David Ganje: A conversation between Mr. Ganje and South Dakota
Ganje Law Offices
This is a conversation between me and the government of South Dakota. While this conversation is mostly a product of my imagination, the message is a close depiction of the government’s state of mind.
Ganje: Mr/Ms Government, in this conversation I wish to discuss government inertia in our rapidly changing world. A recent British study says that government has a perspective different from the general public, and that government is more risk averse when dealing with identified problems as well as with abstract issues. Do you agree?
Government: Sir, the world may think what it pleases. But you should remember that without a stable predictable government the world would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. And importantly, government should always be ready to defend itself against its citizens.
Ganje: Does not the book of Proverbs tell us that government should have a forward-thinking vision?
Government: We are not the enemy, sir. Government’s stability is for the good of the people. The vision thing is for artists and designers. Unless a problem is large and right in front of us why should we have to address it? We are the government and we are here to help.
Ganje: Do you keep records and statistics on citizen proposals concerning existing regulations and new rules?
Government: We have no general clearinghouse for such matters. We do give public notice on matters and receive suggestions from the public but citizen proposals are commonly not worth the reading. Citizen input is for town halls, not for important state government concerns.
Ganje: Boards and departments are the agencies responsible for writing rules and for setting policy mandates. Just how do you make a decision in government?
Government: Well, we are glad you asked. We are not persuaded by emotional appeals. We use decision theory to determine what action to take. We use a decision tree to graph out the alternatives and decide whether or not an issue should be taken to the next level. We determine if it is worth the effort to go to the next stage. The government prides itself on being risk-neutral, and we get outside training on how not to decide issues.
Ganje: Do you agree with the state Supreme Court that state agencies and boards are clothed with the authority to control and manage issues?
Government: Yes, and you may rely on the accuracy of our positions, decisions, policies and rules. Please also remember, a department, agency or board rarely bears the direct costs of any of its actions or of its inactions. The consequences of a problem may harm some but infrequently injures the government.
Ganje: In the past I submitted recommendations to you on topics concerning natural resources, property law and environmental oversight. The following is a recap of some of my suggestions previously placed on the table. 1.) A requirement that CAFOs carry commercial liability insurance that includes pollution and environmental spill coverage. 2.) A law providing compensation for property owners whose property has been burdened by the state permitting a public use of the waters over a landowner’s property. 3.) In order to accurately calculate the amount required for an oil well or mining closure and decommissioning bond (an issue over which a state has no financial expertise or training) a rule should be adopted by which the state hires an outside financial expert to calculate the financial risks of a closure or abandonment. The expense of the financial expert is to be paid by the permit applicant. Recently an oil well breakdown occurred. The amount the state imposed for the bond was in the end less than 10% of what the state later estimated would be needed if the oil well was to be plugged. 4.) On permit applications, require that an applicant disclose prior law violations or agency compliance violations so that so-called “bad actors” are not given a free pass. 5.) Require a water permit applicant, who will use large quantities of water, provide an aquifer recharge study as a part of the application. For a sustainable state water system the amount of water withdrawn from a particular aquifer should be balanced with the amount of water returned (recharged) by nature to that particular aquifer. The state’s existing water use policy which forbids the “mining” of the public’s water would be served by requiring this specific water information. The requirement for a recharge study does not exist in the state’s current water code or rules. So my question then to you Mr/Ms Government is simple. Have you adopted any of these suggestions? Even in part?
Government: Well, no we have not. The government must always be vigilant and prevent the public from taking part in issues which properly concern the public.