The tragedy of California’s bureaucrat-made drought

Drought Now rolling into its fourth year like a lazy tumbleweed, California’s drought has reached such terrifying proportions that federal disaster monitors now consider 95 percent — fully 55 of the state’s 58 counties — in a state of emergency. And if a band of restless local regulators get their way, it’ll be only a matter of time until the entire state suffers this bone-dry fate.

Before you tune out, understand this isn’t simply a California problem — it’s a national one.

The state produces roughly half of all the nuts, fruits and vegetables consumed by the rest of the country. According to the number crunchers, these are the farms from where America grows 99 percent of its walnuts, 97 percent of its plums, 95 percent of its garlic, 89 percent of its cauliflower, 71 percent of its spinach and nearly 90 percent of leaf lettuce.

Now you’re getting it: Water scarcity out west could translate to food scarcity in the east and everywhere in between.

Unfortunately, this water crisis isn’t purely the consequence of bad luck — or the heavens snubbing California of the rains. Bureaucrats have managed to worsen the situation.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard chief executive now running for president, said earlier this year that California “is a classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of ideology. It’s a tragedy.” The worsening water crisis, the Golden Stater warned, “is a man-made disaster.”

She’s right, and that should terrify you.

Aided by compliant bureaucrats, California’s notorious environmental lobby has been agitating for stricter regulation of perchlorate, a ubiquitous compound with both natural and anthropogenic sources in the environment.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), an official state agency that lacks enforcement power but whose directives are considered by other agencies with the power to enforce, revised its Public Health Goal for perchlorate, lowering the state’s then-standard of six parts per billion (ppb) to a dramatically more conservative one part per billion.

Simply put: Golden State regulators have decided that the only safe amount of perchlorate is no amount, despite the peer-reviewed science. The problem is that this compound is not even remotely harmful at low levels and, because it’s naturally occurring, it’s everywhere.

Federal regulators, too, are inexplicably angling for some of this red tape action. At least there they’ve faced some road blocks, though.

Four years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considered lowering the federal recommendation for perchlorate from 15 parts per billion to California’s six ppb standard. But the agency’s own inspector general concluded that tighter regulation of this sort would provide no meaningful benefit to public health and would instead come at great cost.

Undeterred, the environmental lobby is still trying to find a work-around for this inconvenient truth.

The environmental lobby hopes to regulate what amounts to a fly speck in an Olympic-sized swimming pool — levels that would have no impact on even vulnerable populations, like infants and pregnant women, according to all the available science. These folks don’t care about science, which for 60 years has shown that this compound is non-threatening in low concentrations, as it’s normally found.

No matter — these activists are willing, as Mrs. Fiorina warned, to sacrifice your life and livelihood at the altar at their ideology. That is indeed a tragedy.