Americans just delivered a clear message to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Keep your hands off our clean air and water.
Yesterday marked the end of a formal comment period in which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asked for input on safeguards that “may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification.” NRDC did a sample (i.e., we read every tenth comment) of part of the docket, and found that opponents of Pruitt’s rollback agenda outnumbered supporters by 1,168 to 16—a dizzying ratio of 73 to 1.
Many commenters told personal stories of America’s past, urging the EPA not to return us to darker days.
“I grew up in Cleveland Ohio before the EPA regulations existed. The results of big industry dumping their toxic wastes in the Cuyahoga River was devastating for Lake Erie. It damn near killed the lake. As a child my cousin and I use to go to the beach, we would have to clear the dead fish off of the shore before we could lay our towels down. I remember being in the lake trying to swim around the oil on the surface.”
Others talked about challenges they face now, calling for safeguards to be strengthened—not weakened.
“I can’t go out of the house on bad air quality days now. My son cannot go out. He has asthma and he cannot breathe on those days. What we need is more regulations and protections not less.”
Business owners talked about the health and economic benefits of environmental protections.
“As a vegetable farmer, I rely on water for irrigation, often from sources traveling beyond the property I work on. Without environmental regulations that protect the quality of this water, I wouldn’t be able to sell food to my customers with the confidence that it will nourish them rather than make them ill. In so many ways just like this, environmental regulations are WITHIN our local, regional and national economies, driving them forward, rather than holding them back.”
And there was a general sense of disbelief that the EPA would walk away from its job.
“You do not take an umbrella away from someone in a rainstorm, toss it away and say you’re unburdening them from the weight of the umbrella.”
If you are interested, David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at NRDC, submitted comments on behalf of NRDC here. We didn’t make it through the entire docket yesterday, and in fact fewer than half of the nearly 60,000 comments submitted by the deadline were posted for public review as of this afternoon. But if these early results are any indication, the story won’t change much. Americans want clean air, clean water, and a safe climate, and they want the EPA to uphold its mission of protecting human health—not to bow to the will of polluters.