The Republican plan to abolish the EPA, ending the four-decade bipartisan consensus to ensure healthy air and water for our kids

The EPA and its science-based safeguards are the “thin green line” that protects your children from the corporate polluters who want to poison the air and water and oceans and climate.  This ThinkProgress cross-post (with video compilation) reveals just how many GOP extremists want to end that protection.

For the past 40 years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has played a key role in protecting our nation’s air, lands, and water from polluters. Now, if a growing chorus of Republicans get their way, the EPA’s days could be numbered.

Last month, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich became the first high-profile conservative to champion one of the most extreme environmental positions in recent memory: total elimination of the EPA.

Still, there are few policies too far right for the modern GOP, and dismantling the EPA is no exception. Over the past few weeks, ThinkProgress spoke with various members of Congress to get their thoughts on abolishing the EPA. Many, including freshmen Reps. Joe Walsh (R-IL) and Rich Nugent (R-FL), vigorously joined Gingrich in his anti-EPA mission.

Watch a compilation video:

Public opinion stands overwhelmingly against undermining the EPA. In a bipartisan survey released yesterday by the American Lung Association, a large majority of Americans not only support the EPA’s efforts to continue its protection efforts, but actually want to see the agency ramp up regulations of pollutants:

Three out of four voters support the EPA setting tougher standards on specific air pollutants, including mercury, smog and carbon dioxide, as well as setting higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty trucks. […]

Key poll results indicate the level of concern expressed by voters regarding their right to breathe healthy air:

– 69 percent think the EPA should update Clean Air Act standards with stricter limits on air pollution;
– 68 percent feel that Congress should not stop the EPA from updating Clean Air Act standards;
– And a bipartisan 69 percent majority believe that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set pollution standards.

Unperturbed, House Republicans this week will take their first step in a process that many on the right hope will end with the complete dismantling of the EPA. The House is considering amendments to the 2011 Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1), including dozens of proposals to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse pollution, coal ash, water pollutants, and pesticide cleanup. Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-KS) amendment to cut $8.5 million from the EPA passed last night, and a vote on slashing 33 percent from the EPA is forthcoming.

Still, if the hard right gets its way, the EPA won’t be done in by a thousand cuts. It will be eliminated in one fell swoop.

Full transcript after the jump:

FORMER HOUSE SPEAK NEWT GINGRICH: I want to replace, not reform EPA, because EPA is made up of self-selected bureaucrats who are anti-American jobs, anti-American business, anti-state government, anti-local control, and I don’t think you can reeducate them.

KEYES: You know, a lot of people have been talking about the overregulated climate, especially, for instance with the EPA, Newt Gingrich has said it’s not even serving its purpose anymore, we should go ahead and scrap it, and maybe revert some of those powers back to the states. Is that something you can join him in?

REP. JOE WALSH (R-IL): Absolutely, I got hit over the head a lot during the campaign. “Walsh! He wants to dismantle the EPA!” The EPA, right now, is killing small business in this country. It ought to be scrapped and something better ought to be put in its place.

KEYES: Do you think the EPA is even playing a useful role anymore? Do you think that the states can do it better?

REP. RICH NUGENT (R-FL): I don’t think so. I think the states have a better feel for it. I will tell you this, in Florida, you know, we have more data on water quality, because we’re a peninsula, and water and air quality, as it relates to tourism, we’re going to protect. So, we’re doing a great job within the state of doing that, and we certainly don’t need the federal government screwing it up.

KEYES: So in a future Gingrich administration, roll back the EPA, you’d hope that potentially the Republican Caucus will be for that?

NUGENT: Even if we can’t totally eliminate them, we can certainly curtail their power through oversight, force them to change it. And we can defund, which is part of that $100 billion, we’re defunding a portion of the EPA.

KEYES: Would you join him in that call to see the EPA start to be dismantled?

