An Outdoor View: On cutting regulations

At a Monday meeting with the heads of some of the nation’s largest corporations, President Trump said, “We think we can try to cut regulations by 75 percent — maybe more.” He claimed that the cuts would be made while maintaining protections for the environment and worker safety.

This outlandish claim got me to thinking. Even after subtracting two-thirds of his 75 percent to compensate for hype, cutting regulations by even 25 percent would be, as Trump says, huge. Fantastic. Believe me.

But wait. Now is no time to be recklessly cutting regulations. Law and order are part of what makes America a great place to live. Our laws are the main reason this country now has a reasonably healthy environment, a necessity for not only humans, but for all living things.

We sometimes forget that this is a country of laws, and that we have laws for good reason. We don’t have to look far to find those reasons.

After the Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the late 1700s, we began polluting Earth’s land, air and water on an industrial scale. By the mid-1900s, it had become glaringly apparent that we had to abate the abuse. Educating the public helped, but laws and regulations were the only certain means of stopping the polluters.

The Clean Air Act of 1963, along with its subsequent amendments, has helped to make our air fit to breathe. The change between then and now is remarkable. In 1956, I recall choking and gagging on seriously polluted air in Huntington Beach, California. When I see what’s happening in China today, with its unregulated industry polluting its air and water with who-knows-what toxins, I’m certain that we did the right thing.

The primary purpose of the Ocean Dumping Act of 1972 was to regulate the intentional dumping materials into the country’s territorial waters. These materials include among other things garbage, chemicals, industrial waste, sewage sludge, laboratory waste, biological agents and nuclear wastes. In other words, the sort of materials that manufacturers didn’t want to be bothered with, so they just had it taken to sea and dumped.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 came into being when an oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, the largest spill at that time. In an attempt to prevent such disasters, this act serves to enforce the removal of spilled oil, and to assign liability for cleanup costs and damages. One example of the bad-old days before this act is when the Torrey Canyon released 100,000 gallons of crude into the English Channel in 1967. The owners had to pay only $50 of the $8 million in spill-related cleanup costs.

The Clean Water Act of 1972, along with its amendments of 1977 and 1987, have vastly increased the number of waters that are “fishable” and “swimmable.” This act also attempts to prevent pollution of our drinkable water. The most notorious pollution of an American river occurred on the Cuyahoga River, in industrial Ohio. The Cuyahoga was so polluted with industrial waste that it actually caught on fire on at least 13 occasions, the first of which was in 1868. The river fire of 1969 touched off a firestorm of outrage that spurred a national environmental movement and the creation of the Clean Water Act.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by Republican President Richard Nixon, who brought it into being by executive order on Dec. 2, 1970. The EPA is largely responsible for administering all of our environmental laws. Without it, we’d soon be back to the bad-old days of unbridled pollution.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares my opinion on the evils of unbridled pollution, and unregulated industry. In the recent past, Trump swore that he’d abolish the EPA. While signing a stack of Executive Orders Monday, he said, “The regulatory process in this country has become a tangled up mess and very unfair to people.”

If abolishing our country’s environmental protections is his idea of making America great again, he might want to think again.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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