February 2, 2017 by Chris Kite
Some of us are old enough to remember life before the Environmental Protection Agency, or, as it is more commonly known, the EPA. I was just a kid, but I can remember the smog, the horrible stench as you drove through Gary, Indiana, and the constant stories on the news about environmental disasters. Rivers burned. Children had brain damage from lead in gasoline and other products. Lake Erie was declared dead. Schools were built on toxic dumps. It wasn’t all that long ago.
The EPA was proposed by Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970. It is tasked with protecting Americans from environmental damages as so often happened prior to its creation. It has without doubt resulted in a safer environment, cleaner drinking water, less polluted air, less toxic chemicals dumped into the environment, and an overall better life for Americans. But Republicans and the Trump Administration want to end all of this.
Make no mistake. This is not just about limiting the difficulties that regulations impose on businesses. They aren’t just looking to stop new regulations. Republicans are looking to drastically cut funding and hinder the agency’s ability to monitor and enforce existing regulations. Trump wants to stifle their ability to provide information. It fits in with their plan to continue cutting away at government, making it less efficient, less capable, and less useful, so that they can point to the failures and just turn things over to corporations. Their “free market” ideals say that we don’t need to worry about pollution and destruction of the environment because those corporations that damage the environment would be harmed financially by the lack of business and would thus either correct their ways or go away. As we witnessed prior to the EPA, this simply isn’t true.
Trump’s choice for head of the EPA literally copied a letter from an energy company onto his own letterhead when he was the Attorney General in Oklahoma. He used it in a letter accusing the EPA of inflating emissions. This is positively shameful and not the type of person that should be heading the EPA. For the Trump Administration, however, Pruitt is a perfect fit to gut and neuter the agency.
The Trump Administration and Republicans argue that we should consider the financial cost of regulations because it makes it too difficult to do business. Now I’m not naive enough to think that there has never been a bad EPA regulation or one that simply made it too difficult to profitably do business. But I am informed enough to know that generally speaking, EPA regulations protect the public. And when you protect the public, it saves lives.