I authored this piece on Lake Powell. pessimism, optimism and the age of climate change…
Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Republican, has introduced a bill to permanently eliminate the EPA …that is the agency dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. H.R.861 – To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.
I wrote last week that The Trump Administration is working to cut the EPA in half and potentially starve it out of existence. Just a few days ago the Republican Congress voted to kill the Stream Protection Rule, an Obama-era rule designed to protect drinking water and air quality in coal-mining regions. And now we have a bill to eliminate the EPA. As someone said on Twitter this morning: “Dumping the EPA is equivalent to taking up smoking again once you’ve beaten lung cancer.” Exactly. The Republicans are waging an all out war on the health of the American people.
Gaetz’s bill to eliminate the EPA currently has three co-sponsors: Rep. Thomas Massie, Republican from Kentucky, Rep. Steven Palazzo, Republican from Mississippi and Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Republican from Georgia. All have ties to the coal industry.
Thanks to the success of the EPA over the past 40+ years, many Americans have forgotten just how bad the environmental and health situation in the country was in those days. Keep in mind the Cuyahoga River which caught fire thirteen times since between 1868 and 1969. The river was so choked with industrial waste, oil, sewage and other pollutants that it literally caught on fire. At the same time, Lake Erie was considered dead it was so heavily polluted. In the early 1970s Sen. Robert Kennedy of New York said that is you fall into the Hudson River, “You didn’t drown in it; you decayed.”
And these weren’t isolated cases. All over the country, rivers, streams and lakes were decimated by pollution. The rate of people dying from air pollution was extremely high. And then there were the Superfund sites like Love Canal. There were many, many of them. The EPA came into existence because we had reached a crisis point in this country.
“By the late 1960s, the American landscape was ravaged by decades of unchecked land development, blighted by urban decay in the big cities, and plagued by seemingly unstoppable air, noise, and water pollution,” C. Jerry Simmons, an archivist and historian at the National Archives in Washington, wrote in 2009.
So what happens without the EPA? More lead poisoning problems like in Flint, Michigan. More spills like the 2014 Elk Creek spill in West Virginia that poisoned thousands of people and negatively impacted the state’s economy. These things didn’t happen because of too little regulation but too much regulation. As I noted here, pollution is very, very expensive. Regulations actually save money and stimulate the economy.
Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists and a former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, said, “The inevitable consequence of budget cuts of that magnitude would be a reversal of about the last 50 years of improvements in air quality, improvements in water quality and greater safety from chemicals that cause diseases in people. There is no way of soft-pedaling this or sugar coating it: A cut of that magnitude would mean dirtier air and dirtier water for the American public.”
What you can do to Protect the EPA and Your Health
- Call your Congressional Representativenow and state very kindly and firmly that you oppose H.R.861 – the bill to eliminate the EPA. Ask your representative to do everything they can to ensure the public’s health by ensuring that the EPA is properly funded. For those of you in Kentucky, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia this is particularly important because your Representatives are co-sponsoring this bill. Erin Ely has compiled this list of contact information for us on Twitter and on Facebook.
- Write a follow up letter to your Representative stating your opposition to H.R.861. Tell them the EPA is vital for the health and well-being of American citizens.
- Sent twitter messages and Facebook messages to your Congressional representatives as well as to Gaetz, Massie, Palazzo, and Loudermilk expressing your firm support for the EPA and ask that the bill be withdrawn and the EPA fully funded.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your support for the EPA, America’s waters, air and the health of our fellow citizens. Ask people to stand firm against the bill to eliminate the EPA
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