October 21st 2018
The Honorable Don Beyer
US House of Representatives
1119 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Rep. Don Beyer,
I am writing this to ask you for help with opposing H.R. 861, a bill that seeks to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA). I firmly believe that the EPA is one of the most impactful agencies in this country and its termination has the potential to have detrimental effects on both the environment and US citizens in the future.
I’ve learned that H.R. 861 has 7 cosponsors so far who are aiming to terminate an agency that has transformed the lives of millions of Americans. I’m currently a Junior at the University of Richmond and all these years of education have taught me that the EPA has played a transformative role in reducing the risk of countless environmental hazards such as acid rain and leaded gasoline.
There was a time when acid rain was degrading water-bodies, killing wildlife, and eroding buildings. This was until there were amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 as the EPA began to regulate nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides which are the pollutants that cause acid rain, from power plants. There were many warnings from the power industries that these policies would cause a massive increase in electricity prices as well as countless blackouts(EPA). EPA’S 2006 Progress Reports conclude that their continued efforts have lead to acid rain levels dropping 60 percent while electricity prices have stayed constant, and no threats of blackouts have really been seen(EPA).
Leaded gasoline in the air was another environmental hazard that haunted the nation’s youth for decades. It was believed that leaded gasoline could be absorbed through their bloodstream which could endanger brain development. The EPA stepped in and decided to ban leaded gasoline. The EPA 2006 Progress Report found that 88 percent of kids had elevated levels of lead in their blood in the 1970’s however, there was less than 1 percent of kids having excessive lead in their blood by mid 2000s(EPA).
The Natural Resources Defense Council(NRDC) reports that since President Richard Nixon formed the agency in 1970, “air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, have decreased by 67 percent”. The NRDC also found that through effective research and development, “the EPA identified secondhand smoke as a carcinogen, paving the way for successful litigation against Big Tobacco, also leading to a successful reduction in U.S. smoking rates”(NRDC). The EPA has helped past generations, like my parents and their parents, forget how horribly polluted the U.S. was in the past, yet there are calls to terminate the agency. The EPA is one of the most impactful agencies in the country and the impact of termination would have severe consequences.
The effects of terminating the EPA would not be immediate but over time we would witness significant changes to the environment. Braden Allenby, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Arizona State University details that we “would find that the quality of air and water degraded, and we would have more incidents involving toxic materials and inappropriate management of hazardous materials”.
The belief of the sponsors of this bill are that environmental issues will be controlled through state and local levels however Professor Allenby believes that if the EPA was terminated “we would be at risk of losing clean air, clean water and regulation of pesticides because large-scale issues like these need to be scaled at a national level”(Vice). There are also possibilities of environmental issues occuring between different states/countries. Professor Allenby writes that “Phoenix, where I live, gets a lot of air from Southern California. Frequently, we have ozone exceedances because of the air coming from LA. That’s the kind of thing you need an EPA for. California may not have the incentive to move against LA in order to protect Phoenix and if there wasn’t a national agency, there would be no entity to create regulation”(Vice). Situations like these explain why it’s so crucial to have a national agency to regulate environmental issues.
It’s not only regulatory power that makes the existence of the EPA crucial, but it’s also the “EPA’s focus on research and development within its own laboratories and universities”(Vice). Professor Allenby argues that “the EPA is able to build a base of research that supports more efficient and more intelligent regulation. This is something that most people don’t realize because they aren’t involved in any of the R;D activities”(Vice). If we were to get rid of the EPA, it would diminish the role of scientific research in effective policy-making and eliminate decades of studies that have been done by the agency.
The EPA’s hard-work over the past few decades has lead to reduced risks of multiple environmental hazards which have improved the well-being and the quality of life for millions of Americans. I urge you to not let this bill get approved by the Science, Space and Technology committee. Despite the sponsors of this bill arguing that environmental regulation can be handled by local/state governments, the termination of the EPA will have detrimental effects for years to come.
Mir Gibran Sultan