EPA Under Siege

“Rivers no longer catch fire, as the Cuyahoga, in Ohio, did repeatedly in the fifties and sixties; the skies over Los Angeles are no longer choked with brown smog; acid rain is no longer the threat it was to rivers, lakes, and wildlife; gasoline for cars is no longer made with lead, which damages children’s brain development.” (New Yorker, April 2, 2018.)
Pollution was never that bad in the Treasure Valley, but it was bad.
Ever wonder how Caldwell could have paved over a great asset like Indian Creek?

It smelled. It wasn’t as bad as sewage, but the creek definitely gave the town a wet dog air–highlighted here and there by contributions from cattle feedlots, a mink farm, and a much smellier ancestor of Nampa’s sugar beet factory.

By 1948 Congress realized that America’s pollution problems were interfering with commerce as well as quality of life and started legislating controls. In 1970 an executive order from President Nixon combined the government units involved under the Environmental Protection Agency.

Today we have cleaner air in spite of having six times as many cars on the road. That alone has saved thousands of lives. (Not that we have clean air. Only China has a higher rate of air pollution than the United States.)

EPA regulations haven’t prevented the U.S. from becoming the number one oil producer in the world. Only Saudi Arabia and Russia come close.

And U.S. production of coal more than doubled from 1960 to 2008. It’s since fallen about 10 percent as natural gas became a plentiful bi-product of gas fracking while coal deposits became deeper and harder to reach.

Many have criticized the EPA for not doing enough to clean up hazardous waste and protect animal habitats.

Still, the EPA has accomplished much in spite of being underfunded, understaffed, and politically pressured.

So I’m sad to see the EPA now mismanaged, attacked, and demoralized.

Both leaders appointed by President Trump–Scott Pruitt as director and Andrew Wheeler as acting director–value industry over health.

Pruitt set in motion reversal of 30 regulations dealing with clean air, water, hazardous waste, endangered species, etc.

Employees are watching years of their research being tossed out.

And the agency’s allowed spending is $800,000 less than in FY2016.

Proposed new rules would require that economic factors be considered important when deciding if an endangered species should be saved, and that companies be allowed to build roads, pipelines, mines, etc. in critical habitat areas.

Moreover, the scientific community is alarmed over proposed changes in the rules for deciding what research may be considered. On the surface, the changes seem to promote transparency. Many researchers, however, claim that the changes require more information about research subjects than academic and government labs are allowed to reveal.

Future EPA scientists may be allowed to consider only industry-sponsored research when formulating regulations.

And some changes favor polluters over industry.

If U.S. cars of 2025 are required to be only as efficient as my 2008 vehicle, there won’t be an export market.

One major manufacturer opposes a proposed change making new trucks equipped with old engines exempt from efficiency regulations as making “a mockery of the massive investments we’ve made to develop low-emission-complaint technology.”

A major truck dealer claims it’s the equivalent of saying that five percent of the trucks didn’t have to stop for a school bus or obey the speed limit.

EPA scientists claim older engines on the road cause 1600 premature deaths each year.

Only a handful of people gain from the manufacture such trucks.

 

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2018

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