BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Published March 6, 2012
Job-killer. Cemetery for jobs. The regulatory reign of terror.
Also known as the United States Environmental Protection Agency?
From the rhetoric of the Republican presidential candidates, one might assume that EPA name-calling is a prerequisite for the Republican presidential nomination.
That idea, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. It was Richard Nixon — a Republican himself — who established the EPA in 1970. The first EPA administrator — William D. Ruckelshaus — formerly served as a Republican in the Indiana House of Representatives. Theodore Roosevelt, also a Republican, is often considered America’s first conservation-minded president due to his campaigns for federal wildlife preservation. Conservatives and conservation have never been mutually exclusive.
This year, though, every leading Republican nominee in the presidential race either supports a drastic overhaul of the EPA or a complete termination of its major functions. Come November, it seems that the Republican-Democrat divide on issues regarding environmental policy will be gargantuan. Presidential candidates on both sides are treating the EPA's role as a key voting issue, with Republicans citing its over-spending and over-regulation, and Obama looking to expand its influence.
An October 2011 national survey conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 78 percent of Americans believe that the EPA should hold corporate polluters accountable for the pollution they release. Though bashing the EPA may be what the Republican party — and its sources of funding — expects, statistics say the American public is not eager to support an anti-EPA GOP candidate.
Even Republican voters are voicing their discontent over the extreme anti-EPA stances of their party's candidates. “Not only are these positions irresponsible, they’re politically problematic,” said David Jenkins of Republicans for Environmental Protection in an August 2011 The New York Times article. His organization aims to restore resource conservation and environmental protection as key elements of the Republican Party’s mission.
So which Republican candidates do Jenkins and the rest of America have to pick from when it comes to protecting our environment? Well, there;s Mitt Romney who believes federal law doesn’t give the EPA authority to regulate carbon emissions. There's Rick Santorum who has condemned the EPA's limits on mercury from coal-fired power plants. Next there is Newt Gingrich who believes the ineffective EPA should be replaced with a new Environmental Solutions Agency. Which would, according to his website, “use incentives and work cooperatively with local government and industry to achieve better environmental outcomes.” He maintains that, “contrary to popular belief, America has more energy than any nation on earth.” Finally, Ron Paul simply feels that the EPA is unconstitutional because it conflicts with private property rights and therefore should be eliminated.
Obama, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of spending federal funds for environmental protection. “We don’t have to choose between dirty air and dirty water or a growing economy. We can make sure that we are doing right by our environment and, in fact, putting people back to work all across America,” Obama said in a Jan. 10 speech to EPA employees.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has replied to Republican attacks with a similar stance, often referencing EPA job creation and the lives saved by EPA projects. In a January speech at the annual Everglades Coalition conference, Jackson told the Associated Press that the Clean Air Act has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and in the long run, it has saved billions of U.S. dollars.
Though the Republican presidential candidates present EPA as a roadblock to business and American jobs, eliminating the organization is far from a single-handed solution to the nation's unemployment problems. It may, however, halt environmental initiatives that our government has fought to improve over the past 40 years.
I don't doubt that the EPA could run more efficiently. Under the Bush and Obama administrations, our national debt has continued to skyrocket, and it's time to watch our federal spending and cut corners where possible.
But eliminating the EPA is most definitely not possible. Replacing our financial debt with environmental exploitation will only bring about a different kind of debt — one that future generations will have to pay for when searching for clean water, air and land in the years to come.
Kristen Kiluk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.