On June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire. It was not the first time, nor the worst time, but the 13th time. This section of the river in Cleveland was literally the city’s sewer system, and Lake Erie was its cesspool.
This dramatic display of environmental disregard became the bedrock for combating water and air pollution, not just in Ohio, but on a national level under President Nixon. The spectacular failure of a states-only approach to environmental regulation had become too much to bear.
One year later, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed and tasked with the management, regulation and remediation of risks to public health and our environment. The EPA has since provided a much-needed federal framework and a regulatory floor in which states are free to operate but required to meet. No longer can states compete in a proverbial race to the bottom.
Since inauguration, the Trump administration has begun an aggressive campaign to dismantle and eviscerate the regulatory powers of the EPA, and agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has become their champion.
Pruitt’s conviction that environmental statutes should be states’ issues neglects the fact that our environment is much larger than state borders. It doesn’t look to a map to decide where to end its streams or stop its winds, and oceans are far more vast than the shores of its contaminants. Clean air and water should be fundamental human rights, protected and enforced on a national level.
Recently on CNBC, Pruitt rejected the idea that human activity is a primary contributor to global warming, emphasizing a “need to continue the debate.”
The time for debate on climate change is over. Former Secretary of State George Shultz refutes, “People who say the climate isn’t changing are in the process of getting mugged by reality.” The empirical scientific evidence is unequivocal, and the price of inaction is unacceptable.