TCS Daily

Lynn Scarlett of TechCentralStation Is Named To High Interior Post

By James K. Glassman - April 2, 2001 12:00 AM

President George W. Bush announced Tuesday that he intends to nominate Patricia Lynn Scarlett, co-host of the TechCentralStation, where she oversees the New Environmentalism site, to be assistant secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management and Budget - the department's No. 2 job.

It's an excellent appointment. Just three months ago, Lynn, as most people know her, became president of the Reason Foundation, a highly regarded Los Angeles-based free-market think tank. She joined the foundation in 1979 as a researcher and eventually headed the Reason Public Policy Institute. I am a member of the Reason Foundation's board of trustees, and over the years I have been impressed with Lynn's ability to solve problems by taking a fresh point of view.

Lynn is no ideologue, no extremist. She favors a "holistic" approach to solving environmental problems, finding solutions that balance costs and benefits. And she knows both the science of conservation and the public policy. What a refreshing change for Washington!

She's also an avid naturalist herself. A birdwatcher for decades and a hiker, she canoed down the Missouri River last summer, retracing part of the Lewis and Clark's route of exploration.

Lynn has long chaired the governor's committee charged with making recommendations for California's smog-check program, and she is part of a consulting team to the state's department of conservation, responsible for evaluating the state's container-recycling laws.

She's a strong believer in conservation, but not in top-down solutions imposed by politicians and bureaucrats. For example, she has been a leading advocate of "pay-as-you-throw" programs, which don't impose limits on trash but simply discourage waste through market forces. The more you put out, the more you pay. Some 7,000 communities have now adopted this system.

In one of her pieces for TechCentralStation, Lynn explained the "new environmentalism" - her catch phrase for a dynamic, evolving, innovative approach to improving the environment:.

"We look at the old four P's of environmentalism - those top-down rules characterized by punishment, prescription, process, and partitioning of issues into separate rather than interrelated problems. And we look at an emergent new environmentalism where statecraft emphasizes the four I's: incentives, innovation, integrated decision-making and performance indicators."

In another piece, she strongly backed President Bush's decision not to impose "multi-pollutant" rules that would limit emissions of carbon dioxide.

"Warning signs of potential changes in climate patterns may warrant some policy response," she wrote. "But the scope of uncertainties about the nature of the risk and what is causing it argue for an emphasis on adaptation and technology development, not direct regulations to reduce greenhouse gases.

"This is not a do-nothing approach. New Jersey has a voluntary emission-reduction program for companies. The program encourages energy efficiency, which, in turn, reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Participating companies supplant old-style 'source-by-source' pollution-reduction efforts with a system-wide approach. Some old-style regulations stand in the way of plant modernization or equipment upgrading. Programs like New Jersey's overcome these regulatory barriers to innovation.

"Adaptation also can involve reducing people's vulnerability to extreme weather conditions. It can involve research so agriculture can weather changes in weather. And it can involve facilitating market-based exchanges of technology between the United States and developing countries."

The Reason Foundation's website ( has been the single best resource for information on the California energy crisis - a matter that inevitably will involve the Interior Department in tough decision-making. Scarlett's answer, here too, is not simply to reject recent environmental progress in the interest of more supply.

"Conservation can play a role," she wrote in a TechCentralSation piece, "but only if two conditions are met. First, the state will have to let retail prices rise. And, secondly, the state will have to introduce some regulatory flexibility so big users of electricity can move more quickly to energy-conserving technologies. Conservation on any meaningful scale requires the very kinds of regulatory flexibility environmental lobbyists have opposed."

Lynn also is completely conversant with what states outside California have done. She wrote, "Regulatory innovation of the sort pioneered in other states offers California the best way to bring on more power supplies -- and maintain, or even improve, environmental quality. These innovations should not be confused with regulatory relief that would jeopardize the air-quality gains California has made over the past two decades."

It is this kind of reasoning that leads me to say that our loss - both at TechCentralStation and at the Reason Foundation - will be the nation's gain. We're proud that the president has chosen Lynn Scarlett as a steward for the nation's natural resources. He could not have made a better choice.


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