is the very recent oil well breakdown near the town of Wasta. A drill bit broke part way down an oil well. This break necessitates the plugging of the well to protect aquifers. But the operator had run out of money. The operator was required by the state to put up a nominal bond of $120,000 for each well for which it had obtained a permit. According to a recent news article, the state DENR reported that the bond money was not enough to address this problem. The official stated that the cost could be $2 million because of the broken bit and the 150 feet of drill pipe that remain in the hole about a mile into the earth.
Board members and state agency staff are often appointed to their positions because of their expertise and training in geology, law, hydrology, engineering and the like. Agency staff and appointed board members often have expertise dealing with normal board matters including wind farm permit applications, water rights disputes and similar issues.  It is unusual however for even a large agency to have expertise on financial qualification matters that must ultimately be set by an agency or commission and directed to the developer who is then obligated to provide the agency with end-of-project planning or safety assurances.  A regulatory system that sets a ‘statutory amount’ for this type of decommissioning contingency may be adopting too simple a solution.
I previously put before the public a recommendation.  This recommendation should be considered by the state legislature. My recommendation:  an agency, department, or commission required to set an operator’s financial assurance requirements shall evaluate in writing all financial assurance proposals using an agency-designated non-party (an outside consultant) with recognized experience on the matter of providing financial assurance.  A completed report and recommendation by an outside consultant would be a condition before granting or maintaining a permit or license. The costs incurred by the government in contracting with the independent outside consultant shall be paid by the operator."
 David Ganje of Ganje Law Offices in Rapid City, SD, practices in the area of natural resources, environmental and commercial law

Monday, November 26, 2018

Guest Poster Sam Hurst Has A Few Words To Say About The Greenhouse Effect


The basic geophysics and chemistry of the greenhouse effect have been understood by science for at least a century, and the consequences of rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases, have been charted and understood for at least fifty years (I personally did my first reporting on climate for NBC News thirty years ago). Every major scientific academy in the world understands the problem. Every physics department in every university in the nation understands the problem. Every wildfire ecologist, hurricane meteorologist, oceanographer, and eighth grade science teacher understands the problem. Luckily, we are safe because our President knows more about everything than anyone else knows about anything, and he is confident that rakes will save us.
It is easy to ridicule a scientific illiterate like Donald Trump. And it is easy to criticize the head-in-the-sand Republicans in Congress. They are the products of willfull ignorance and they are hostage to oil, coal and industrial agriculture. But this morning I am worried about a different aspect of the problem. I have studiously watched the response of cable networks to the release of last week’s administration report on climate change, and there is one conspicuous unifying pattern to the coverage. The panels of experts do not include a single scientist. We are forced to endure the babble of retired politicians, pollsters, generals, economists, former prosecutors, and this morning CNN even had the audacity to interview the Vice President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. Over the weekend, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst gave us the brilliant insight that while she is not a scientist, “climate always changes.” Retired Pennsylvania Senator and perennial president candidate Rick Santorum gave us the expert insight that climate scientists are in the pockets of financial interests. In every case, anchors and reporters allowed the babble to go unchallenged because the anchors themselves are unprepared to speak to the science of climate. Their role is to give “each side” equal time to express their “opinion.” And yet, there is NEVER a voice for science on the panels. For once, I would like to see the scientific community included in a discussion about climate change, if for no other reason than to call out the babble and explain the facts. I would like anchors to ask three simple questions of every politician and pundit who presumes to speak about climate: (1) “Can you explain the ‘greenhouse effect.’” It is, afterall, an eighth grade science lesson. (2) “Can you explain the way that carbon dioxide and methane interact in the atmosphere.” Republican politicians invariably begin with the answer: “I am not a scientist.” As if ignorance is an excuse. This is where question (3) is so important. “If you are not a scientist, who do you rely on for scientific advice about scientific matters? Who should we call to ask how you came to such dumb conclusions about climate change?” Does Senator Thune draw on the expertise of climate scientists at SDSU, SDSMT, or Mitchell VoTech? Someone ask him…”Name one single physicist or atmospheric chemist who gives you advice.” By way of followup, astrologists, dentists and chiropractors do not count.” Does Senator Rounds rely on climate experts at the South Dakota Corn Council, or the Soybean Growers Association? Let us call your chosen advisors and ask them about their advice to the nation’s leaders. Throughout the recent campaign Dusty Johnson made light-hearted commercials that included his children. Perhaps we could ask them, or their middle school science teacher, if they advise the Congressman-elect. Climate change is real. The science is irrefutable. The dire consequences we face in the next century are the result of fossil fuel-based industrialization and human activity. The Industrial Revolution brought enormous wealth and improvement in the human condition. But now the chickens have come home to roost, and we either launch a new revolution of conservation and alternative energy, or we face the harsh judgement of our children, and their children. The time is over for babble like “climate always changes.” and “government regulation is bad.” If you don’t understand the greenhouse effect and the dynamics of the atmosphere, ask your children. And, allow scientists to explain science on television.

