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On the Imminent Demise of the EPA

February 17, 2017

Today, Scott Pruitt was confirmed as the new Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

I can only guess that this bodes ill for the future of this agency and means we will probably live in a nation that is less healthy and more polluted four years from now.

There are a number of bills that have been introduced or passed whose intent is to weaken the EPA or disband the agency altogether. They are:

H.J.Res. 38: Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule.
H.R. 806: Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017
S.Res. 12: A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that clean water is a national priority, and that the June 29, 2015, Waters of the United States Rule should be withdrawn or vacated.
H.R. 694: Stop EPA Overregulation of Rural Americans Act
H.R. 861: To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.
H.R. 717: Listing Reform Act
H.R. 637: Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017
H.R. 481: REBUILD Act
S. 263: Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017
H.R. 848: Farm Regulatory Certainty Act
H.R. 119: LEVEL Act
S.J.Res. 21: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Update for the 2008 Ozone NAAQ
H.J.Res. 60: Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service relating to the use of compensatory mitigation as recommended or required under the Endangered Species Act.

I could have cut and pasted all day long. As you read this list thought, you may be asking, what could be so bad about some of these laws?

Their titles are sometimes misleading. For example, the “[R]esolution expressing the sense of the Senate that clean water is a national priority, and that the June 29, 2015, Waters of the United States Rule should be withdrawn or vacated” sounds great. But, when you go read the bill, it attests that “the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) is one of the most important laws in the United States and has led to decades of successful environmental improvements,” just before it proceeds to vacate the rule that gave the EPA governance over setting guidelines for what constitutes water pollution and assigns that determination to the states.

If you go and read these bills, you can see that there is a systematic attempt to either remove the agency altogether or to significantly weaken the ability of the EPA to protect the environment from degradation, largely by ceding the responsibility of setting regulatory guidelines and enforcement to the states, thus gutting the ability for the EPA to provide consistent environmental standards for the nation.

I heard on NPR this morning that the EPA may be suffering from its own record of success, that many Americans don’t think that the EPA is needed any longer because we have clean air and clean water and lower lead levels in our children. But they don’t seem to register the fact that these gains in the quality of our environment are largely due to laws passed by Congress that are enforced by the EPA. And ceding these responsibilities to states will merely reduce enforcement and we, as a nation, will race to the bottom in terms of environmental quality.

I just hope we don’t come to live again in a time when rivers burn and we cannot see the skylines of our cities any longer.

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