R’s Willing to Trash the Environment

by Judy Ferro

An article in Grist, an on-line progressive magazine, recently pointed out 11 ways the 2016 Republican platform attacks the environment.

Of the 2400 words the platform devotes to the environment, I find these the most humorous: “The environment is too important to be left to radical environmentalists.” To me, “radical” environmentalists are those who don’t believe in harvesting trees, even dead ones. Those who support clean air and water are more accurately termed “the majority of Americans.”

The Republican plank Idahoans hear about the most is giving Federal lands to the states. I’ve seen contradictory polls on whether Idahoans support this. I suspect whether the state should manage Federal lands gets different results than asking if we should end limits on mining or clear cutting—or sell—public lands. Idahoans value their mountains, rivers, and open lands.

But this platform doesn’t stop with lands. It calls for turning all environmental regulation over to the states. The EPA would become a forum where states could share information and plan together. Conceivably, states could ante up for research on environmental threats. More likely, however, we’d see poor states like Idaho racing to lower regulations—as they have taxes and worker benefits—to compete with others for business.

Just in case the EPA remains a viable regulating agency, the platform also forbids regulating carbon dioxide or imposing a carbon tax. Neither, of course, is necessary if there is no threat from global warming.

It’s not surprising then that the platform rejects both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement that set goals on reducing air pollution. It also calls for the U.S. to discontinue giving any funds to the United Nations agency dealing with global warming.

A break here for dark humor: the platform insists that coal is a clean energy—so clean that current limits on carbon pollution from coal electrical plants should be abolished. That’s like banishing deodorant because Americans smell great. If coal is naturally clean, regulations aren’t adding difficulties to its processing. The plank not only makes no sense, it threatens those with friends or family who suffer from lung problems.

Another plank would end all Federal regulations on fracking. Since our legislature has removed the right of local governments to regulate fracking, Idahoans only protection from having a well injecting unknown chemicals into the ground just 20 feet from their home would be 55 or so of the legislators in Boise. Our legislature has already said local governments have no power to regulate fracking and only grudgingly acknowledge Federal regulations.

(I used to think that no one could mine on land I owned. Then I found they could if I didn’t own the mineral rights. This past year, I learned that even if I owned the mineral rights, companies could extract oil or gas from my land if enough of my neighbors agreed to it. I want regulations on how close wells are to my house and how much pollution they may release.)

Other planks call for the government to “expedite” export terminals for liquefied natural gas (ignore that huge methane leak in California) and for approval of the XL Keystone Pipeline (let’s place states from north to south at risk of leaks with no economic benefit).

Overall, as Grist sums it up, the 2016 Republican platform seeks to “deregulate pollution, halt any action to prevent climate change, and expand fossil fuel use.”

If that’s what it means to be Republican, I’ll pass.