EPA Protects Something … But Not Environment

EPA LogoIs it my imagination, or has the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gone out of its way this year to live down its name? Already criticized by many green types for doing more to protect the Bush administration agenda than the environment, the EPA made 2007 a banner year … in a bad way.

One of its most recent decisions — its denial of California’s effort to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles — was also one of its most deplorable. But the agency found plenty of other ways to disappoint over the past 12 months:

There’s its latest proposal to exempt livestock operations from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. That’s the regulation that requires facilities to make it public when they release more than 500 pounds of a hazardous substance — like the noxious ammonia and other gases and chemicals that spew from factory farms. Established in the wake of the 1984 Bhopal disaster, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act is being loosened, apparently, in an effort to save on paperwork;

During this past year, the EPA also continued forging ahead with its plan to dismantle its network of technical and research libraries, shuttering libraries in 23 states along with the headquarters in Washington, D.C. Happily, Congress this month ordered the EPA to restore its library services, budgeting $3 million for just that purpose;

Then there’s the EPA’s ongoing failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from large, ocean-going vessels. A coalition of environmental groups this fall petitioned the EPA to either set pollution standards for cargo and cruise ships … or explain why it will not do so. This month, the same coalition sent a similar petition the EPA’s way, this one seeking emissions standards for aircraft;

Did I mention Superfund yet? Earlier this year, the Center for Public Integrity reported that, despite two years of requests from Congress, the EPA still won’t release information about which Superfund sites pose the greatest threats to public health. In addition to the 114 sites Congress has been asking about, there are another 181 sites for which the EPA claims to have “insufficient data” to assess health risks.

Not a great record, by any means, for an agency charged with protecting the environment. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until a new administration for the EPA to start doing its job again.

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