Wednesday, August 13, 2003

States & environmental protection

Bush's choice for the new head of the EPA is an advocate for more state level control of environmental protection. While in some instances that is appropriate (that is why the states have their own environmental protection agencies) there are too many interstate, pollution level and national resource issues to leave it all to the states. For many of the federal laws, their needs to be a strong federal presence and control mechanism. While governors like Leavitt like to rail against the federal government when it suits them (it often comes up in campaign speeches), and they do when it comes to environmental issues in particular. In many states, especially out west, there are extensive federal land holdings that provide resources for industry. Despite the fact that they are using federal land, people will claim that it is their state, and so they should be able to do what they want with the resources. But also on private land, industry does not like environmental regulation (or any regulation for that matter), and will try to use political power to get around it. It is generally easier for these companies to influence their local state regulators than they can the federal regulators (in part because of the strength of the national environmental groups), so they will push for the local control.

Another important issue is that of pollution standards - and since most have been regulated on the national level, they should be monitored and enforced on the federal level. Certainly pollution levels for people in one state should not be disregarded in another because of the power of an certain industry in that state. What is safe for one person in Ohio should be the same for the person in Texas (and in Mexico City or Bangladesh for that matter). Another aspect of pollution is that in many instances it does not stay in one place - air pollution can travel across several states, nor does water pollution stop at political boundaries. If left to the states, a person would have little recourse to fight pollution coming from a neighboring state. This is the same issue with water rights - people upstream take out too much water that the river dries up before it gets to its outlet, and leaves many people without the water they need.

I see the movement towards state level environmental regulations as more of a way to get around the regulations, than a way to improve the effectiveness of them. Of course this is no big surprise coming from the Republicans, who see almost any federal involvement and regulation, however useful, as a bad thing that gets in the way of profits. Utah Gov. Named As Chief Of EPA

No comments: