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Like Phosphorus In Your Water? With Trump’s EPA, You’re In Luck!

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Like Phosphorus In Your Water? With Trump’s EPA, You’re In Luck!

Trump EPA nominee Scott Pruitt

Soon after being confirmed as the new chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt said this to a conference of conservative activists: “I think people across the country look at the EPA the way they look at the IRS.”

Pruitt’s remark makes clear the sort of people he’s listening to and aims to serve. Corporate polluters look at the EPA the same way corporate tax cheats look at the IRS — as the enemy.

Regulation can be burdensome even for good companies trying to do the right thing.

But for those dumping waste into rivers or spewing toxins in the sky, the slightest shadow of oversight is threatening and therefore despised, for obvious reasons.

The good people of Flint, Michigan, whose tap water turned undrinkable, likely hold a different view of the EPA than, say, coal lobbyists. If you live in Flint, you might wish the agency were stronger, not weaker.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt, in league with gas and oil companies, made a sport of suing the EPA. So far, he seems content with the White House notion to whack the agency’s budget by 24 percent and fire 3,000 employees.

Polluters have been whining about the EPA since it was signed into existence 47 years ago by that radical environmentalist Richard Nixon. The idea was that the American families have a right to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

This concept lay at grave odds with the prevailing operating practices of copper mines, coal-burning power plants, plastics factories, and industrial farms. Conflict was inevitable, and the EPA was regularly vilified for meddling in local matters.

Here in Florida, the agency became a key player in the complex, politically fraught effort to clean up the Everglades. Progress has been halting and uneven, but without the EPA — and the eye of the Justice Department — there would have been almost no progress at all.

The federal role in Everglades restoration was expanded by U.S. District Judge Alan Gold, now retired, who had become increasingly exasperated by the stall tactics of Florida officials and the weakening of pollution limits for farm runoff waters.

In a 2011 order, Gold irritably concluded that the state and the South Florida Water Management District, “have not been true stewards of protecting the Everglades in recent years.”

He was dead right.

Pruitt’s takeover of the EPA is happy news for Big Sugar and other industrial agricultural interests that have been trying for decades to shake free of federal scrutiny.

They eagerly await the day when anemic state agencies — not the EPA — are the ones in charge of regulating levels of phosphorus, mercury and other chemicals in the farm runoff that flows into public waterways.

The reason for that preference is simple. State politicians are much easier to manipulate than federal bureaucrats. All it takes is money.

Showered with campaign donations from Big Agriculture, Gov. Rick Scott and GOP lawmakers have obediently labored to deliver control of water policy to major landowners and user-groups, with the exception of ordinary Floridians.

Last year’s gift-wrapped water bill placed the state’s farming and ranching companies on a laughable honor system, allowing them to self-monitor their cleanup efforts with only occasional state inspections.

Of course, if the honor system worked and industries cleaned up their own mess, there would have been no need for an EPA all those years ago.

Recently, seeking to shed all federal oversight, Florida officials distributed maps intended to show that water quality throughout the Everglades has improved to the threshold of almost-clean.

This sunny report came from the South Florida Water Management District, whose board is stacked with the governor’s surrogates. The good news puzzled the Miccosukee Tribe, which says phosphorus levels in some reservation waters are seven to 10 times higher than legal limits.

The nutrient-loaded runoff comes from canals transporting farm effluent south to tribal wetlands bisected by Alligator Alley. A spokesman admitted the district has quit monitoring pollution in those canals, saying it was part of a research program that ended.

How convenient.

The state is now safe to shrug off those alarming phosphorus readings from the Miccosukees and promote its own selective, upbeat water data.

There’s a receptive new audience at the Justice Department, and the EPA. Scott Pruitt will probably be delighted to abandon future custodianship of the Everglades to Gov. Scott and Big Agriculture.

It’s true that water flowing off the vast farm fields below Lake Okeechobee is much less polluted than it was 20 years ago, but that’s because federal judges kept kicking the plan forward.

The feds haven’t been perfect partners in the restoration epic, but without that pressure the hacks in Tallahassee would have bailed a long, long time ago.

IMAGE: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen is an award-winning journalist, commentator, and novelist. Hiaasen has worked for the Miami Herald since 1976, and his writing focuses on environmental and corruption issues in his home state of Florida.

His latest book is Skink—No Surrender (2014).

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  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 14, 2017

    Pruitt is only the most recent addition to a growing list of perverse agents intent on behaving like unfettered beasts intent on feeding voracious appetites for wealth and power. Regulations which an appetitive creature such as Pruitt seeks to overturn are in place to control latent tendencies in all of us to exceed the bounds of moderation. This trend is especially true of a large segment of humanity across the globe, but is most noticeable among our branch of the human family which settled in europa(now Europe).
    Having immigrated to America, and encountering the members of our family which arrived earlier here, having crossed over by way of the Bering Strait from Asia, the new arrivals immediately set out to make war on the land, by a relentless assault on the forests, and polluting the land and water in the process, then and now.
    Of all the groups of human society in America today, the GOP stands out in carrying out to excess the destruction of the environment which Thomas Jefferson immediately set out to do, often under the ridiculous assumption that deforestation would improve what he considered to be America’s harsh climate. Pruitt, Tillerson, and others are doing their level best to destroy not only America, but aim to poison and devastate the earth, is allowed to proceed unimpeded.

