CONGRESS SHOULD MAKE RESOLUTIONS TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT

by Whit Gibbons

January 1, 2017

I hope our newly elected political representatives are busily making New Year’s resolutions regarding what is best for the country on the environmental front. Lots of pledges were made during the election cycle concerning changes to federal regulatory agencies. We all know just how meaningless such vows can be once the election is over, but if some of the threats/promises are carried out, the effect on the environment would be horrific.

Potential changes in several major federal programs should alarm any discerning U.S. citizen. If you value clean water, clean air and healthy ecosystems, the Environmental Protection Agency is your ally. Recommendations to curtail the effectiveness of this critical overseer of what makes our country great environmentally range from disturbing to outrageous. Admittedly, some of the verbiage may have been mere political rhetoric during the election season with no real intent to follow through, but some of the suggestions themselves are inherently irresponsible.

The idea of abolishing the EPA is absurd. Yet this preposterous idea has been proposed by more than one politician recently. This absolutely ridiculous concept should not be tolerated by us, the voters. A worthwhile New Year’s resolution would be to oppose any legislation that even hints at getting rid of a government agency that limits assaults on the environment from unchecked commercial greed. The outcomes from a weakened EPA would be detrimental to the majority of U.S. citizens.

Specters of what would happen by gutting the authority of the EPA are disquieting. One prominent senator has suggested eliminating EPA regulations that prevent mining wastes from being dumped into clear-flowing mountain streams. Seriously? Do we want to have streams that trout and other aquatic wildlife can no longer live in? I don’t think so. President Richard Nixon had it right when he formed the EPA in 1970 and signed the Clean Water Act in 1972.

Another suggestion has been to reduce EPA air quality regulations. Such regulations limit emissions that result in such undesirable outcomes as acid rain, smog and lung cancer. Think about it. Do we want to return to scenes like those I photographed outside Birmingham, Alabama, and Gary, Indiana, in the early 1960s? You could not see buildings a half mile away because of the smoke and soot filling the air. That would certainly not be in the best interest of the nation’s citizenry. President Nixon did the right thing when he signed the Clean Air Act in 1970. Weakening regulatory features of the EPA would definitely not be an improvement. Clean air and clean water are crucial for maintaining the quality of life we have come to expect.

I suggest everyone resolve to keep our country’s natural heritage and a healthy environment as priorities for the coming year. Keep an eye on proposed changes in any program that can affect the environment in your community, your region, your nation. Resolve to challenge your congressional representatives when you hear of a proposal that would diminish the effectiveness of maintaining standards for potable water and unpolluted air.

Make a resolution to get the facts when politicians start making promises they claim will help John and Jane Q. Public. Do not fall for the political ploy that the economy will be boosted and jobs will be created if environmental regulations are weakened or eliminated. Look, instead, at who would benefit from the loosening of any given environmental regulation. Someone will be making money, but it won’t be you and me. We will be stuck with murky skies, undrinkable water and habitats in which our native wildlife cannot survive.

Resolve to pay attention to what would happen to our air, water and ecosystems if certain regulations are eliminated. Will a proposed change be in the best interest of the general public or does it financially benefit only a few special interest groups? Make these resolutions for yourself and future generations – and have a happy new year.

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