His hand-picked director of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, former Oklahoma attorney general, has sued the agency at least 13 times. He has sued over cross-state air pollution rules, air toxic standards, waters of the U.S. rule, ground level ozone and others. Pruitt, who has received nearly a half million dollars in political contributions from the fossil fuel industry since 2002 has, apparently, never met an EPA rule that he liked. And while 80 to 90 percent of scientists from around the world disagree with him, Pruitt doubts that human activity is the primary cause for the current unprecedented spike in global temperatures — “And there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. That — so, no, I would not agree that it’s [human activity] a primary contributor to the global warming we see.”
The current administration has proposed nearly a 30 percent decrease in EPA funding. Besides eliminating around 3,000 jobs, programs being cut would include clean power, climate change research, international climate change partnerships plus restoration efforts in the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and others. In October 2015, then candidate Trump told Fox News, “Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations. They’re making it impossible.” When asked who would protect the environment Trump said, “They — we’ll be fine with the environment. ...We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”
And what is the legacy of this pernicious organization that has been such a bane on the country? Industry was burdened by the banning of DDT, allowing the resurgence of insignificant animals like the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, brown pelican and others. The average level of lead in the blood of U.S. citizens has dropped by more than 80 percent compared to the 1970s. Acid rain is at the lowest levels in decades — thanks primarily to mandated reductions in SO2 (sulfur dioxide) NOx (nitrogen oxides). Car manufacturers in the late 1970s pulled their hair and gnashed their teeth about ornery, arbitrary pie-in-the-sky emission standards. But when the EPA stood fast, they went to work and created a small, game-changing device called a catalytic converter, which along with other innovations have created autos that emit around 80 percent less pollution than their 1970 counterparts. Programs like the Office of Environmental Justice and Public information and Community Right to Know have helped ensure that minorities and all communities have the right to a clean and healthy environment.
When you walk around Lake Junaluska and see bald eagles perched in the top of tree or patrolling the lake for an unsuspecting coot — you can thank the EPA. When you drive up to Waterrock Knob and look across the northwest horizon and see Clingmans Dome standing in the Carolina blue — you can thank the EPA. When your kids can swim and play in area rivers and lakes and you can catch native brook trout in the Smokies, you can thank the EPA.
Those of you as long in the tooth as I likely remember seeing images of urban centers like Los Angeles and New York nearly blotted out by brown smog-filled skies. You likely remember, in 1969, when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland. But did you realize that the 1969 fire was the 13th time since 1868 that the river was engulfed in flames? The year 1969 is etched in people’s memories because it was one of the last straws that led to the creation of the EPA in 1970.
I guess if you want to be fine with the environment — if you’re OK with having a “little bit” the new Eviscerated Protection Agency might fit the bill. I mean look at the flip side — we’ll be able to roast marshmallows on the Cuyahoga again.