SAUL ANUZIS (R-MI): Yeah, I think we have ample regulation in almost every single state that deals with the environmental problems, with industry and everything else. So, I think there’s plenty of regulation at the state level, much closer, much more in tune to what’s happening in the various states, and that makes sense, and there’s no reason for the federal government to intrude in that regard.

KEYES: Newt Gingrich has been upfront about his call to dismantle the EPA and return that power to the states, Tenth Amendment stuff. Would you agree with him that that’s a power that we need to start reserving more for the states?

REP. TIM HUELSKAMP (R-KS): I’d just roll back their power. A lot of what the EPA does, I don’t think the states should be doing those either.

KEYES: Do you think the EPA is even playing a useful role anymore? Would you like to see it rolled back and dismantled eventually and that authority given to the states?

REP. PETE OLSON (R-TX): As I understand, when the EPA came in”¦ No. In terms of their enforcement, they are killing American jobs and exporting our stuff overseas. I would like to see at least, what I understand, this was before my time, but when the EPA was formed basically they put out some guidance and the states were given the power – 10th Amendment, again – to implement them. Our home state of Texas, they are taking that away right now as I speak. They are trying to regulate our oil and gas industries, our refineries, from here in Washington. And that is wrong.

KEYES: Do you think that’s something we could get rid of eventually, the EPA?

OLSON: Oh yeah, we’re going to fight like heck for it. It may not happen with a Democrat Senate and a Democrat in the White House, but we’re not going to stop fighting for it.

Scott Keyes, in a TP cross-post.

25 Responses to The Republican plan to abolish the EPA, ending the four-decade bipartisan consensus to ensure healthy air and water for our kids

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    Does anyone else notice how “the debate” and “the line” seem to be moving backwards?

    We SHOULD be aggressively addressing climate change by now. But no. After the Senate dropped the ball on that one (by not even taking a vote), we spent months with the aim of trying to defend legislation that had already passed, in California. Now, apparently, we have to defend the existence of the EPA itself. This is silly. We keep moving backwards. Where’s the offense? Do we even have a quarterback?

    Is President Obama back to using the words ‘climate change’ again, or is he still trying to be subtle and avoid the phrase, I haven’t been paying attention?

    (Sorry, but moving backwards is no fun.)

    Be Well,


  2. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I love the perennial lies. They talk of ‘small business’ when they mean mega-corporations involved in the fossil fuel and related industries. They talk of ‘jobs’ when they mean profits. After all they never hesitate to destroy jobs with ‘labour-saving’ technology, or through outsourcing to slave labour regimes. They’ve never hesitated to drive down wages and conditions, make work more precarious and unpleasant, for decades, resulting in stagnation of median wages for decades.
    What I think is pretty plain is that the Right’s reaction to climate disruption, resource depletion, general ecological collapse, economic implosion under debt and the rise and rise of China, has been to go stark, staring, mad, exactly as I have long anticipated. They will become ever more extreme as their anti-human and anti-life nostrums inevitably worsen things. In Australia at the moment the Right, which is all political parties save the pseudo-Left Greens, are mounting concurrent fear and hate campaigns, aided and abetted by the MSM, the Murdoch pathocracy, as ever, in the vanguard, over climate disruption, Moslems (a real fever pitch, just when the wave of liberation is washing over the pro-Western despotisms of the Middle East)trade unions (a perennial favourite) and China. China scares them rigid, because there goes the bedrock of the Right’s sense of entitlement, the conviction that they, the hyper-avaricious, Rightwing, Western, white (preferably Anglo-Saxon) male is the epitome, the end point, of human development. They will get far, far, nastier as the coming months bring greater global dislocation, because it is their nature and humility, reflection and insight are unknown to them. They only understand domination, intimidation and violence as universal means to their ends.

  3. As if states could keep the air and water within their borders.

  4. David Smith says:

    I think we should all go to Washington, now.

  5. Wit's End says:

    Well, we may not get a crowd in DC but everybody can send a comment to the EPA, scroll down to the end of their page for instructions:

    and be glad for a victory:

  6. Scrooge says:

    Strange. Aren’t these people also against California for setting their standards to high. I also wonder how many billions LA could sue TX for poisoning the air they have to breath.

