© Josh Sager – August 2011
The EPA is a very important protector of the public safety—as much so as any other federal agency which monitors and regulates the activities of people who may harm the general population. The FBI, CIA, and NSA get the credit for stopping the harm terrorists cause both domestically and abroad, but the EPA is never trumpeted as the protector of the people from corporations.
I minored in earth science at BU, but that isn’t necessary to see that phosgene (a toxic byproduct of some manufacturing processes and a chemical weapon) utilized by terrorists to attack the American population and phosgene leaked by careless companies has the same effect.
Probably the greatest recent example of just how the EPA is as necessary to protect the American public as federal security agencies is the week of Patriot’s Day, 2013. During this terrible week, a terrorist bombing occurred on the Boston marathon and a Texas fertilizer plant exploded due to lax safety regulation. The fertilizer plant explosion may have been accidental, but it was immeasurably larger than the Marathon bombing and resulted in far more damage to life in property.
Whether through terrorism or negligence, the environment can be easily poisoned to the point where it becomes uninhabitable or hazardous to humans. I, for one, am willing to step on the toes of some corporation and decrease their profits if it means preventing toxic spills or accidents; the EPA is the sheriff that protects us from corporate greed which has effects that can eclipse all but the worst terrorist attacks.
In recent years, there have been numerous attacks on both environmental regulations as well as the regulating bodies. At the federal level there have been efforts to de-fund or under-fund the EPA as well as to restrict the EPA’s ability to enforce regulations. The EPA has suffered budget cuts and is expecting more, despite how important it is to our welfare. House Republicans have proposed several bills which would invalidate the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions.
At the state level, there have been numerous efforts to cut restrictions on industry and block specific portions of EPA regulations. West Virginia is an example of a state where the legislature has restricted regulations and in their own words created a “sanctuary” for industry from the EPA’s onerous regulations (such as not polluting rivers so badly that they catch fire).
I seriously doubt that all of the Republicans and some Democrats got together one day and decided in an open meeting: “You know what, cancer, birth defects, sickening toxins, and environmental degradation are things that we need more of and so we should all support restricting and defunding the EPA.” Such a conversation never happened, and the current attacks on the EPA are more a function of corporatism than conspiracy.
As with most aspect of policy and politics in the USA today, in order to find out where the politics are coming from you must follow the money. Industry groups in the energy and manufacturing industries have a long and dark history of “contributing” (read: legalized bribery) to the campaigns and persons of the politicians who make the laws and are supposed to enforce them. The regulatees are bribing the regulators and the policy makers so that they can make a profit off of the suffering of the many. I mean what does it matter if a few more kids get cancer just as long as the oil executives get their bonuses on time? From the house energy committee to the white house, nearly every politician gets a small cut of the proceeds and thus there is no motivation to change.
The above link will bring you to statistics that support my claim that virtually everybody in politics is is bought, but the Republicans more so than the Democrats. Notice that the oil lobby contributes to nearly every member of the House and Senate but the Republicans (red line) are always more bought than the Democrats (blue line).
In my opinion, polluting industries’ involvement in the attacks on the EPA is no different than a mob family attempting to buy politicians to change the laws so that their activities are no longer illegal. Industry should not be a source of input on the regulations which govern them, if only because the public welfare often conflicts with corporate profits. Companies want to maximize profit, even if they have to pollute or poison people to do it. The very fact that the politicians can be legally bought by the criminals means that there is very little chance for scientifically based regulations which are intended to maximize the public good.
Without the EPA, industry has the ability to pollute and poison every corner of this country without consequence. To compound the problem of deregulation, the attacks on the EPA have coincided with several attacks on the ability to bring about class action suites (ex. the Walmart sex discrimination case) by those who are harmed by corporate excesses. Individuals who are harmed during this deregulatory campaign will have a harder time seeking justice—companies can, and often do, decrease their liability by simply changing the law to benefit their interests.
Below, is a chart that explains only a few of the effects of EPA regulated substances simply on the human body—while terrible, this chart doesn’t even begin to explain the effects of the same chemicals on the environment.