Save the EPABy Ansje Miller
I am too young to remember a time before the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, I was born in 1970, the year it was founded.
If you listen to the Republicans in power, you would think that it was just established to thwart good job-creating businesses. But just eight years before the EPA was created, Rachel Carson in Silent Spring warned about the harmful effects of pesticides on wildlife, and just one year before it was enacted, the Cuyahoga river in Cleveland, OH literally caught fire after years of being polluted with industrial waste.
This is why the EPA was created. Because industrial pollution was poisoning us and destroying our environment while people were pointing fingers at each other saying… not my problem. We needed a central body to clearly identify the problem and create solutions.
And it worked. The Cuyahoga is now considered a healthy river. We created protections from pesticides like DDT.
With Trump and the Republican-led congress, all of that progress is now at risk. In February, a Florida Congressman introduced a bill to abolish the EPA. Fortunately, I don’t think that’s likely. But there are other ways that the Trump Administration and the legislature plan to gut the EPA or, just as bad, turn it into a rubber stamp for polluting industries.
Here’s one example:
Methane is a very powerful cause of climate change. It’s also highly explosive and has leaked into residential water wells causing threats to families living in those homes. To address this problem, in November 2016, the Obama EPA asked the oil and gas companies to submit data so agency scientists could fully understand the extent of these emissions, where they are coming from, and how best to control the emissions.
Two weeks ago, the Trump EPA said, “Nah, don’t worry about it.” Companies now don’t have to report on their methane emissions data. Apparently, the Trump EPA’s idea of controlling pollution is to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Trump released early details of his budget which would slash the EPA by 30%, cutting about 3,000 jobs. How is the EPA going to do its job of protecting the health of people and the environment if it has to rely more heavily on the industry it is designed to regulate?
And to boot, the EPA also just deleted the word “science” from its “Office of Science and Technology” mission statement. You see, industry-friendly rules are much easier to get when you don’t have to worry about science.
Last year, President Obama signed into law a bipartisan bill that updated the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), our nation’s law that regulates new or already existing chemicals. For the first time, the EPA will have the authority to order companies to provide data on the health and safety of dangerous chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects, trigger asthma, and other serious health problems. The approved bill also improves EPA’s ability to restrict the use of these toxic chemicals to protect the public from harm.
Now, all of that is at risk too.
Despite the fact that this bill was strongly bipartisan and largely driven by Republicans in Congress, the Trump Administration’s slash and burn agenda, such as the “one in, two out” Executive Order on new regulations, could have a significant chilling effect on the EPA’s ability to protect our families and children. Not to mention the lack of leadership on these issues likely from the anti-science EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, who couldn’t name one EPA regulation that he likes and refused to say he that he would finalize the pending ban on asbestos, a chemical so clearly toxic there is a deadly disease, asbestosis, named after it.
I don’t think America is great when our rivers catch on fire, our water is undrinkable, and our air and the products that we use everyday are filled with cancer-causing chemicals. I will fight with all my might to protect those things. It will be long, it will be tough. But it is paramount. As people concerned with environmental health, protecting children and the most vulnerable, I hope you will join me in this fight.
For our families and communities,
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