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The EPA is doing the EPA’s job: upsetting polluters

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The EPA has been pushed around a lot lately. The Environmental Protection Agency has become the favorite punching bag of the Right, and to many on the Left; an easy target for everything that is wrong with the US government. If regulation is the enemy of business, then the EPA epitomizes the enemy. The only business EPA has (ideally) is environmental regulation based on science. What more evil characterization could there be?

And now, they are up to their old tricks. States and companies are in a tizzy from sea to shining sea because the EPA wants to increase protections of air and water. Folks can call such burdens whatever they want, job-killing, too expensive, over-burdensome, driving business out of the country; businesses have entire departments where creative minds come up with colorful language to describe why the EPA should not increase protections of our air and water.

This is extreme push back against the EPA, but it’s certainly nothing new. In the late 1960s and the 1970s, the US passed landmark environmental legislation, created the EPA and set about to monitor and protect the natural resources of our country. Since then, we’ve done everything possible to reverse it. Weakened our oversight, allowed violators to skirt the rules or issued penalties far to soft to affect change. Those were the good times. During the bad times, the EPA ignored the science, or used the science only to have its reports ignored or changed. In government, as in business, the US loves to hate the EPA.

To hear industry tell it, everyone, everywhere opposes the EPA’s upcoming regulatory rules. In the energy industry the next few years are being referred to as the “train-wreck.” There’s even a slide making the rounds of every energy company presentation to illustrate just how many pollutants EPA plans to regulate. It is called the train-wreck slide. The regulations of the train-wreck are coming down the tracks, and the costs are going to be significant. To polluters. Which is the point. And so the polluters are suing, and delaying, and rallying the elected officials whose pockets they fill with cash to get to DC and stop it. They are doing everything that can be done to continue business as usual. A reminder of business as usual: burning lots and lots of coal, releasing coal ash and mercury and CO2 and SOX and NOX and PM and OZONE and methane in amounts that are almost impossible to fathom, causing human illness and death, driving species extinction at a rate that should shock everyone, and bringing future injury to the planet that cannot be predicted other than to say, it will be bad. This is what our energy companies are fighting to protect.

Often it is asked what the alternatives are. Coal may be dirty, but the lights need to go on, and coal is cheap and reliable electricity. To stop burning coal is to send the US back in time to an age of fewer comforts and more problems. This is, frankly, ridiculous. The EPA is continuing the important task of transitioning the US energy and electricity industry away from dirty, polluting, dangerous fuels. It is not an easy or painless process. But they are not shutting down every coal plant in the next few years. They are not shutting down any coal plants. The owners of coal plants will be shutting them down, if they don’t want to invest in the technology to clean them up. That’s a business decision, and one that acknowledges that there are alternative to coal ready to serve the needs of the US. To say otherwise is simply to ignore reality.

In the US, we burn a lot of coal, but we do not need to. The US will probably continue to burn coal for generations, but it does not have to be that way. People in every single community of the United States will live healthier lives if we burn less coal. That is a fact.  And it is possible to burn less coal. In order to do so we have to place a higher value on the things that are actually important.

The dirty polluters are upset about the upcoming air and water quality standards of the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency. Clearly the EPA is doing its job.


Written by Christopher ZF

October 11, 2011 at 12:57

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