John Olsrud: When Did The EPA Become The Bad Guys?

The Environmental Protection Agency is one of the outstanding success stories witnessed by my generation.  Created by executive order of President Richard Nixon in 1970, the agency has been successful in ways we never could have anticipated at its inception.

Many of the readers of this blog are too young to know what our country was like in 1970.  Some of our rivers were industrial sewers, and air was so bad we could see the various levels of haze as we flew into cities such as Chicago, Detroit, or Boston.  Relying on industry to self-regulate just did not work.  It took federal law, and enforcement by the EPA, to bring the success we have seen.

Please notice that I am not taking a position on current proposals regarding regulation of our environment.  That is up to experts in the relevant fields.  I am only expressing concern regarding what is happening in my state, and I wish we heard more from the experts and less from the politicians.

I am sure the industries who were polluting our air and water objected to the infringement on their rights by the federal government when forced to change the way they did business.  I am sure the cost was great, and jobs were lost (and others gained), but we as a nation supported those efforts and the results were amazing.

Now, the political mood in this country has changed.  When the EPA attempts to continue cleaning up our air and water, our elected officials are accusing that agency of overreach.  We hear people attacking the EPA and even trying to repeal the agency.  Now it appears our state is going to use taxpayer funds to pay legal fees for the affected industries to challenge the EPA in court.

What is so sad about this picture is that many of these same elected officials have accepted campaign contributions from the very people who are subject to regulation by the EPA.  The regulated industries are great advocates of turning protection of our environment over to states.  Of course they are.  State employees are just one phone call away from an elected official, probably one who received campaign contributions from the regulated entities.

Instead of focusing on our health and environment, our attention is directed to political clout and money.  It has not always been that way in North Dakota.  We only have to go back to the 1970s, when Governor Art Link made it clear our priorities were in order, and money was not the driving force.

Please notice that I am not taking a position on current proposals regarding regulation of our environment.  That is up to experts in the relevant fields.  I am only expressing concern regarding what is happening in my state, and I wish we heard more from the experts and less from the politicians.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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