Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Is the EPA Struggling to Do Its Job?

By Anthony Vigna

Recently, I read an interesting op-ed piece in The New York Times called “Let the EPA Do Its Job,” which details the legal struggles the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has to undergo in order to do what it was created to do: protect the environment. For the third time in seven years, the Supreme Court had to evaluate the EPA’s right to regulate green house gases. You would think that regulating green house gases, something that is proven to cause global warming, should be a main staple of the EPA’s functional abilities. But of course, some industry representatives think that this is crossing a line, causing another legal battle to ensue.

Of course, every legal loophole starts with a semantics debate, and this one derives from the 1970s Clear Air Act. When the Clear Air Act was first written, people had no idea about the negative effects of green house gases on our environment, so there was no need to reference it in this legislation. So, the Clean Air Act states that the agency must require permits for the emission of “any air pollutant” that would harm public health or welfare. Despite being a general statement, I could definitely see how this could include green house gases. After all, green house gases are air pollutants, right? However, to people that like to push the EPA around like bullies on a grade school playground, it’s a vague statement that requires over seven years of debating to solve.

Why is this happening? The fact that the EPA is ineffective at protecting the environment on a big scale because of incidents like this completely baffles me. There’s no worth in an environmental protection group that cannot protect the environment! In this scenario, the EPA’s only hope is to change the law to be more detailed and precise, but even that would take way too long thanks to the way our legal system is set up. But, this shouldn’t even be an alternative that they would have to consider. If the EPA wants to regulate green house gases, which should come under “any air pollutant,” then it should be able to do its job without changing the legislation. A seven-year legal battle should not exist!

The more we humor legal issues like this, the longer our society will remain stagnant, which will lead us to face impending environmental disasters in the future. We should have been regulating green house gases years ago, but instead we’re sitting ducks against the effects of global warming. We need to be more active against environmental health issues, and the best way to start this would be to give the EPA enough power to function normally. Unfortunately, as things stand, something as simple as that has been turned into a complex problem that might take another seven years to solve.

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