In the aftermath of an election that will put Donald Trump in the White House, Gov. Matt Bevin went off on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tossing out some red meat to his base.
He told WVHU in Huntington, W.V., that there’s no need anymore for the federal agency that makes sure each state plays by the same rules when it comes to the environment.
“Nothing would make me happier than to see his administration say, ‘You know what? We’re going to gut the EPA.’ The EPA is not needed at the federal level … There’s not one state in America that wants dirty water and dirty air for its people.
“Not one. We’ve got the ability to implement, we’re already the ones that enforce all the action at the state level. Let us continue to do what we are doing and what we can do well without the interference, without the un-elected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., passing down edicts …”
He went on to say that getting the EPA out of the way would result in a situation where “America would be better, all our industries would be better and our people would be better.”
But as a point of fact, the EPA was created in 1970 because states allowed dirty water, allowed dirty air and allowed the dumping of toxic wastes in open pits like at the old Lees Lane landfill along the Ohio River in western Louisville. There, methane once moved through the soil and caught fire in people’s bathrooms and, local residents recall, children played amid barrels of oozing chemicals. Rivers were on fire.
What the EPA at the federal level does is oversee laws like the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act that set environmental protection floors below which no state can go. Just like states get into bidding wars for industries by offering tax breaks and other incentives, one can imagine a race to the regulatory basement among states vying for industries if the EPA weren’t making sure federal environmental laws were applied evenly across the nation.
Kentucky’s own environmental agencies have faced repeated budget cuts and downsizing over the last three governors, and have been taken to task for that in court. In 2014, ruling in a case involving alleged violations by a coal mining company, Judge Phillip Shepherd found that state cuts over the previous 10 years had “drastically and adversely affected the ability of the cabinet to do its job in implementing the Clean Water Act.”
“With only a handful of enforcement personnel and a dwindling number of field inspectors . . . it is impossible for the cabinet to effectively regulate permittees … who systematically violate the obligations of the (law) for monitoring and reporting environmental violations,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
For its part, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet also weighed in on the potential impact of the Trump election and the environment.
“The Energy and Environment Cabinet enforces laws and those laws haven’t changed,” said John Mura, the cabinet’s spokesman. “As a regulator, the cabinet’s mission is not only to protect the health of everyone in the commonwealth but to work with those we regulate to ensure that Kentucky retains its ability to provide the low-cost and reliable electricity that makes the state competitive and that creates jobs and a better future for us all.”