Sam Hurst is a Rapid City-based writer.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

On Deficits, Debt and Denial--South Dakota's Congressional Reps Have Let Us Down.

     Some people think federal deficits and debt matter.  Some don't.  A lot couldn't care less.  Then there are those who jump from one classification to another, depending on how the political winds are blowing.  Take South Dakota's all-Republican congressional delegation.  Please. (You're supposed to laugh at the old Henny Youngman canard, but I'll understand if you'd rather cry instead.)  This bunch of so-called deficit hawks were hell on earth about federal deficits when it suited them.  Senator John Thune on his website pontificates that "every South Dakota family must live within a budget, and I continue to believe the federal government should do the same."  Two years ago Senator Mike Rounds solemnly warned that "the debt crisis" is here.  Representative (now Governor-elect) Kristi Noem once conspicuously voted to de-fund the federal government, effectively shutting it down for a month in October, 2013.
Way To Keep The Drive Alive
Thanks For The Fiscal Discipline, Pubs

     You once could classify this trio as belonging to a group that supposedly cared about federal deficits and the ballooning debt.  But that was then and this is now.  Their uniform support for the Trump administration's budget policies has betrayed their real inclinations to not really give a damn about the federal debt.  Our congressional trio's fealty to their political paramour Donald Trump led them to swallow his nonsensical promise to eliminate the national debt.  He said he would do it two ways:  One was by renegotiating trade deals that were destroying the American economy, and two, by delivering a tax cut that would drive economic growth to 6 percent annually.  This blog, along with countless other observers and financial experts, including the federal Office of Management and Budget, understood that Trump's projections were a complete scam-o-la,  but our congressional reps chose to ignore me (lol, like they even care, much less know who I am) and their own experts at OMB and buy into the politically mesmerizing promises of Donald Trump.
     As to the first promise that Trump made, the one about favorably renegotiating trade deals, you can ask South Dakota's soybean farmers how that one went.  All that that phony-baloney hype did was cause confusion and uncertainty, killing soybean prices, and spilling over into our financial markets, which have been gyrating like crazy in recent weeks.  And on that second point about how those tax cuts would stimulate growth?  Ha.  That six percent delusion has been exposed as the hoax that it was.  The result?  Our federal debt continues to explode, unchecked by an illusory surge of tax revenues that never materialized from Trump's fantasyland growth forecasts. Tax revenues have actually declined through August, both nominally and adjusted for inflation This year's growth rate--stimulated by that tax cut--has averaged a bit over 3%, but Kiplinger, along with just about all the other market and finance forecasters I follow, expects it to slow down to the 2-2.5% level next year.  I don't predict markets, but I can't ignore the fact that major stock indexes are at best even for 2018, and in some cases down a bit.  Sanguine about the economy, they are not.
     In the meantime, South Dakota's congressional mix has changed, with Republican Congressman-elect Dusty Johnson replacing Kristi Noem.  I hope he shows more commitment than his predecessor and his counterparts in the Senate when it comes to conventional Republican dedication to fiscal discipline, because so far our GOP reps have been textbook models of inconsistency and downright hypocrisy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Khashoggi Killing Is Creating A Moral Crisis. How Are South Dakota Senators Rounds And Thune Dealing With It?

    South Dakota Senators Mike Rounds and John Thune, both Republicans, have
Rounds, Thune
Testing Their Faith
a moral crisis on their hands.  
President Donald Trump thinks overlooking the murderous deeds ("highly probable" per the CIA) of Saudi Arabia's leader in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is "all about America first."  He said that today--adding that "we're not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars of orders" to punish the Saudi government for its complicity in the murder of a journalist.  That's serious money, of course, but it may not be as serious as Trump's hyperbole portends.  CNBC notes that while Saudi Arabia is the world's top buyer of American weaponry, "it doesn't spend as much as Trump boasts."  According to CNBC, Saudi Arabia spent just $9 billion on American arms between 2013 and 2017.  The figures Trump cites are essentially a "potential wish list" for future sales and that since Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia last year only 6 deals worth about $4 billion have been signed.  Considering that annual sales for America's defense and aerospace industries top $700 billion a year and that Lockheed Martin alone sold $36 billion worth of arms in 2015, Saudi Arabia's business probably doesn't stack up as a number that should make us worry about "the destruction of our economy" as Trump hyperbolized today.  Nor should it be the catalyst for abandoning our moral principles.  

