As The World Warms, Environmental Protections Put On The Back Burner

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After a year that has so far produced record-breaking snowstorms, droughts, floods, and violent hurricanes and tornadoes, environmental protections are once again being scaled back. Against the best advice of experts, the U.S. EPA has decided to delay issuing new rules for greenhouse gas emissions, the deadline for which is September 30th. This marks the second time in three months that the EPA has missed a deadline for issuing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards.

In their announcement, the EPA said that they are aware that it is their responsibility to move forward with new GHG standards, but they want to consider all of the available information before issuing a final ruling. According to an EPA spokesperson, one factor that the agency is still trying to figure out is the cost of the new measures.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is legally required to put restrictions on any air pollutant that is deemed unsafe for the American public. Thanks to a recent decision that GHGs are a threat to the public, this means they are required to put new standards in place. In addition to legally being required to regulate, the EPA is also not allowed to consider costs when making their decisions, meaning that their current “evaluation” period should not be extended to examine costs.

This new announcement comes on the heels of President Obama’s recent decision to roll back smog standards that the EPA had already put in place. The White House succumbed to a tremendous amount of pressure that the Republican Party had placed on the administration to curb the power of the EPA. The smog standards in place would have reduced ground level ozone levels, which have been shown to cause asthma and other respiratory problems.

Experts are not just concerned about the health problems that delays in EPA action will cause, but also the environmental impact we could face as a result. NOAA has warned that delays in regulating pollutants could lead to even more extreme weather events, which is especially devastating considering the cadre of natural disasters that have swept across America in 2011 so far.

While scientists and environmentalists are upset over the recent anti-environment decisions, the Republican Party couldn’t be happier. Climate change denier James Inhofe celebrated the recent announcements saying, “This announcement, as well as President Obama’s recent request that E.P.A. withdraw the ozone standard, makes one thing clear: not only will E.P.A.’s barrage of regulations cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs, they may cost President Obama his own job, and he knows it all too well.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner said that removing the smog regulation was a good first step toward removing obstacles that are blocking business growth.

Tom Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also had praise for the decisions: (This is) “an enormous victory for America’s job creators, the right decision by the president and one that will help reduce the uncertainty facing businesses.”

These comments reflect a growing trend among the Republican Party, which is to ruthlessly and baselessly attack the EPA and environmental protections. Their talking point du jour is “job killing regulations,” a talking point that has been debunked by numerous scholars and studies (the best available research shows that regulations actually help create jobs, rather than destroying them.)

This crusade against the EPA has included attacks on the agency as “inefficient,” as well as calls from elected officials and GOP presidential hopefuls to completely abolish the agency.

Both the White House and the EPA want us to be reassured that they are “very committed” to protecting the environment and issuing new standards. But as we’ve seen so far this year, both the president and the EPA are at the mercy of a political party that is doing everything in their power to completely abolish the EPA and destroy any and all regulations that have been put in place over the years.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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