If there had been an Environmental Protection Agency around 100 years ago, it is possible that the cleanup of the Jasper County Superfund Site would not now be necessary and Roy Blunt’s latest display of hypocrisy would not have materialized.
But there wasn’t and it did.
In today’s Globe, Rep. Blunt, a staunch opponent of Obama’s stimulus plan, was on hand to take gratuitous credit for the EPA’s latest efforts–enhanced by Obama’s plan–to reclaim land contaminated by private industry many years ago.
“It’s very seldom you get to solve a problem that has been there for a hundred years,” he told EPA officials and excavators Friday. “It’s pretty difficult to find a more dramatic change than what you guys have created here.
He didn’t mention that if it weren’t for the Federal government’s efforts, supported by tax dollars all good tea baggers hate to pay, the hundreds of acres would remain a “mine-scarred wasteland” of “rock piles and tainted soil” unsuitable for development . Now, thanks to the Feds, a chain of commerce will someday ensue, when some enterprising developer will hire a builder, who will hire workers, who will pay taxes…You get the idea.
Anyway, our distinguished and duplicitous representative told reporters, at least one of which was performing a public service that only reporters can perform by asking about the obvious political discrepancy, that he remained “totally opposed” to Obama’s stimulus package.
Now, how you can remain “totally opposed” to something while simultaneously glow-basking in one of its results is a question only a conservative Republican from the 7th congressional district can answer, as reported by the Globe:
“That doesn’t mean that some good things will not come out” of the package, he said, although those would be outweighed by the long-term debt that taxpayers will have to pay in the future. He also said the only “big winner” of the current stimulus plan would be for the growth of the federal government, he said.
Fortunately, Republicans have not always believed that protecting the environment was not worth spending money on.
Although burning rivers and huge oil spills in the 1960s whetted the public appetite for stricter environmental regulation , we do have a Republican to thank for the EPA (even if it may have been only to out-maneuver the Democrats by preempting one of their salient issues at the time).
In 1970 Richard Nixon picked William Ruckelshaus (later of Saturday Night Massacre fame) to create and serve as the Administrator of the new agency. Ruckelshaus was popular among environmentalists, but Republican responsibility for the environment would soon dissipate during the Age of Reagan, and conservative indifference to the environment continued throughout the last Bush administration.
Ronald Reagan’s appointment in 1981 of Anne Gorsuch (later Burford) as his EPA Administrator demonstrated that the “conserve” in conservative was unrelated to the preservation of our collective living quarters.
Plagued by a scandal (involving the Superfund program), Ms. Burford’s term was characterized this way by the Washington Post:
Her 22-month tenure was one of the most controversial of the early Reagan administration. A firm believer that the federal government, and specifically the EPA, was too big, too wasteful and too restrictive of business, Ms. Burford cut her agency’s budget by 22 percent. She boasted that she reduced the thickness of the book of clean water regulations from six inches to a half-inch.
Republicans and Democrats alike accused Ms. Burford of dismantling her agency rather than directing it to aggressively protect the environment. They pointed to budgets cuts for research and enforcement, to steep declines in the number of cases filed against polluters, to efforts to relax portions of the Clean Air Act, to an acceleration of federal approvals for the spraying of restricted pesticides and more. Her agency tried to set aside a 30-by-40-mile rectangle of ocean due east of the Delaware-Maryland coast where incinerator ships would burn toxic wastes at 1,200 degrees centigrade.
Interestingly, Ms. Burford later accused Ronaldus Magnus, her political hero, of, well, behavior unbecoming of a conservative icon:
When congressional criticism about the EPA began to touch the presidency, Mr. Reagan solved his problem by jettisoning me and my people, people whose only ‘crime’ was loyal service, following orders. I was not the first to receive his special brand of benevolent neglect, a form of conveniently looking the other way, while his staff continues to do some very dirty work.
Under George W. Bush, the EPA was first headed by Christine Todd Whitman, famed RINO, who quickly discovered that the environment was not on W’s very small radar, despite campaign promises to the contrary.
Ms. Whitman commissioned a scientific report on the environment which originally included evidence about rising global temperatures and man-made causation. Of course, the Bush administration censored it and removed that evidence from the report.
