In an opinion piece published Sunday in The Miami Herald, Carl Hiaasen says that recent GOP attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency “ignore the problem” and that claims that the agency is a “job killer” are attempts to get campaign donations from petroleum and coal conglomerates.
Conservatives have certainly come out hard against the EPA in recent months. Hiaasen cites a speech by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who recently told an Iowa crowd: “I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off, and they will only be about conservation. It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington, D.C.” But Bachmann’s claims, contends Hiaasen, are less worrisome than those of Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas, who is widely considered to be a GOP frontrunner.
From Hiaasen’s piece:
Like Bachmann, Perry refuses to accept that global warming is real. He launched a lawsuit to stop the EPA from enacting rules to limit greenhouse gasses from oil refineries, power plants and other industrial sources.
Perry likes to whine that “EPA regulations are killing jobs all across America,” a statement that draws more cheers in his native state than in the rest of the country. In fact, polls show that a large majority of Americans are worried about air and water pollution, and hold a positive view of the EPA.
Nothing kills jobs like an environmental catastrophe, as the Gulf Coast gravely experienced during (and after) the BP oil spill last year. The true cost of that accident to the economies of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida is probably incalculable, although surely many billions of dollars were lost.
The cleanup wasn’t perfect, but it’s absurd to think that BP would have worked faster or more efficiently if the Obama administration and the EPA hadn’t been leaning on the company, both publicly and behind closed doors.
According to Hiaasen, the hostility to the EPA can be attributed to money. “The petroleum and coal conglomerates are huge GOP donors, and they’d love to have a president who would gut the EPA,” he writes. “Second, it’s about politics. To win Republican primaries — the theory goes — a candidate must fire up the Wingnut Right. The easiest way to do that is to brainlessly bash whatever government does.”
Perhaps Hiaasen’s most important point, though, is that the attacks on the EPA are based on an idea that the agency’s regulations cost money and kill jobs. But the fact that pollution costs money and kills jobs goes largely ignored. In Florida, where tourism, fishing, and water-based recreation make up such an important portion of the state’s economic sector, the lack of environmental regulation may hinder, rather than help, economic growth.