  7. Alec Johnson says:

    Along with the corporations who back them, these politicians are actively engaging in crimes against humanity. They shouldn’t be elected, much less listened to or allowed any influence at all. They should be prosecuted and incarcerated. They are beneath my contempt.

  8. Jay Alt says:

    They’re building and selling a dangerous story line. Let’s hear some rebuttals.

    I saw a report that most ‘bad air days’ in neighboring states are linked to Texas pollution. The TX politician talks of jobs being killed; but his plans will kill people. Clean Energy Standards protect our health while growing good-paying American jobs.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    David Smith #4 has a very good point. What is Washington’s equivalent of Cairo’s Tahrir Square?

  10. The politicians won’t move on climate change if the people don’t force them, and they’re not about to stick their necks out if the voters don’t pay attention or don’t care. It’s as simple as that. You put tens of thousands of people and have them sit down and park their butts outside all 50 state capitals, and the White House, then you’ll see some change.

    But then you’ll have to face the fact that our civilization is wholly dependent on fossil fuels, and there are no real alternatives in the near future. And just try to get people to give up their cars…and their big-screen teevees…and red meat…In other words, real sacrifice. The babies scream and cry if gas breaks three dollars a gallon.

    Oh, and the ruling class is engaged in a mad smash-and-grab to pillage as much as humanly possible before the day of reckoning arrives. And the peasants will gladly hand everything over, because they’re programmed by a constant diet of Fox News, talk radio, and religion (in truth, all the same).

    So….I don’t wish to discourage or be pessimistic, but we’re in real trouble here and we don’t seem to have any real plans beyond shouting to the willfully ignorant. Things are going to have to change and change fast. Any good ideas? I’m all for it.

  11. 350 Now says:

    Re: 4, 5, 9: iMatterMarch has a new website uploaded with a brief video showing support of Robert Redford, Bill McKibben and others.

    If you need to get your creative juices flowing to help organize a march in your town, or arrange a group to your state capital, view the 2 hour PBS program online that aired last year entitled EARTH DAYS.

    The early visionaries were inspiring. In marching now, we not only work toward climate solutions for the near future, but we honor the memory of those passed, esp. Stewart Udall and Rachel Carson.

    For those choosing not to march with the kids vs global warming on Mothers Day, May 8, 2011 across the country (not just DC), enjoy your easy chair…

  12. David Smith says:

    If you want to make a difference, go to Washinghton now and stay there until something happens inside the halls of Congress; days, weeks, months. Apply pressure. It’s inconvenient. It hasn’t been planned and coordinated. It’s messy. It’s risky. Until people are willing to risk for this, nothing will change.

  13. Sou says:

    Talk about ‘destroying jobs’ and ‘shipping american jobs overseas’. If the USA were to move further towards being ‘dirty and black’ instead of ‘clean and green’, it would have to become self-sufficient and would face ever-increasing hurdles to exports of US goods.

    I wonder what US farmers and food manufacturers who export their products think about this? Maybe they will seek even more subsidies for food and feed they will no longer be able to export because it will no longer meet minimal standards.

  14. Pythagoras says:

    Now wait…. The Republicans do have a good point. Industry will move offshore if the cost of production goes up. But, it is not the regulation that is forcing US companies to re-locate. It is the failure of trade policies to enforce minimal standards for environmental protection.

    One thing that all of us know is that the cost of pollution is not embodied in the cost of a product. Costs associated with pollution are carried by other…it is an externality.

    So perhaps the Environmental movement is tactically in error. Maybe the more appropriate tactics is to acknowledge that current free-trade agreements promote off-shoring of pollution.

    So let’s adjust trade laws such that most favored nation status can only be granted if a minimal standard of environmental protection occurs.

    Such standards could include:
    – regulations in place
    – mechanism for monitoring pollution
    – enforcement mechanisms
    – transparency in process

  15. 350 Now says:

    Re # 12: With due respect, if that is indeed the premise, stick a fork in us; we are done. We may as well petition a band of angels to come down from on high as to expect US voters to march on DC for more than a few days.

