OFFICE:FMA's Christina Stanton: Abolish the U.S. EPA? Parochial Interests versus the Common Good.

The relationship between the U.S. federal government and our state governments is clearly of interest these days, particularly with Congressmen like Matt Gaetz of Florida calling for the abolishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Prior to the EPA being established in 1970, environmental policy was unsuccessfully controlled by states and local government.  By their nature environmental issues are complex.  Problems (and opportunities) move, shift, and evolve.  Pollution in the air, rivers, and acquirers does not mind town, state, or national boundaries.  Likewise, businesses prefer consistent regulation across their places of operation.  And complex issues on environmental and social justice, require coordination to ensure equality.   

The EPA was established at a time when there were abundant environmental issues grabbing headlines and a clear need for national action.  Why we needed national action is codified in amazing photos taken from 1972 to 1977 by the EPA’s Documerica Project.  Pictures resonate and they tell a story that needs to be told--a story of how the EPA has lived it mission to protect human health and the environment.

The EPA is well known for administering the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act as well as banning the pesticide DDT and removing lead from our gas tanks.  Less well known is the EPA’s program to help combat rising rates of asthma in schools.  To help reduce childhood asthma rates, the EPA created a program to train school personnel to identify, solve, and prevent indoor air quality problems in our schools.   Even less well known might be the EPA’s efforts to keep raw sewage and contaminated storm water out of local water as well as the EPA’s work to help local governments tackle bed bugs.

The EPA houses the nation’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) which enables citizens to learn about toxic chemical releases and pollution prevention activities reported by industrial and federal facilities.  In U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz’s home state of Florida there are 647 TRI facilities witnessing a total of 60.5 million pounds of on-site and off-site disposal or release of toxic chemicals into the air, land, and water.   In my home state of Connecticut, we have 272 TRI facilities witnessing a total of 1.5 million pounds of on-site and off-site disposal or release of toxic chemicals.

Beyond protecting us, the EPA is a driver of innovation and job creation.  Smog led to the development of the catalytic converter  in the U.S. and our country continues to be a major exporter of environmental control technologies.  Similar trends can be seen in regards to clean energy.  Reports show that for every dollar invested, wind and solar projects create twice as many jobs as fossil fuel projects.   With good jobs needed across the country, it is essential to note that 1 out of every 50 new jobs added in the U.S. in 2016 was created by the solar industry, representing 2% percent of all new jobs. 

I’ve called Representative Gaetz’s office to discuss his bill to abolish the EPA.  And I’ve called the co-sponsors Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Steven Palazzo (R-Ms.) and Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.).  Their staff voiced their desire to abolish the EPA as it was “bureaucratic” and they wanted “power back in the states”.  My questions concerning any of U.S. EPA programs or achievements noted above went unanswered.  

Our economy and the environment are one and the same.  Without one, we do not have the other.  The EPA’s historical track record of fulfilling its mission makes calls for its abolishment seem improbable and incomprehensible.  The images captured by Documerica show the past, however we could easily undertake a similar exercise now and identify vast areas of need.  Is the abolition of the EPA and transferring of its vast responsibility to each state of interest, or even viable?  This country and the EPA need continual improvement, not regressive “burn down the house” actions.  

Nations around the world are moving rapidly to transform their economies to be greener.  Capital is looking for investments and technology exists and is often cost competitive.  What’s seems to be missing for us is an awareness of the facts and associated individual action.  The pendulum seems to have swung however.  I am not sure about you, but I can hear the herd coming.