Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ALEC Seeks to Gut the EPA

People with a grasp of history remember times when Nature belied man's best efforts to hold it in check. In Ireland, potato crops rotted in the ground making it impossible for the Irish to pay their English landlords. In the U. S. Heartland, fields were overworked, leaving crop yields too low to repay bank loans, farms vulnerable to corporate takeovers, and families without resources. On both sides of the Atlantic, thousands died when stewardship and profit-motives collided.

Today, the Western world enjoys networks of energy to feed a voracious appetite, and for our hunger, we have leaked tons of oil into the oceans. We tell ourselves the waters seem vast; they’ll recover with little sacrifice required from us.

We’ve also made places on land and waters once pure quite toxic. In 2013, an Arkansas neighborhood woke to sludge and fumes. They now sleep with the certain knowledge that their property values have plummeted and their futures may be fraught with health hazards. West Virginia citizens now lack water safe enough for baths much less drink, and fracking (natural gas extraction) has jeopardized water tables in states across the nation. Lead and zinc mines have required people to abandon their hometowns, and chemical waste dumped into Love Canal cost homeowners their dream community as well as their health.

People of faith advocate stewardship, not just of the church but of the Earth itself, not as takers but as keepers of the garden. Scientists, too, advocate good stewardship, and it goes by many names, including regulations to reduce and rein in global warming, climate change, or global climate disruption. Air pollution, carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, water pollution, soil pollution, and toxic sites are the result of man’s hand on the environment with 97% of qualified scientists in agreement. But we needed and still need a coalition of public servants to oversee regulations, to investigate, and administrate. We call these people employees of the Environmental Protection Agency.

How then can there be a political debate about the need for regulation, for an agency to serve us as duly appointed regulators? As Woodward and Bernstein learned from Deep Throat, the answer is follow the money. Who or what has the most to gain by spinning another narrative, sowing doubt, and backing elected officials who will carry the water?

Photo by Al Griffin

The answer is corporate interests. The cost of doing business goes up if we, through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ask owners and Boards of Directors to answer to the quality of life now and in the future instead of only to stockholders. For this reason, ALEC, a coalition of businesses, hopes to gut the oversight powers of the EPA.

An eye on bottom lines and dividends is, however, an afflicted point of view. If we exhaust all resources, including human and water and air and soil and fuels, then we risk not being able to do business at all. If business demands minimal regulation and pushes back against oversight, then we risk not only the quality of life, but life itself.

Consider all the prior posts about ALEC. Consider what ALEC’s agenda is, not just for 2014, but years past and future. Quality of life, consisting of the opportunity to be a contributing member of society--healthy, free, and happy--is not a priority for ALEC. ALEC wishes to deny us knowledge about where our food comes from, a public education conceived and delivered by educated experts with experience in classrooms, a citizen’s day in court, a child’s right to privacy, and environmental protections. Each of the pieces of model legislation is not in the best interests of a greater good—only in the interests of a few self-selected and self-absorbed individuals. Eschew them.