Comments Express Discontent with Environmental Rollbacks

EPA request for comments on what environmental regulations should be repealed or replaced draw thousands of responses from average Americans who said regulations are vital to preserve clean air, clean water and valuable wetlands.

EPA request for comments on what environmental regulations should be repealed or replaced draw thousands of responses from average Americans who said regulations are vital to preserve clean air, clean water and valuable wetlands.

Amid the chaos and turmoil swirling around the Trump White House, one policy direction is clear and moving forward – environmental regulations dealing with carbon emissions are on the chopping block. While industry lobbyists may be smiling, a lot of everyday Americans aren’t.

The Washington Post reports the Environmental Protection Agency received more than 55,000 comments in response to its request to identify regulations, pursuant to a Trump executive order,  that should be repealed, replaced or modified to lessen their impact on jobs or job creation. A common theme in many comments was a plea not to undo environmental safeguards that have reduced pollution.

The Post highlighted comments from two responders who stressed the importance of learning from history:

“Know your history or you’ll be doomed to repeat it,” one person wrote. “Environmental regulations came about for a reason. There is scientific reasoning behind the need for it. It is not a conspiracy to harm corporations. It’s an attempt to make the people’s lives better.”

“Have we failed to learn from history, and forgotten the harm done to our air, water, and wetlands?” wrote Karen Sonnessa from New York. “If anything, regulations need to be more stringent. I remember the days of smog, pollution, and rivers spontaneously combusting. EPA is for the people.”

Others cited moral reasons to retain environmental regulations, some resorted to expressing their views in all caps and one man repeated the word “No” 1,165 times.

EPA got a similar earful, the Post reports, when it held a 3-hour listening session.

There was some measure of support for relaxing or altering regulations. A Washington paper mill operator said his plant may fail financially because of rules that lower the amount of chemicals he can discharge into a river. A municipal water plant manager asked EPA to accept electronic reports instead of insisting on faxes. Trade associations pitched ideas on how to modify rules that would work better for their constituent members.

However, according to the Post report, the vast majority of comments inveighed against weakening environmental protections. Comments by Jeff Baker, a Huntsville investment strategist, may have captured the majority’s viewpoint:

“I’m well aware that excessive regulation can impose an undue burden on businesses both small and large. However, what is less discussed these days are the economic and societal costs already avoided and prevented by current rules. I implore you, as defenders of our nation’s health and security, to avoid shortsighted steps that might create prosperity for a few in the short term, at the expense of the many in the long term. The importance of clean air and water supplies, and of sustainable sources of energy and industrial raw materials, cannot be overemphasized. These things are not, as many would claim, in conflict with mankind’s economic prosperity, quality of life and freedom; rather, they are critically important to them, nd integrally tied to them over a long enough timeline.”

The comments now will be handed over to a task force, assigned to give a progress report to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has led the call for relaxing environmental regulations, often at the instigation of industry groups. Under Pruitt, and presumably at Trump’s direction, EPA website information about climate change has been removed and the agency has dismissed half of its scientific board advisers.