EPA Failing America

Just over a year ago, Scott Pruitt resigned as chair of the Environmental Protection Agency. Many Americans were relieved. Not only was he involved in some ethical scandals–remember his $43,000 soundproof booth?–he managed to reverse decades of EPA action.
As CNN said, “Pruitt moved aggressively to scale back Obama-era moves on climate change, automobile pollution standards and other industrial pollutants.”
But former White House climate adviser Paul Bledsoe saw Andrew Wheeler, the 20-year Washington insider in line for Pruitt’s position, as a greater danger.
Apparently, Bledsoe was prophetic. One year after Wheeler’s appointment Elliott Negan of the Union of Concerned Scientists writes that Wheeler had been the “driving force” behind many of President Trump’s 80 attacks on science.
Negan listed the 10 “more egregious” changes in an article for the Independent Media Institute. He concluded that, by the EPA’s own accounting, “millions of Americans will be drinking filthier water and breathing dirtier air, and more will suffer from serious diseases.”
In most of the country the changes will occur bit by bit and we won’t be sure they cause any one  illness; we’ll just see the overall statistics change–as with storms and global warming.
Three items on Negan’s list seem echoes of a distant past–coal ash, formaldehyde, and asbestos.
Apparently, coal-fired power plants dump coal ash containing arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury into more than 1000 giant, unlined pits. A 2015 rule required companies to monitor these coal ash ponds; over 90 percent of them reported  “unsafe levels of toxic contaminants.”
So the EPA has given states the right to set different standards and extended deadlines for stopping the pollution. A pending proposal would allow unlimited dumping of coal ash–no pits, just acres of ash spread on dirt within feet of the groundwater.
A little arsenic, a little lead, a smattering of mercury seems okay to the current administration–they’re in someone else’s neighborhood.
Formaldehyde, however, isn’t limited geographically. An “off-gas” is produced by cigarettes, embalming fluid, plywood, particle board, paints, and floor finishes. In small doses, it causes eyes to water. In 1985 the EPA identified it as “probable human carcinogen”associated with fairly rare cancers of the throat and sinuses.
But studies in 2009 and 2010 showed a positive correlation between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia. In 2016 the EPA formulated new rules for formaldehyde presence, but they didn’t become official.
Wheeler told Congress that further review of the EPA report labeling formaldehyde a carcinogen is needed because the science may now be out-of-date.
Meanwhile, 34,000 new cases of throat and sinus cancers and leukemia are diagnosed each year–and the EPA has set strict formaldehyde standards for buildings constructed for the agency.
And, somehow asbestos–not manufactured in the U.S. since 2002–is still found throughout the country. Negan says 55 nations have banned, but the U.S. still imports asbestos for use in items such as auto brakes, roofing, vinyl floor tiles, and cement pipes.
A new, “stricter” rule says that manufacturers may continue to use asbestos with EPA approval.
Negan adds, “One of the deadliest known carcinogens, asbestos kills nearly 40,000 Americans annually, mainly from lung cancer.”
I guess Trump supporters are happy that the President has kept his promises and cut regulations.  Perhaps his administration’s practices have led to production increases and greater incomes for shareholders and executives.
But the price is health and lives.
You can read Negan’s seven other “decimated EPA protections” at https://truthout.org/articles/10-ways-andrew-wheeler-has-decimated-epa-protections-in-just-one-year/.
“For continued information on the EPA Rule and its connection to asbestos use in the United States visit here.”
Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2019

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