She later admitted that she finally resigned as EPA administrator because Dick Cheney insisted on excusing refurbished power plants and oil refineries from installing modern pollution controls.
Holding such disdain for even modest environmental regulations is an unfortunate attribute of many conservatives, hating as they do any government regulation this side of our bedrooms. And they have always had a problem with the EPA, even though in many ways the agency only weakly implements and enforces environmental laws.
Conservatives, like Roy Blunt, prefer private industry to regulate itself, much as it did 100 years ago here in the Tri-State Mining District, where such self-regulation has left us an enduring toxic legacy, requiring President Obama–over the objections of our own representative–to send stimulus funds our way to help clean up the mess.
Talk about leaving a burden on our children and grandchildren. How about a Tea Party for the environment?
Geoff Caldwell writes:
Sunday, April 19, 2009, 07:02 AM
Well put Anson, well put. I would only point out though that after the EPA’s announcement Friday making CO2 a “pollutant” I don’t think you’ll have to worry about any future Tea Parties for the environment. The economy will be so depressed from the increased energy costs and taxes from the coming regulations and cap and trade schemes there will be plenty of time for nature to heal herself.
Geoff Caldwell writes:
Sunday, April 19, 2009, 07:16 AM
Sorry Duane, had been reading Anson’s column right before and considering the time of morning and little coffee intake I feel into that age old plague of conservative typing before thinking.
Still agree with your “moderate regulation” but scard to hell for the upcoming CO2 stuff.
Anson Burlingame writes:
Sunday, April 19, 2009, 11:19 AM
You are now in an area that I have some signifigant experience. From 1990 to 1997 I worked in the field of environmental restoration at multiple DOE former nuclear weapons sites. I “ran” Rocky Flats in Colorado for two of those years.
Cleaning up the legacy of toxic waste and preventing future insults to the environment is extraordinarly comlex. From my experience three fundamental questions must be addressed:
1. How safe is safe?
2. How clean is clean?
3. Where do you put the waste?
I could write volumns about each of those topics. Briefly however:
1. Safety as I define it in this instance is worker safety doing the project. Take a defunct nuclear weapons facility that accumulated nuclear and toxic wastes, in many cases all mixed together, then establish work rules and procedures under a union contract to clean it up. Trillions are at stake nationwide.
2. How clean is a public safety long term issue. Do you dig down to virgin earth until nothing is left? What happens when we invent a new meter that finds “something” where we used to think “nothing” was there?
3. Waste disposal moves bad stuff somewhere else. It rarely treats it to where “nothing” is left.
Try taking on that issue for just one facility in a public forum to reach a concensus on the first two. Then try to get a federal budget to address the cost and the new location to move bad stuff.
If you or anyone else can answer those three questions for say, Tar Creek, a lot easier than Rocky Flats, the rest becomes only a matter of priority in time and money. Until you answer those questions we waste Trillions nationwide.
Sunday, April 19, 2009, 03:02 PM
While I don’t doubt the value of your life experience as related to restoring the environment, the point of the piece was to:
1. Point out the hypocrisy of Blunt for condemning the stimulus plan and embracing one of its benefits.
2. Briefly critique the conservative record on environmental regulations.
3. Note that the conservative reliance on self-regulation is faulty, using the Jasper County Superfund Site as an example.
Your three “fundamental questions” are all addressed in the EPA’s assessments for cleaning up some of the damage in the Tri-State Mining District, even though you or I may not agree with all of them. The documents can be found at:
You will find in various places that the EPA addresses the worker safety issue, the extent of the cleansing remedies, and the disposal of the waste (in the case at hand, much of the contaminated chat has been sold and used in paving, and I believe the remaining chat was “safely” covered up as part of the completion of Highway 249).
You will also find, as part of the documents, the EPA’s inclusion of public comments, many of which ultimately influenced the EPA’s remedy.
As far as the budget available to address environmental concerns, that is a political argument. Will Republicans and Democrats embrace a proactive approach to the environment and put a reasonable amount of money behind that commitment?
So, given all of the above, I am afraid I can’t agree with your insinuation that “trillions” are wasted. If so, I’m afraid Blunt, as well as the mayor of Webb City, are also deluded about the benefits.