A Dirge for the EPA

On February 3rd, 2017 House Representatives Matthew Gaetz (R-FL), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Steven Palazzo (R-MS) and Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) introduced a bill literally titled: To Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency, which has now been introduced to the committees on House Science, Space, and Technology; Energy and Commerce; Agriculture; and Transportation, and Infrastructure. If enacted, the agency founded under the Nixon Administration in 1970, would cease to exist on December 31st, 2018. What is extraordinary is the succinctness of the bill offering no arguments, amendments, qualifications or otherwise prudent language to justify the action. It simply states that the agency shall cease to exist, period (more like exclamation point).

I would normally surmise that this has the likely hood of passing as much as a snowball has a chance of surviving a blast furnace but in today’s anything goes, upside down political climate this very well could be a reality. I believe this even more so since the person who is now interviewing for the position of head of the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, diametrically opposes the entity and has sued the EPA numerous times in his career on behalf of the oil and gas industries and most likely would offer little resistance to eliminating the agency.

If you are not aware, for whatever reason, what the EPA does here is their mission from their website:

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

EPA’s purpose is to ensure that:

  • all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work;
  • national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information;
  • federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively;
  • environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
  • all parts of society — communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments — have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
  • environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive; and
  • The United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment.

The Agency has a two pronged approach to accomplishing their mission – regulations/laws and enforcement. The laws are written and passed by Congress then signed by the current president just as any other law. These include The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, Toxic Substance Control, and many others and work to ensure that we live in a safe and habitable place. A very good and relevant example for this is the lead in the water supply in Flint, Mich. exceeding the Toxic Substance Control law’s acceptable parts per million because of the negative effects on the health of the residents of Flint. Regulations provide the technical, operational and legal details to implement the law giving industries, agencies, and citizens the necessary information on what can and cannot be done within the law. When these regulations are not followed enforcement and compliance are necessary for the protection of the ecological and human population. For our industry (ICT) it regulates chemicals, processes, and materials such as lead, PCBs and other dangerous materials found in electronics through the NAICS 334 sector of regulations and laws. You may be familiar with RoHS and WEEE compliance in the European Union, which provides the same type of regulation and enforcement.

The agency is also a key provider of peer reviewed scientific research and funding for university and other for-profit and non-profit organizations surrounding the improvement of our environment. Through this they have provided free non-biased information and education to the community and organizations. The current administration has placed a gag order on the EPA from speaking publically or posting to social media, which in of itself is suspect as the public message of the EPA is based on factual data (not alternate), upcoming or current events, and new laws and regulations with no opinions, political agenda or slant. Additionally the current administration signed an executive order requiring the EPA to eliminate two regulations for each new regulation enacted which has un-clear impacts long term. That may be an opportunity to eliminate out of date laws but those are few and far between the norm.

The detrimental impact of this situation not only on our environment, but our global standing as a leader in environmental stewardship and financial implications are projected to be substantial. From our side of the table in the ICT industry it very well may mean loss of global market share as the EU, the Middle East and even Asia pick up the slack. This is all while we open the door to potential irreversible environmental disaster. I grew up in Cleveland where our river (the Cuyahoga) caught on fire not once, but three times before the Clean Water Act was implemented. The photos of one of those events sparked that movement to clean up our act. There are many who will spout the economic benefits of deregulation especially in the oil and gas industries and some manufacturing yet when we spoil our land, air and water, all in the name of a dollar there will be no where for us to go. If you want to look at how environmental protection and financial success can work hand in hand, just turn to Germany and the Netherlands where they continue to prove that both can co-exist for the benefit of all.

Raymond Kent

About Raymond Kent

Raymond Kent is the director of the Innovative Technology Design Group and a senior associate with DLR Group/Westlake Reed Leskosky specializing in technology systems for the performing and cultural arts, healthcare, Government, higher education and corporate markets. He is a co-author of the STEP rating system and has served as the chair of the Technology Task Force for the STEP Foundation. Raymond received the 2012 InfoComm Sustainable Technology Award and is involved with the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts and can be often seen presenting at major conferences on sustainability and technology.