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Happy Birthday, EPA! (Hopefully Not for the Last Time)

The EPA is suddenly on life support

(photo/Lorie Shaull)

(photo/Lorie Shaull)

Forty-seven years ago today, on Dec. 2, 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was born. Happy birthday, EPA! You’re looking… well? Sadly, no. Not well at all. In fact, we’re rather worried you won’t make it to forty-eight. So we’re fighting for your life.

By the end of the 1970’s as progressive social change became mainstream, a powerful environmental movement had emerged. Activists were demanding action for what had become the near-crisis state of America’s environmental health: indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides, choking air pollution, and rivers on fire. Responding to the intense pressure, Nixon—a Republican, mind you—signed an executive order to create the EPA, consolidating federal activities around environmental monitoring, standard setting, research and enforcement. While this had no budget impact, later Congresses increased the budget.

In the decades that followed, the agency, empowered to enforce benchmark environmental laws like the Clean Air and Water Acts, played a critical role in cleaning up America and protecting public health. Now, suddenly, the basic functioning of the EPA – if not the continued existence of the agency itself – is very much in doubt. Every American that breathes air, drinks water and eats food should be alarmed. After all, environmental protection isn’t just about a clean planet, it’s fundamentally about protecting our food and water—that is, protecting us.

Weakened environmental regulation will have a range of deep impacts on the availability of safe food and drinking water. Unfettered climate change is increasing droughts, as well as heatwaves and floods. Globally, water supplies are already stressed—and climate change will only exacerbate those stresses. The impacts on our food supply could be immense. Lloyds of London, an insurance industry giant, wrote in its report Food System Shock that the global food supply is very vulnerable to uncertain climate impacts. With a global population expected to exceed 9 billion in 2050, extreme weather linked to climate change and the accompanying spread of agricultural pests and diseases could destabilize the global food supply.

And yet, since being confirmed to lead the EPA in February, Administrator Scott Pruitt has set about dismantling the agency, piece by piece. He’s doing just what he promised Donald Trump he would; just what he’s been doing his entire career. Pruitt’s shilling for polluting fossil fuel and chemical corporations goes back decades. He’s been nothing if not consistent in his disdain for regular people and the planet.

So as it celebrates its forty-seventh birthday, the EPA is suddenly on life support. But we won’t let Trump, Pruitt and their profit-driven cronies pull the plug on the EPA without a fight. We’ll do whatever it takes to hold the agency and the entire administration accountable—from fighting to preserve the EPA budget, to pressuring Congress to move off fossil fuels, to simply suing the bad guys.

One way or another, we’ll keep the EPA fighting and kicking in defense of our health, our safety and our planet’s future. We’ll make sure the EPA makes it to forty-eight, and fifty-eight, and a hundred-and-eight. We won’t let the EPA down.

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Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. She has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans.

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