While the train wreck of the phony debt ceiling crisis occupied the media and voters for much of the last several weeks, public health and the environment were quietly being mugged in the back alley on Capital Hill by a ruthless gang of Tea Party Congressmen armed by a cabal of dirty energy corporations, chief among them Koch Industries. But this mugging will have permanent consequences for all Americans, including diminished quality of life, more cancer causing contamination of your water, dirtier air, poorer health, shorter life spans, and higher medical bills. Yes, you and your family are going to take a quite hit for the Koch Brothers team. But it will provide more billions in profits for these Titans of fossil fuel which is their noble contribution to “shared sacrifice.”
Multiple tactics and weapons are being used in this mugging. Contradicting every study that’s ever been done, the Tea Party gang started labeling the EPA, and its enforcement of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, “job killing” to persuade voters there was something sinister about environmental protection. Then they started their legislative machinations, like attaching dozens of “are you kidding me?” riders to the appropriations bill that funds the EPA.
Those riders include such gems as allowing uranium mining on the door step of the Grand Canyon, with the likelihood of contaminating the lower Colorado River and the drinking water for 30 million people. Mind you that right now the federal government is spending a billion dollars to clean up 50 year old uranium tailings near that same Colorado River at Moab, Utah. Other riders are as deranged and senseless as blocking the tougher fuel standards the Obama Administration just got the auto makers to agree to, needlessly wasting billions of barrels of oil, creating more pollution for you to inhale, costing consumers more for gas, and turning the thermostat even higher on a dangerously overheating planet. By show of hands how many of you were hoping your new car--if you can ever afford one--will get worse gas mileage?
Another rider would allow unregulated discharge of pesticides into our waterways. How many of you are concerned that your kids haven’t been getting enough pesticides in their food and drinking water? Undoubtedly, if you could just jack up your family’s cancer risk a bit more someone would come knocking on your door to give you a job.
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Other riders will prevent environmental restrictions on the devastating practice of mountain top removal mining, prevent the EPA from enforcing our bedrock air pollution regulations, allow loggers to decimate the remaining acres of our national forests that haven’t already burned down or been destroyed by the pine beetle, and of course, prevent the EPA from regulating any greenhouse gases. The Tea Partiers are determined that no regulations will be left standing after this environmental demolition derby. Ahhh, I can smell those new jobs already.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Washington insiders say they've never seen such a breathtaking assault on the environment.” But these riders are just the warm up. Already this year the Tea Party led GOP engineered the largest percentage cuts in the EPA of any federal agency, and they are likely to drive the knife deeper into the wound with every future budget battle starting again in September.
But it gets worse, much worse. The budget deal struck just in time to avert financial disaster, agreed to by both houses and signed by Obama, will cut “non defense discretionary spending”, which includes the EPA, health and climate research to 50% of current levels. This will essentially dismantle the EPA and prevent it from administering the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts which were the greatest bipartisan legislative achievements since the Civil Rights Act.
Even this is not the end of it. This budget deal will similarly eviscerate clean energy research and initiatives, virtually sanctifying our continued dependency on dwindling and increasingly expensive fossil fuels, perpetuating our smothering in their pollution, and kissing good bye our last chance to avert climate armageddon. But it will assure the Tea Party of their ultimate triumph over science, reason, and hope. Thank God we averted “disaster.”