Here's a cautionary tale for metalcasters, or anyone, who deals with government regulators in the course of doing their work: a (now former) manager at an aluminum diecaster faces up to seven years in prison, in a sense because the plant was too productive. It produced too much metal.
I've spouted off about over-regulation before now, but this case strikes me as illustrative. The man on trial pleaded guilty, so there's no disputing the facts in this case. There was some effort and conspiracy to deceive the regulators, which should be punished.
I will, on the other hand, dispute the logic of the regulation. Eighty ladles of molten aluminum is legal - but 81, or more, and you're in violation. I don't think I'm trimming the argument too closely by suggesting that the approach is arbitrary and punitive, and meant to ensnare operations that exceed the oversight of regulators. If 81 ladles is too many, then 40 or 20, or 10 (you see where I'm going) must be even better. Why not shut down the operation all together? Wouldn't that be the best way to achieve EPA's objective? Surely there is documented research demonstrating the inviolability of the science determining that 80 ladles is the limit, right?
Science, and facts more generally, are valuable to us because they provide certainty, but the application of limits in this way is capricious. If the facts as pursued in this case were applied to their logical end then the operation would close — and then the inspectors and regulators, and prosecutors, would have no one over whom to exert their authority, or collect revenue.
I think it's worth observing that the time during which the violations occurred in this case was very much the depth of the recent recession — when productivity was essential to survival, especially for aluminum diecasters, Undoubtedly this manager knew the importance of a few extra ladles of aluminum to the viability of the operation. (There is no suggestion he was gaining personally from the violation or the conspiracy.) Every manufacturer understands that without income, without profit, there is nothing.
Let us have regulations then, but let us have an honest understanding of the purpose of manufacturing and the reasons that individuals and businesses engage in it.