Clean air and water? Or not?

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Why would the Republican Administration want to cut billions from the Environmental Protection Agency? Its Clean Water Act of 1972 has managed to clean up dead lakes, polluted rivers and trashed canals. I remember how appalled we were back then to learn of lakes that caught fire, rivers full of dead fish, ponds harboring amphibians that were altered by chemicals dumped by corporate decisions. And the EPA’s Clean Air Act of 1970 has made our air 25 percent cleaner than 45 years ago when a Republican president, Richard Nixon, signed the EPA into law.

Americans now breathe less pollution and face lower risks of premature death and other serious health effects because of enforced EPA rules. Environmental damage from air pollution is reduced – there is much less smog, and a lot of this due to vehicle emission standards (which this administration is trying to lower). The value of the Clean Air Act health benefits far exceeds the costs of reducing pollution.

The elimination of the Waters of the U.S. rule, WOTUS, will not save $30 billion and put new jobs into the economy as the Republican Administration says (this would be a false fact straight out of the White House).

Killing WOTUS will take away protection of drinking water sources and clean water for fish habitat that create sustaining jobs in the half a trillion dollar outdoor recreation businesses. It is the sustainable energy industries of wind and solar and their research and expansion that are now providing the opportunity of good jobs, not the damaging shale and fracking and coal industries that damage both the environment and the health of the people working in these industries.

Eliminating rules that protect us and wildlife is not just shortsighted; it’s dangerous. We have learned over the decades that bad water and air kill us, ruin our landscapes and wild places and benefit only the bottom lines of the corporate polluters who don’t seem to realize that dumping their waste in public places damages their businesses in the long run, not to mention their own health. What’s a bank full of money if you don’t have your health?

The budget cuts to the EPA will in most part eliminate the effective watchdogs of our water and air; there will be fewer inspectors hired to cite those who would hurt us and our necessities of life – water and air. There will be less research on clean air, water and energy. The money “saved” from this budget cutting is to go to boosting our military, already the biggest in the world. We spend more on our military than the next seven nations combined (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, UK, India, France, Japan), according to Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a conservative think tank. The R Admin says we need more military money for our national security. Clean water and air are a social and moral buffer just as necessary, if not more so, than more missiles and drones.

Priorities needn’t be skewered like this. Common sense and goodwill in taking care of the people, which of course includes the energy moguls’ needs for the same clean air and water as the rest of us, could be the guiding rule of an administration that promised the power would be “returned” to the people. If we the people don’t have clean air and water, what have we got?

The health of the land is like the health of the individual – the first and most important issue of security the nation has. And if we use the sun and wind that hangs out with us, we will not be in danger of indebtedness to oil countries elsewhere nor oil polluting and carbon dioxide excesses here.

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