FEB 07, 2017 7:53 AM PST

Eliminating the EPA?

The Environmental Protection Agency, created in 1970 by President Richard Nixon for the purpose of protecting human and environmental health, is under attack. Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz recently proposed a bill, HR 861, that would eliminate the agency all together.

Photo: EPA

Though the actual wording of the bill has yet to be drafted, Snopes.com reports that Congressman Gaetz's office told them via e-mail that the interim copy of the bill currently states that "The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018."

Yet according to the Huffington Post, Gaetz was harsher in an e-mail he sent to Republican colleagues, stating that "the American people are drowning in rules and regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats. And the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender."

"When it was originally created, states and local communities didn’t have the technology or expertise to protect the environment," said Gaetz. "We’ve come a long way in the last 50 years. Time and again, I’ve seen constituents unknowingly subject themselves to the oppressive jurisdiction of the EPA by doing simple things."

Oppressive jurisdiction such as the Clean Air Act, which gives federal and state governments the authorization to limit emissions from both industrial and mobile sources to minimize the impact of air pollution so that fewer children suffer from asthma? Or the Endangered Species Act, which places the responsibility on the government for protecting our most vulnerable species whom we are rapidly eradicating from our development desires? Yes, ridiculously oppressive.

Gaetz has stated that he simply wants “a smooth transition in oversight and regulations from the federal government to individual states.” And he’s not alone. Representatives Steven Palazzo, R-Mississippi, Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, and Barry Loudermilk, R-Georgia, have all agreed to co-sponsor a bill to the House Committee on Natural Resources to dismantle the EPA. If the bill were to make it that far in the process, the committee's chairman, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, would decide if it would be put to a vote.

Needless to say, environmentalists and liberalists and air-breathing people not controlled by the oil industry are outraged by this attack. Some academics are chiming in with their own opinions as well. The Courier Journal provides statements from several professors at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Mary Jane Angelo, professor and director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Program said that under the Clean Water Act most states have assumed responsibility for carrying out a portion of regulations such as issuing permits and ensuring compliance. States must meet minimum federal requirements. Certain flexibility exists for states to carry out the law in ways more sensible for them. If the government squashed the agency, Angelo argued "decisions would have to be made on hundreds of programs about what happens to them."

Alyson Flournoy, also a law professor, said that without federal regulations, states would enter into "a race to the bottom." She explained that as an incentive to attract industry, a portion of states would relax standards in a short-sighted economic strategy that would ultimately sacrifice public health and the environment.

So here we are, once again, the constant fight between environmentalism and oil-backed politics. If this issue rings close to your heart and you care about clean air and water, I urge you to contact your senators and representatives.

Sources: Courier Journal, Snopes.com, Gizmodo

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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