In April, 2014, a broken rail sent a CSX train carrying crude oil tumbling off the tracks in Lynchburg, Va. Several cars plunged into the James River as a ruptured tanker gushed 30,000 gallons of the crude into the water, erupting in a fireball.
The Environmental Protection Agency provided an emergency response and later helped monitor the pollution in the river, a drinking-water source for many in Virginia.
It was one of more than 3,000 environmental cleanups in SELC’s six-state region that the EPA has either planned, completed, or is still working on, according to the agency’s online documents. Environmental cleanups are just one of the many critical roles the agency plays in our region.
But if a few members of Congress have their way: “The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”
“This bill offers no guidance and does nothing about the underlying laws the EPA enforces,” said SELC Legislative Director Nat Mund. “It doesn’t have a chance of passing, but it shows the extent to which the unprecedented attacks from Washington are seeking to roll back, or completely eliminate, any environmental protections.”
The bill, H.R. 861, is only one sentence long. Social-media posts about it seemed so outrageous that the Internet rumor-busting web site Snopes.com had to weigh in to say stories about the effort to “terminate” the EPA were indeed accurate.
The bill comes as the Senate prepares to vote on President Trump’s selection of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to become the head of the EPA. Pruitt has been one of the EPA’s most strident critics, suing the agency more than a dozen times, often at the behest of oil and gas companies.
Pruitt’s own web site describes him as “the leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
Proponents of the legislation told news outlets EPA’s authority should be given to the states.
But Mund says few states, if any, have the ability to do what the EPA does.
“Individual states often don’t have the legal or economic resources, or sometimes the political willpower, to take on polluters,” Mund said. “This ridiculous plan creates turmoil, setting up a situation where people living in wealthier states might have better protections than those living in poorer states. Everyone deserves a healthy community, no matter where you live.”