When we sit on a Pacific Northwest beach, watch bald eagles soar overhead, or leap into our favorite swimming holes, we aren’t thinking about pesticides or clean water regulations. We aren’t thinking about industrial run-off, or smog. We are in the moment. We're watching feathers ruffling on a chilly breeze, or we're feeling our chests suck in with the sudden cold-water immersion. Numerous articles have been written on the benefits of time spent in nature (you can read some of them here, here, and here.) But what if those eagles were gone, or the water was too chemical-laden to dip even your big toe in? What if your environment was too polluted to enjoy?
Since its inception in 1970 with strong bipartisan support under President Nixon, the EPA has made valuable improvements to the quality of health and environment for our entire nation. A look through the images of the Documerica project gives a glimpse of the types of pollution rampant in the 1970s. Documerica was funded by the EPA to document and make a clear case for the newly created federal agency. From banning the use of DDT and removing the lead from gasoline to enforcing the Clean Water Act and increasing public awareness of chemicals and pollutants in everyday life, the EPA has touched every single American.
A fair amount of press has circulated about H.R. 861, which seeks to “terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.” While the attention is appropriate given the magnitude of the agency and the vast scope of protection it provides our natural resources, a far more plausible threat lurks in H.R. 637. With 119 co-sponsors, this is a bill that seeks to gut the EPA of its regulatory ability and eliminate the mechanisms for addressing climate change in any meaningful way.
If H.R. 637 is passed, the EPA would not be allowed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. In fact, H.R. 637 states that “no Federal agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under current law” and that “no attempt to regulate greenhouse gases should be undertaken without further Congressional action." This would mean that before any new regulation could be put in place, the EPA would have to ask to Congress for approval and receive permission before implementing any new protections.
Further, the EPA would also have to take into consideration any and all negative effects on employment in the U.S. for all new regulations. If any negative effects are found, the regulation will not be permitted. This virtually guarantees no new regulations could be implemented. If H.R. 637 is passed, there will be no need to terminate the EPA. The EPA will be effectively killed from the inside.
To be fair, a similar attempt at a bill of this nature was made in 2015, and it was not successful. However, given the unusually volatile political climate, the current dominance of a single political party, and the political leadership with a history of opposing the EPA and denying climate change, now is not the time to be complacent. The EPA is facing a very real threat of death by attrition, and those who aim to undermine the agency are far more likely to succeed this time.
Unfortunately, H.R. 637 and H.R. 861 are not the only bills attacking the EPA right now. Multiple bills that seek to remove rules and regulations related to clean air, clean water, and clean energy are on the table. By going to Congress.gov and doing a basic search for the Environmental Protection Agency, you can stay current on these and other proposals.
Make your voice heard by speaking to your representatives, preferably with a phone call. You can easily search for their contact information using tools like the Countable app or by checking House.gov and Senate.gov. You can follow the progress of H.R. 637 here. Stay informed and discuss this with your family and friends. The more voices that get heard, the better chance we have of preserving the environmental protections necessary to keep our country beautiful and our people healthy.
We believe good things come from people spending time outside. It’s about more than standing on the mountain top. It’s about nourishment and learning. It’s about protecting what sustains us. It’s about building relationships with the outdoors and each other. LEARN MORE and share the pledge to Adventure Like You Give A Damn.