    We need to stop and think about this aspect of human nature which has this inborn tendency to want to exceed “regulated behavior”. With that in mind, let’s consider the words of Baha’u’llah, when He wrote about this tendency, and the necessity to observe moderation so as not to overstep the boundary of moderation:
    “…Consider the pettiness of men’s minds. They ask for that which injureth them, and cast away the thing that profiteth them. They are, indeed, of those that are far astray. We find some men desiring liberty, and priding themselves therein. Such men are in the depths of ignorance.
    Liberty must, in the end, lead to sedition, whose flames none can quench. Thus warneth you He Who is the Reckoner, the All-Knowing. Know ye that the embodiment of liberty and its symbol is the animal. That which beseemeth man is submission unto such restraints as will protect him from his own ignorance, and guard him against the harm of the mischief-maker. Liberty causeth man to overstep the bounds of propriety, and to infringe on the dignity of his station. It debaseth him to the level of extreme depravity and wickedness.
    Regard men as a flock of sheep that need a shepherd for their protection. This, verily, is the truth, the certain truth. We approve of liberty in certain circumstances, and refuse to sanction it in others. We, verily, are the All-Knowing.
    Say: True liberty consisteth in man’s submission unto My commandments, little as ye know it. Were men to observe that which We have sent down unto them from the Heaven of Revelation, they would, of a certainty, attain unto perfect liberty. Happy is the man that hath apprehended the Purpose of God in whatever He hath revealed from the Heaven of His Will, that pervadeth all created things. Say: The liberty that profiteth you is to be found nowhere except in complete servitude unto God, the Eternal Truth. Whoso hath tasted of its sweetness will refuse to barter it for all the dominion of earth and heaven. ”
    When Baha’u’llah, Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Muhammad, and all the other Messengers speak, they do so as the mouthpiece of God; Baha’u’llah often uses the royal “We” when referring to Himself, and in parallel, as a spokesperson for God — as Jesus and Muhammad, for example, did beforehand.

    So, from this, we can see how Jefferson, and now Trump, Pruitt, and the GOP, are acting in a manner like “animals” as described in the passage above. The latter have lost the sense of moderation which separates humans from animals, and “regulations” and laws help in maintaining that distinction.

  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 14, 2017

    Pruitt and the GOP are concerned that we aren’t getting enough minerals for our minimum daily intake, and so have embarked on an ambitious plan which eventually will insure that all Americans ingest all the elements on the Periodic Chart.
    That way, we’ll become a super radioactive Race with all the trace elements, and be able to “Make America Great Again”. How considerate—I’m moved to tears for his concern.

  3. The lucky one March 14, 2017

    “I think people across the country look at the EPA the way they look at the IRS.” He may have a point. In each I see an organization set up to benefit the rich at the expense of the working class. Both have had their enforcement powers weakened so that those who can afford legal teams can avoid regulations and skirt the rules.

    1. ⚡️ I Am Helpy ⚡️ March 14, 2017

      Yes, that is the STUPIDEST POSSIBLE TAKE.

      You moron. You idiot. You goddam joke.

      1. The lucky one March 14, 2017

        Hmmm, maybe. After all you are the authority on what the stupidest possible take would be after having had so much experience with winning that award in most of the conversations here.

        1. ⚡️ I Am Helpy ⚡️ March 14, 2017

          OK, sorry you can’t back up your ridiculous (and hilariously stupid) assertions about this. At least you’re consistent, though – you can never back up any of the opinions that the Koch brothers told you to have.

          1. The lucky one March 15, 2017

            Don’t laugh too hard. Your keepers may make you put the straight jacket back on. I don’t need to back up my “opinions”, certainly not to someone as narrow minded as you. Neither do you. You’re free to spout the ideas that the DNC tells you to have.
            BTW Shouldn’t your lightning bolts before and after your name be doubled like the Waffen SS Nazi symbol. You share many of their traits.

          2. ⚡️ I Am Helpy ⚡️ March 15, 2017

            Yes I get that you’re an abusive idiot who believes sheer nonsense.

  4. jmprint March 14, 2017

    I think the someone should take that glass of water on his desk and replace it with Flint water. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.

    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 14, 2017

      Yes, Pruitt would like that Flint water. Probably bottled some to take home to his grandchildren.

      1. Martha Bartha March 14, 2017

        Yeah, its the thought that counts.


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