Mixed Messages From the EPA

Mixed Messages From the EPA

Alexa Schirtzinger
Published: 07/18/2008

You know when you were a kid and you left your room as messy as possible for days, until your mother suddenly noticed and made you clean it up? The EPA is that kid. The problem is, the EPA has no mother to make it clean up. In fact, it's supposed to be that mother.

On July 9, 1970, President Nixon (yes, Nixon) proposed in a Special Message to Congress the creation of one coherent environmental body—that he said should be “a strong, independent agency” that would “set and enforce standards for air and water quality and for individual pollutants.” Thus was born the Environmental Protection Agency—but those high-minded promises have, especially of late, been abandoned.

In April of last year, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in Massachusetts v. EPA that the EPA was responsible for regulating greenhouse gases. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the majority opinion:

Under the clear terms of the Clean Air Act, EPA can avoid taking further action only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether they do.

So EPA chief Stephen Johnson left a 1,000-page manifesto about climate change lying around, waiting for public comment—in effect, he left his room dirty—and all the EPA has done since the Court decided it was breaking the law by refusing to regulate emissions has been…refusing to regulate emissions.

A week ago, Johnson told Reuters that “If the nation is serious about regulating greenhouse gases the Clean Air Act is the wrong tool.” I’m terribly sorry, but if the Clean Air Act isn’t supposed to regulate clean air, who on earth is? And if the EPA won't do it, who will--the White House?

Evidently that's a bit of an issue. Today, a shocking report (and by shocking I mean alarmist, but unsurprising--except for its source)from the same EPA: Climate change is bad! In fact, one EPA guy said there is “an increased risk of deaths” due to climate change! I seriously feel like someone’s laughing in my face. (My only consolation is that if Ed Abbey were here we’d all be taken out by the Colorado River when he finally got angry enough to blow up the Glen Canyon dam.)

It seems like a bunch of mixed messages from the agency that’s supposed to be protecting the environment but is giving pollution control little more than lip service. A couple of New York Times reporters are on the case, though, and apparently there’s some infighting within the EPA and between it and the White House. Maybe we can’t blame the EPA; it’s just at the mercy of its situation. Kind of like the polar bear.