Monday, June 29, 2015

Disabling a Century of Progress

Welcome readers, most of whom are from the United States. For those of you who are in Canada, Russia, France, Germany, India, and Bangladesh (according to my blog map), you might learn something today about the United States, and I regret to say that it will not be good.

The twentieth century saw an astonishing degree of progress in the United States with regard to saving natural areas and wild species, and protecting human health. The momentum of public health and conservation continued through both Democratic and Republican administrations. The current Republican leadership of the House, however, seems determined to disable all of this progress.

An article in the May 29, 2015 issue of Science describes how the House is doing this. The authors focused on five bills that have either passed or been advanced in the House and that pose a danger to:

  • Clean Air Act
  • Clean Water Act
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Consumer Product Safety Act

 The Republican House does not want to stir up notice by actually repealing these laws, but they are deliberately disabling their implementation by agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. They do so by methods the authors call insidious, and you would probably agree with them. Among the excuses the House is using to disable these prominent pieces of twentieth century legislation are:

  • Putting Congress in charge of deciding the regulations. The Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) act is supposed to “rein in” the agencies by requiring Congressional approval of new agency regulations. Here is the most insidious part: if either house of Congress fails to act (which, as we all know, is in fact the norm) then the agency’s new regulations cannot be put into effect.
  • Create new bureaucracy. House Republicans like to create the image that they are cutting out bureaucracy, but actually they want to create more of it. The Regulatory Accountability Act and the Sound Science Act create many new requirements on the processes by which federal agencies implement new regulations. The new requirements would add an additional $250 million a year to EPA at the same time that Congress is slashing its budget.
  • Disable the information gathering process. The Secret Science Reform Act requires agencies to make public all sources of information upon which they base their decisions. This sounds great except when you consider that many of the data about effects of pollutants on human health are taken from studies that include confidential health records. Therefore the agencies cannot use the most important source of data on which pollution regulations are based.
  • Manipulating the membership of advisory committees. The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act would require two major changes to EPA advisory committees. First, industry representatives would be allowed control over the regulations; and, second, any scientist who has received EPA funding becomes ineligible to serve on the committees.

 The result will be inevitable: no new pollution regulations and no new endangered species designations.

The Republicans who control Congress like to identify themselves with Christianity and the God of Love. But these actions reveal their true thinking. They seem to be thinking, first, “We love you, but we don’t care if environmental toxins kill you,” and, second, “We love God’s creation but we don’t care how much of it is destroyed.” Each of these lines of thinking contains fatal inconsistencies and is clearly indicative of hypocrisy regarding religion. This is one reason that I believe Congressional Republicans are just using Christianity as a shield to deflect criticism and behind which to hide their real agenda.

I was hoping someday to get endangered species protection for Alnus maritima, the seaside alder shrub, one of the rarest trees in the world. This seems to now be a hopeless endeavor. Instead, my focus is going to be on getting as many people as possible to plant this shrub in their gardens. Private rescue of endangered species worked for the ginkgo, the Franklinia, and the Torreya; it may be the only hope of the seaside alder and other rare plant species. With animals, of course, it is not so easy. It’s not like you can take an endangered animal species home to live with you. If you might be interested in planting some seaside alder seeds in your garden, let me know at this email,

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