     This is a conundrum that South Dakota's two U.S. Senators can't be taking lightly.  As of July, 2017, both were listed as sponsors of a Christian organization called Capitol Ministries that accepts the notion of an institutional separation between church and state but strongly supports with biblical reference the idea of an influential relationship, meaning that government officials must apply their Christian values to their secular decisions.  The head of the organization, Ralph Drollinger, has said that "God only hears the prayers of righteous Christians."  That being the case, how can our two senators, presumably striving to maintain their standings as "righteous Christians" who can influence our government to behave according to  their religious principles do anything but reject the notion of  business as usual with the Saudi rulers who the CIA believes are responsible for murder?
     Do Rounds and Thune have anything to say about this?  President Trump's waffling rejection ("maybe he did it, maybe he didn't") of the CIA's conclusion that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince ordered the murder hasn't gone down well with a number of Senators, including some Republicans.  Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said, "I'm pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First."  Lindsey Graham said, "it is not in our best interests to look the other way" in this case.  Utah Senator-elect Mitt Romney called for a "withering sanction" of Saudi Arabia.  Meanwhile, I haven't seen much from either of our South Dakota senators about the matter, which is testing their publicly-avowed Christian values and challenging their commitments to the moral authority of their respective churches.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Guest Poster David Ganje Has Some Thoughts On South Dakota State Boards

The Problem With South Dakota Boards
‘Changes in regulations must await a demonstrated need.’ This is more than
South Dakota Attorney David Ganje
a concept but is the actual practice and the mantra of most governments. In keeping with the principles of government restraint, adopting new regulations must await a serious event which only then calls for new regulations.  A preferred ideology is to respond to events after they have happened.  Otherwise, it is argued that premature action is experimentation and not the job of government.
Should a state board or a commission appointed by the governor be more than a policeman or a Justice of the Peace?  That is the question. Examples are necessary.  One must look at what power or authority is given to a board. In this instance I will use two boards and discuss their significance, and present to the reader the legal power granted to them.  The state Water Management Board and the Board of Minerals and Environment each consist of citizen members appointed by the Governor, not all of whom may be from the same political party.  So the beauty is that these appointees are not lobbyists, government employees or hired guns.
Both named boards have an advisory function giving the public, the legislature and the governor advice, gathering information, and making recommendations.  In addition the boards have a rulemaking and permitting function.  This is extraordinary in government.  A group of citizens is in effect managing environmental and water policy.
How extraordinary this is was borne out by my recent experience.  I was privileged to just complete the teaching of a seminar on natural resources and environmental law to Czech law students at a university in the Czech Republic.  In the seminar I compared and contrasted South Dakota’s water and natural resources law with that of the Czech Republic.  In South Dakota authority for water use permits and mining permits as well as overseeing permit holders and permit holder problems lies with the two citizen boards I mentioned.  That’s a lot of power in the hands of appointed citizens of the state, not in the hands of government employees.  Some of the seminar students had a hard time appreciating this difference in the law.  Their struggle has to do with the fact that all natural resource and environmental laws in their country are controlled by government agencies and its employees -- not by boards or commissions.
Is the preferred ideology of responding to events after they have happened the better way to preserve property, prevent loss and prevent harm to the environment?  No.  I have over the last couple of years provided numerous examples of historical events causing financial or other harm for which state government has provided no adequate response, and have suggested rules which will prevent future harm.  These examples can be found in the various articles and blogs on my website. The subject of several of my suggestions is the lack of preparedness for accidents, spills or so-called disasters. In almost each instance the suggested points have not been addressed.  Alas these boards have the full authority to anticipate such problems and legal authority to act in advance; that is they have the power to make fair, open and public rules.  The rulemaking process itself allows for public input.  Secret rule making is not permitted.  And the boards are not burdened with lawmaking pressures of lobbyists hanging on their every word, interest groups petitioning them with incessant ‘concerns’ and other normal challenges of publically elected politicians.  Boards are blessed with the legal authority to be agents of change in the fast evolving world of environmental and natural resource management.  They need to be more than just policemen or Justices of the Peace. 
Boards are not using their advisory and rulemaking authority to their advantage and to the advantage of the state.  Boards are given the legal framework to propose rulemaking but prefer to manage the status quo.  This exceptional citizen rulemaking power does not exist in other governments and in other countries.  This is indeed an opportunity squandered.
David Ganje of Ganje Law Offices in Rapid City, SD, practices in the area of natural resources, environmental and commercial law