Please allow me to introduce myself, politically that is. I am a fiscal and social conservative. I have always voted Republican because that party has come closest to upholding my views. But I have libertarian leanings, most especially a strong belief that government needs to keep its hands off our lives and let us make our own choices, as long as those choices don’t harm other people. I cast my first vote in 1968 and that was for Richard Nixon as president. I recall having to pay a poll tax. Shortly thereafter, Maine did away with that discriminatory tax.

At first glance, people I meet have no idea what my political leanings are. Even the editor of this paper, when discussing me writing a conservative, political column, was surprised to learn that I was a conservative. The reason for this is that I don’t broadcast my feelings. I do not inject political views into conversations, oral nor written. And since I make a living as a writer and magazine journalist, that’s a good thing. The mark of a good journalist is that you cannot tell from his or her writing whether he or she is conservative or liberal. And that’s the way it should be. Are you listening ABC, CBS and NBC?

But offering political views in a politically-oriented column is quite another thing. So let’s get right at it. One of the greatest threats to the U.S. private citizen is not from foreign enemies, but rather from our own government. And of all the government agencies, the most fearsome of all is the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.

Banning woodstoves

Who would have thought that Americans would ever have cause to discuss a ban on wood-burning stoves? But it’s a topic ripe for discussion right now and we in Maine could potentially suffer more than most states if the proposed EPA regulations become law.

Essentially, the EPA wants to greatly reduce the amount of particulate matter generated by woodstoves. To do this, the agency has set its sights on new stoves. Existing stoves would necessarily be exempted. But here’s the catch. No stoves, even brand-new models sitting on showroom floors, can meet the government’s proposed regulations. Some people consider this tantamount to a ban on woodstoves. Here’s why.

The cost to manufacturers for upgrading woodstoves to meet the proposed EPA standards would be so steep that a great many companies simply could not afford it and would have to shut down. Those who soldiered on would be compelled to pass the costs along to consumers. The price of a new woodstove would soar, to the point where people who need a woodstove the most, rural Mainers for example, would not be able to afford one.

Maine has a long history of using one of its greatest renewable resources, wood, as a solid fuel for heating homes. One of the nicest things about the fall season for me is when we have the first cold snap and I get that initial whiff of wood smoke from someone’s chimney. But not everyone feels the same way.

When people who come from a place where no one burns wood and move to a rural area, they immediately become aware of smoke from their neighbor’s woodstove. And it doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to predict what happens next. The new residents complain. I’ve heard wood smoke being compared to second-hand cigarette smoke. But here’s the thing. The woodstoves were here first.

We might liken this conflict to what happens when someone buys two acres next to a working farm and builds a new house. The new residents complain about the manure smell. They complain about the early-morning activity and they complain about fertilizers and pesticides that farmers spray on or around their crops. This situation was at the point of erupting into a terrible brouhaha when Maine passed a law that in effect, told farmers that they could continue running their farms as per usual and that neighbors bothered by these activities would no longer have legal standing in their attempts to thwart or disrupt the farmers. Case settled.

This same sort thing is what is happening with woodstoves. But instead of being a matter for individual states to decide state’s rights, anyone? — the federal government has taken up the torch. And what the EPA wants, the EPA usually gets.

The ability of the EPA to pass laws that may cause great harm to countless persons scares the heck out of me. Agencies such as the EPA tilt toward the new Washington administration after every presidential election. The president appoints agency heads and quite naturally appoints someone with the same views. That has happened for years. The current president has gone a step further and uses agencies such as the EPA to implement laws and regulations that would not otherwise have a chance of passing.

This arbitrary and single-handed law making severely strains the limits of presidential power as established by our constitution. And that, too, frightens me as it should frighten all of us. But there is hope. Read on.

House EPA probe

The United States has copious natural resources which, if utilized, would end our dependence on foreign countries for energy. But instead of investing in developing what we have, President Obama has taken a firm stand against domestic energy production. The president has specifically targeted coal, one of our more abundant resources. Who can forget his speech, when he said that companies could build more coal-fired power plants if they wanted to, but he promised to make the taxes on them so burdensome that they would go broke?

Part of the administration’s plan to destroy the coal industry is due to come on line very soon. The EPA has proposed new limits on how much carbon new power plants would be allowed to discharge. However, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has opened an investigation of the EPA, questioning whether or not that agency complied with the law when it wrote the new rules.

The House committee probe follows closely on the heels of a House vote to require the EPA to base their emission regulations on technology that has seen a minimum of one year of use. While the GOP led the charge, 10 House democrats joined with the Republicans on the vote. The White House in a predictable response has threatened to kill the bill with a veto.

At the crux of the matter is that, according to Republicans and some Democrats from coal-producing states, the technology needed to comply with the proposed EPA regulations is years away. The EPA, on the other hand, disagrees.

What will become of this? We’ll just have to wait and see. But at least the EPA has finally encountered some governmental resistance to its heavy-handed tactics.

Where was that House committee when they took away our incandescent light bulbs? As you might guess, I am well-stocked with enough old-fashioned light bulbs to last for the rest of my life. I even have enough to give away as Christmas presents. What’s your choice, 60 or 100-watt? I’m making my list right now.