Will They Be Heard?

Two former EPA administrators (under Republican Administrations) take a trip down memory lane:

The air across our country is appreciably cleaner and healthier as a result of EPA regulation of trucks, buses, automobiles and large industrial sources of air pollution. There are three times the number of cars on the roads today as in 1970, yet they put out a small fraction of the pollution.

Likewise, American waterways have shown marked improvement. Lakes and rivers across the nation have shifted from being public health threats to being sources of drinking water as well as places for fishing and other forms of recreation. Lake Erie was declared dead in 1970 but today supports a multimillion-dollar fishery.

Amid the virulent attacks on the EPA driven by concern about overregulation, it is easy to forget how far we have come in the past 40 years. We should take heart from all this progress and not, as some in Congress have suggested, seek to tear down the agency that the president and Congress created to protect America’s health and environment.

I wonder if Tea Party Republicans would be more receptive if this plea was penned instead by James Watt and Gale Norton.

12 Responses to “Will They Be Heard?”

  1. kdk33 says:

    This is mostly a strawman, is it not?  Isn’t the real issue CO2 regulation?  

  2. Jack Hughes says:

    The improvements to rivers and city air all involve DIRECT effects: there is no dispute about whether a factory is or is not dumping into a river and whether fish are or are not dead.

    cyanide in river => dead fish in river in a few minutes

    This latest round of CO2 regulation is not direct at all – it involves a long chain of effects and several of these are hotly disputed.

    CO2 from power plant => higher worldwide CO2 levels => more snow (or less snow) or floods or droughts or … in several decades time possibly or maybe not

  3. Keith Grubb says:

    As we all know, the EPA was started by Richard Nixon. Repubicans and conservatives like clean air and water. It’s always amazed me that liberals think we don’t. Of course that thought process leads to all kinds of assumptions that make no common sense. In fact I think a large part of our problem, stems from the lack of common sense. Stopping actual pollution from effecting the environment makes common sense. Regulating water vapor, and CO2, does not register on the common sense scale. Oh yeah, water vapor is next, mark my words. Hey…it’s the most dominant greenhouse gas.

  4. Keith Grubb says:

    Oh and KK, I’ve been meaning to tell you, that I appreciate you letting me comment on your site. None of the other (damn, got to come up with a name, sorry) “Neo-Primative” sites will. That’s not insulting is it? On second thought, maybe it is. People may lump you in with “Neo-Conservatives”, OMG the thought of that.

  5. Keith Kloor says:

    KG (4)

    Anyone is welcome to comment, so long as they are civil. I also value diversity of opinion, though I will say that like Lazar said on another comment thread recently, I kinda view the blog cacophony as mostly a side show,with few minds truly open to change.

    That said, when these threads don’t degenerate into point scoring flame wars, they can be rewarding to participate in and follow along.

  6. Keith Grubb says:

    Right on bro! Have you ever heard of the open source code Udaman?

  7. Eli Rabett says:

    A friend of Eli’s, an air pollution guy, put it this way, it’s gotten so bad that there is not enough CO produced in a modern car to kill you in a closed garage.

  8. Dean says:

    There were plenty of opponents to the Clean Air and Water Acts who thought that the earth would clean itself up and we puny humans were just too small and insignificant to really have much of an effect on the larger environment. More study was needed, and on and on. And a lot of tobacco science was used.

    So I do think there are stronger comparisons between the debate today and then. But the big difference is that the two sides didn’t split so closely on party lines then like they do now.

  9. Roddy Campbell says:

    As a British farmer who regularly used to ‘allow’ noxious fluids from dairy and sileage into waterways, when sanctions were weak or non-existent, I can see the clear benefits of Clean Water legislation.

    As other commenters have pointed out, that legislation is essentially local, in that the costs and benefits both occur in the same voting region, the UK in my case.

    Cross-border pollution, as we might have in the EU, is dealt with within a larger democratic bloc, as for example trade blocs negotiate, or NAFTA.  Again, costs and benefits occur within a defined region.

    That seems to me the essential difference between legislating on matters that specifically and exclusively affect your own electors, in ways that can be defined fairly accurately and occur on defined timescales, with tractable cost analysis and benefits that are visible, and the CO2 powers the EPA have now been granted.

    CO2, whatever the issues, is not a ‘domestic’ hazard in the way that almost anything else regulated environmentally is.

  10. Keith Grubb says:


    It took legislation for you to know not to put noxious fluids into the waterway?

  11. Keith Kloor says:

    I gotta say, that was the first question that popped into my mind. But then I realized that in many developed countries (esp the U.S) dumping of waste and toxic fluids into waterways (and elsewhere on the landscape) was, until relatively recent times, fairly common practice for individuals and business alike (and is still done illegally in many cases).

  12. Eli Rabett says:

    Well Keith. it’s like Eli says,
    No free riders.
    The key to all these problems is that people are willing to stand a considerable amount of sacrifice, but only if they see that everyone is sharing the same. So Eli
    1. is willing to share a considerable amount of sacrifice but
    2. is unwilling to do it if others don’t.
    This is a fairly general rule.  Same goes for Roddy

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