December 5, 2017

Our voices must be heard over Big Money’s screams

     If you want to get a clearer understanding of how government works, follow the flow of money.  You’ve always known “money talks.”  Big Money screams until it gets what it wants.  Notice what’s transpiring with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington.
     Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp.”  To do so, he appointed cabinet members who supported his pledge.  Enter Scott Pruitt at the EPA.  Born and raised in coal country, the native Kentuckian rose in political prominence as attorney general of oil-rich Oklahoma.  And now as head of the EPA, Pruitt is wasting no time in pulling the teeth of the agency which he had sued multiple times in his former job.
     In Pruitt’s mind, the EPA has too many “over-reaching” regulations.  In a 2016 Washington Post article, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) was quoted, “Scott Pruitt would have EPA stand for Every Polluter’s Ally.”  Before we turn this into a typical Democrat-Republican argument, I take the nonpartisan view: “Every American deserves to have his or her health and safety protected, regardless of political allegiance.”
     Idealistically, I believe less government is better than more government.  But if the EPA is abolished, as Pruitt has touted, America’s health and safety will be in peril.
     An illustration—beyond the threat of toxic coal ash being dumped in Wayne County—comes from my physician.  As he was conducting my annual physical, he grumbled about all the federally mandated paperwork.  And then he said, “But I understand why we have to have certain regulations.  There are too many greedy companies that will cut corners and cheat the government to make more money.  And when they do that, they take dollars out of your pocket and mine.”
     And there you have it.
     If we could trust everyone to do the right thing, we wouldn’t need as much government.  But imagine that there were no state and federal regulations on coal ash.  How high would the toxic mountains rise in Broadhurst?  Republic would have its coveted rail spur, and the coal-ash producers would be shouting, “Yippppeeeee!” 
     There would be little, if any, corporate or government concern over the harmful environmental consequences for Wayne County.  It’d be all about the money to be saved in the utility companies’ disposal of coal ash and the profits to be earned by companies such as Republic Services and Waste Management.
     In October, State Representatives Chad Nimmer and Bill Werkheiser, along with Sen. Blake Tillery, wrote a letter to U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue and Congressman Buddy Carter asking them to oppose the EPA’s proposal to eliminate guidelines on toxic coal ash. 
     A portion of the letter read: “Our constituents and neighbors fear allowing the EPA to suspend the enforcement of the effluvia rule would threaten these resources, our health and hinder economic growth … We urge you to strongly oppose the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend enforcement of the effluvia rule.”  We appreciate their letter, but you and I must reach out to Sens. Isakson and Perdue and Rep. Carter, too.
     One of the world’s leading authorities on coal ash’s environmental impact is attorney Lisa Evans of Earthjustice.  For 23 months, we’ve exchanged emails and telephone conversations.  Recently, she released this statement about Scott Pruitt’s proposal: “EPA’s imminent ‘reconsideration’ of the coal ash rule means only one thing, EPA is again turning its back on public health and safety and siding with polluters.  The EPA’s status report is just another example of agency policy to kowtow to corporate interests.”
     You and I may not have the “big” money, but we must make our voices heard or our future will be doomed under mountains of dangerous coal ash.