It is somewhat ironic that the demise of the Environmental Protection Agency should come at the hands of Donald Trump. Nominally a Republican, Trump has done his best in less than four months to undo an important government agency initially created by the Republican Party in 1970. Its original mandate included protecting our water and air from pollution and the resulting impacts on human health. It has since become responsible for a greatly enhanced mission. This mission has become international and more wide-ranging than originally conceived.
It is also true to say that the EPA, despite significant opposition, has produced some outstanding results. Since its founding, it has achieved successes in regulating auto emissions, led the fight to ban DDT and other dangerous pesticides, created campaigns to remediate and reclaim inner-city brownfields, introduced and championed legislation resulting in cleaner air and water and protected agricultural and wilderness lands.
EPA has also been an important and effective partner with virtually all of our 50 states. They have mentored and trained local environmental activists, organizations and governments. They have lobbied lawmakers in Washington to establish and fund programs that, primarily because of local politics, have been stalled, gutted and rejected by state and local governments.
Perhaps one of the most important attributes of EPA has been their commitment to supporting scientists all over the world. The agency has accomplished this by coordinating their work and by dissemination of their data and conclusions. Doing science can be exasperatingly slow. By its very nature the scientific method requires painstaking methodical work. It is often the very antithesis of exciting activity and is most often among the most poorly paid of professions. One of the most important ways EPA has fultilled this function has been to serve as a "librarian" and maintain data and records produced by scientists in all disciplines. This has reduced the costs of doing science as well as fostering the collegial relationships among scientists that are important in creating the "cross fertilization" between scnentists that are vital in producing scientific breakthroughs.
In addition, EPA has initiated and supported US and foreign regualtory and policy makers as a way to help coordinate legislation and funding to help deal with environmental problems that are not confined by man-made boundaries. For example, efforts to reduce and and water pollution in the US have enabled our neighbors, near and far, to "bootstrap" on our progress. The fact that many US initiated programs have been successful also makes it easier for foreign leaders and populations to do their part.
All in all, it is hard to dispute the fact that the effect of the US EPA has been positive and far-reaching. Not the least of this was the leadership of former President Obama in creating the landmark Paris Climate Agreement.
The sad part of this story is the treatment the EPA has received by the Trump administration. Within days of his inauguration our new President reduced EPA funding by nearly a third, requested a list of EPA employees working on climate change issues, froze all grants and contracts, rejected extensive research on a dangerous pesticide and allowed it to remain on the market. Perhaps most ominous the President appointed a new administrator of the EPA who is a well-known climate change denier who has made a career out of suing the EPA on behalf of fossil fuel and other traditional polluting energy companies and interests.
In barely 100 days, to date, President Trump has set the nation, and the world, on a course that is designed to enrich his supporters and expose the rest of us to an increase in environmental problems that will affect us in many negative ways, for decades to come.
WHAT WE CAN DO
One of the worst effects of our current situation is the feelings of depression and impotence that many of us are experiencing. The danger is that giving into to those perfectly understandable reactions will only produce more of the same. One cure is to arm ourselves with reliable information - not "fake news." With that in mind, here are some resources which we can use in understanding and presenting the both the accomplishments and challenges that the new political climate is bringing to the EPA. If it is true that the truth shall make us free maybe it is also true that the truth will also make us feel more in control, more sure of our knowledge about what is actually going on, and more effective in combating the assaults from Trumplandia.
For the results of a Google search on "Accomplishmentsw of the US EPA click here.
Here is a rundown on the first 100 days of new EPA administrator Scott Pruittcompiled and presented by the Environmental Defense Fund. For those of us interested in working with a fact-based environmental advocacy EDF should be one of the organizations at the top of the list.
This link points to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a public interest organization that has been a major EPA partner.
Finally, this link points to the website of the US Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, one of the most effective of the US EPA's partner agencies and a demonstration of the way that environmrntal issues proliferate throughout government.