I wanted to write today about a subject that is dear to me, our environment and the ongoing attacks against the EPA. Recently congress and many in the Republican party (sorry, I hate to take sides but this one has to be called out) have taken to making the Environmental Protection Agency enemy #1 for their perceived role in limiting economic growth through regulation. I feel strongly that their attacks are misplaced and believe that the EPA's work has led to a much higher quality of life which is a major driver of economic growth. Case study #1: Pittsburgh!
This is what Pittsburgh looked like in the 40's when it was ok for industry to pump anything it wanted into the air and the water. This is what the city looked like when my grandmother was a young girl. She told me about having to dust twice a day and nothing stayed white. This lack of regulation may have been great for the economy, but it was terrible for the quality of life in Pittsburgh and the health of the community. That lack of quality of life means that people don't want to buy houses or live in these places. And that ultimately is NOT good for the economy. Who would really want to live in that place?
Don't kid yourself and say this couldn't happen today, if given the choice between lowering costs and boosting shareholder profits, or doing the right thing for the environment, most companies will sadly choose the profits. The EPA is the organization that can protect our environment, our communities, our quality of life and ultimately our economy. We can't fall victim to a shortsighted opinion that reducing environmental regulation will improve our lives through the improvement of our economy, it will only allow corporations to make the choices related to how clean they think our air, water and soil should be, and I for one don't trust the corporations to make that choice for me and my family.
Cut to 2011, this is Pittsburgh now. It's not perfect, but this city has worked hard to fix the damage of the past, and we probably better than most know the real economic cost of poor environmental regulation. We had to reclaim our rivers and our skies. And we still have work to do.
We also can not let the agency that was put in place to protect our environment be gutted for political reasons. There have recently been proposal that required the EPA to make the cost of complying with environmental regulations the primary factor for the adoption of environmental policies, not the value to society or improvement in quality of life. While I do believe that economics should be considered, ultimately I do feel that we must allow the EPA to consider the long term environmental implications in a world that is too often focused on the short term gain.