The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.
MANKATO — Disbanding the Environmental Protection Agency has become the issue du jour for Republican presidential candidates.
During a campaign swing through Florida, Minnesota candidate Michele Bachmann repeatedly called for eliminating the “job-killing” EPA.
During the same trip, she called for opening the Everglades to oil and gas drilling, if it can be done safely. Bachmann said she’d rely on experts to decide if drilling could be done safely.
Of course, the EPA is the agency Americans rely on to provide the expert advice on environmental issues. Just one reason why Bachmann and other Republicans’ call for its elimination is wrong.
Most, if not all, politicians believe there are regulatory complexities that should be removed to allow for businesses to operate more easily and profitably. President Barack Obama has called for streamlining permitting and regulatory processes wherever possible.
While streamlining the agency is justified, calling to eliminate it is dangerous rhetoric.
People should not disregard what things were like prior to creation of the EPA four decades ago — a proposal made by Republican President Richard Nixon. Waterways were routinely polluted, air fouled, the eagle brought to near extinction and dangerous chemicals buried and dumped — all in the name of jobs and economic growth.
Environmental horrors led to the public and political support for creating the EPA and state environmental protection agencies.
(An environmental catastrophe in Mankato, in which millions of gallons of soybean oil flowed into the river after tanks burst, led to the creation of the state pollution control agency.)
Many of the current attacks on the EPA are based on conspiracy theories that start with a thread of truth and are blown into proof positive of the EPA’s evil, jobs-killing bent.
Those in farm country have no doubt heard of the EPA’s supposed desire to regulate dust — something that would effectively put farmers out of business.
The EPA did, as required by law, conduct a scientific review of Clean Air Act rules, including looking at current dust control requirements. (The Clean Air Act does require limiting dust from some gravel roads and work sites, and in other cases where it can be a health concern or affect communities.)
Despite the fact EPA chief Lisa Jackson told a congressional panel in March that the agency has no plans to expand dust control regulations, the dire warnings of the EPA trying to eliminate dust coming from combines has not subsided.
There have been similar scare tactics asserting, incorrectly, that the EPA was about to ban lead in shotgun shells and would treat spilled milk the same as spilled oil.
The public remains committed to the EPA. Polls consistently show strong support for the agency and the need for regulation. A recent survey by the American Lung Association found 75 percent of voters support stricter limits on smog and 66 percent believe the agency, not Congress, should set pollution standards.
It may make for good political theater to call for the end of the EPA, but most Americans understand that a powerful federal agency is necessary to counter the powerful economic interests that would pollute in order to make more money.
This editorial is reprinted with permission.