The administration has appointed Scott Pruitt, a corrupt Oklahoma oil supporter to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He has a history in his home state of copying and pasting from the letters of oil company executives to legislation that he has submitted. Due to hydrofracturing operations that his office permitted, Oklahoma has become the most tectonically active state in the union. Homes and water sources are being damaged and destroyed.
His interests are not our interests.
But the destruction of the EPA is against the interests of American citizens. And when companies chafe at the restrictions put into place by laws passed on congress, they blame the agency. In truth, companies which put pollutants into the environment are morally and legally obligated to include safe disposal of waste in their budgets. If they cannot remain viable, then they are not competitively practical to begin with. Keeping our air, water, land and people clean and safe is not a restriction. It’s a responsibility.
The EPA was created in 1972 in response to widespread pollution affecting the health and well being of American citizens. Prior to this we had a mass of environmental disasters. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire. The smog in Los Angeles precipitated daily health warnings, and there were reports of women’s pantyhose melting from their legs in the sulfuric acid laden atmosphere. Air pollution in New York City was so bad that the “Fresh Air Fund” program was initiated to send city children to host homes in cleaner Upstate New York for the summer. Acid rain killed hundreds of thousands of trees. Children were exposed pre- and post- natally to deadly chemicals such as poly chlorinated biphenyls (PBCs) and pesticides. America was ravaged by the special interests of chemical companies.
In my own home town in Upstate New York, the Susquehanna River was so polluted that it was unusable. In fact, if one of us fell into it, we were required to obtain tetanus vaccinations. The playground in my neighborhood, I later discovered, was so contaminated with creosote and arsenic it became an EPA superfund cleanup site. Even with regulations in place, my niece suffered concurrent miscarriages due to contaminated well water coming out of her kitchen faucet. Once she moved, she had three healthy children.
The mission of the EPA is “to protect human health and the environment — air, water, and land.” As an arm of the executive branch of the government, the agency enforces the regulations created after congressional acts are passed. The Clean Air Acts of 1963 and 1970 addressed the control of the release of pollutants into the atmosphere and defined acceptable minimums of air quality. On December 2, 1970 the National Environmental Policy Act established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the requirements of those acts.
In 1972, amendments to the original Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 created regulations prohibiting the release of pollutants into navigable waters and setting waste water standards for industry. Some of the other responsibilities of the EPA include the regulation of asbestos in school buildings, public and commercial buildings, and clean-up sites, the identification and control of toxic substances, defining and listing of hazardous materials, and the provision of Safety Data Sheets to employees of companies which use or produce hazardous chemicals.
Companies are allowed a certain amount of pollutant emissions annually. These amounts are tradable, allowing companies that do not emit up to the limit the right to sell or “trade” their pollution allowance to companies who exceed emission limits. This creates higher levels of pollution than normally acceptable from companies who fail to meet compliance standards.
The Endangered Species Protection Program (ESPP) requires the EPA to carry out it’s responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), animal protections are enforced with the goal of not placing unnecessary burden on agriculture and other pesticide users. It is under FIFRA that President Trump recently green lighted the use of the pesticide Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate that is known to cause pre and post natal inhibition of brain development in humans.
Even with the oversight of EPA, companies still participate in illegal dumping activities. These are difficult to track due to the fact that there are few EPA compliance inspectors, often one to an entire multi-state region. One compliance inspector stated that inspectors are trained in observation and interviewing and are advised to keep moving so that it is more difficult for shooters to take aim. He reported that during one inspection of an illegal dumping site, there were a large number of leaking barrels marked only with the warning, “This shit will kill you.” Not knowing what materials were actually at the site made planning for cleanup even more difficult.
Some locations are so polluted they require a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations. These are designated as Superfund cleanup sites. The EPA is tasked with creating and maintaining a list of such locations, which are then placed on the National Priorities List (NPL). Currently there are 1,322 such sites in the US, with another 53 being proposed for entry on the NPL. The US government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) is required to fund cleanup of these polluted sites.
Without the Environmental Protection Agency, companies will once again be allowed to pollute unchecked without fear of regulation. The environmental condition of the United States will most likely revert to pre-EPA pollution levels as there will be no regulatory action and no incentives for industrial polluters to self regulate. Our country and our citizens will again suffer the effects of widespread pollution and contamination. We will regress, and in doing so will reduce the levels of health and safety to which American citizens have become accustomed.
And polluters will again thrive unchecked.