Elections open door for rollbacks of protections
The midterm election is over, and with it, its ads. Given the outcome, however, those who care about the environment should urge continued gridlock in Congress. The electorate says they want Congress to do something—yet many do-nothing incumbents were reelected.
From an environmental perspective, it’s bad news. This Congress is not likely to pass anything remotely good for the environment as they revert back to “drill, baby, drill.” Senator Mitch McConnell will be leading the charge to get rid of regulations for the oil, gas, coal, and mining industries, thereby allowing more pollution for all. These industries are exempted from the Federal Clean Water Act, Federal Drinking Water Act, Resource Conservation Recovery Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, supported by industry lobbyists, will chair the Energy Committee, and has stated that she will work to approve the Keystone Pipeline.
Guess who is the next chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works? Senator James Inhofe. He’s the one who wrote “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.” He will attack both climate change efforts and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions. Some legislators want to eliminate EPA altogether.
Harry Reid’s exit as Senate Majority leader opens avenues for more financial loans for nuclear power plants, already heavily on the public dole. As long as these unsafe, outdated behemoths continue to exist, taxpayer money is held hostage. We should use it instead to establish renewable energy, eliminating an increase in the radioactive waste legacy and the buildup of unneeded nuclear weapons for which we pay the bill.
Also, expect a push for toxic chemical law “reform” written by the toxic chemical industry itself. Big Food will push to prohibit citizens from knowing if their food contains genetically engineered ingredients.
Sadly, one can’t expect much help from our Tennessee legislators. The League of Conservation Voters rates our legislators’ pro-environment votes as low as 4 percent (Chuck Fleischmann).
At the state level, when legislators feel business and industry come first, and with fewer sources of revenue (dictated by passage of Amendment 3), the environment will have very few advocates and few who have real power. It’s not a good sign when legislators eliminate “environment” from the names of the committees making environmental decisions. The Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) must reduce its budget another seven percent, meaning less staff with less ability to enforce existing regulations.
Advocates for less government may be pleased by this state of affairs. However, when your family member is sickened by toxic-laden food or water, or a company wants to build a landfill next to you, or a gas company plans hydrofracking for natural gas on your property, or you become ill from nuclear radiation emissions, or the Watts Bar dam breaks, you won’t want to hear your government official say, “Oh, gee, we can’t do anything for you. Because of deregulation and budget-cutting, no one is keeping tabs on performance or permitting.”
Is there hope? Sure, but it’s going to take time and education. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen says, “Poll after poll shows strong public support on both sides of the aisle for climate, clean air and water protections. Congress’ anti-environment ideologues are out of touch with the public on these issues.”
Let’s work locally for wise use of revenues to maintain a green economy with clean water, air, and soil, healthy food, and environmentally friendly infrastructure. Meanwhile, hope for gridlock in Congress, lest the protections we now have in place disappear.