    It is scary when we expect someone else to do the thing we aren’t willing to do ourselves.

    It will be interesting to see what shakes out in Madison, WI. The union folks mobilized in a flash because it directly affected their take-home pay. Climate hawks have a most nobel cause – the highest conceivable. But we can’t mobilize at least 40-50% of the populous due it being considered a partisan cause.

    Want to win the next Nobel Peace Prize? Figure a way to yank this from the ugly jaws of partisanship. Find, identify and widely publicize Republicans who are climate hawks. (The law of averages? Some must exist!) And find Democrats who are so entrenched in dirty energy money that they are blatant deniers of AGW. These should be the poster children of the movement. The conversation must be in the moral arena. I know I’m singing to the choir here, but this seems to be the only way to reframe the conversation.

    I gotta hold on to the hope that the MSM cameras filming a “million kid march” with their mothers and fathers on mothers day will be burned into our retinas and psyche in ways that union teachers never could.

  16. Scrooge says:

    These are desperate moves and shows what happens when ideology trumps knowledge. The kill the messenger idea has been around a long time. We can expect the right wing crowd to get even more bizarre before they are completely ignored.

  17. 350 Now says:

    How many climate scientists in the state of Minnesota?

    Perhaps one of them needs some one-on-one time with state rep. Mike Beard. Pronto.

  18. Sasparilla says:

    After defeating action on climate change over the last 2 years (with the help of many democrats and the administration) the sharks smell blood in the water and are already going beyond just eliminating the EPA’s authority for something unthinkable since the EPA came into existence (~40 years?).

    I doubt the Republicans can eliminate the EPA, but we’ll get to see just how “bought off” the democrats and the administration is by what happens here – if the administration and senate hold firm on the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions then we’ll know they aren’t totally corrupt – but I wouldn’t want to bet any money that the Senate or the White House won’t give that authority away by the end of the year (as they are taking alot of money from people that want just that and those folks are giving them that money for a reason).

    Amazing, two years ago we were talking and expecting serious action on climate change (as a reasonable expectation) and now two years later we actually have the possibility of the EPA being eliminated…amazing.

  19. David Olson-TX says:

    Simple question to ask these GOPers is: Would they allow their children to drink the water/ swim in the lakes/rivers or oceans or breath the air that is polluted right now? Because their actions are only going to make matters worse.

  20. Lars Karlsson says:

    Beard is genuinely dangerous:

    “How did Hiroshima and Nagasaki work out? We destroyed that, but here we are, 60 years later and they are tremendously effective and livable cities. Yes, it was pretty horrible. But, can we recover?” Beard asked. “Of course we can.”

  21. 350 Now says:

    Lars: You’re so right; Beard is genuinely dangerous as is his neighbor, state sen. Joe Read (R-MT)

    I had just about convinced myself that the curvy GOP-Tea party darlings (Palin, Bachmann, etc) had been trotted onto the national stage to distract attention from Gitmo, torture and God know what else that never made it to MSM.

    But seeing the legislation these states reps, and even freshmen US reps are submitting now is shooting down that theory. It’s one thing when intelligent debate can occur; quite another when they don’t even speak the same language.

    If ever a real-life/movie line correlation applies… from the film UP: SQUIRREL!!!

  22. MapleLeaf says:

    Pathetic. This cannot be allowed to happen.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It looks to me like the good people of Wisconsin have caught the Tunisian flu. Oh yes, it’s the only way to go. The swine push and push and cannot stop from driving Other People, who they loathe, deeper and deeper into the mud, until, one fine day, the people say ‘Enough’ and, if only to regain their self-respect, they fight back. And how immeasurably more vital is our children’s fate than any other cause.

  24. Chris Winter says:

    Mike Beard: “”Our farm was mined for coal three times,” Beard said. “And, now we stand on a point and look over barley and wheat and pines. Did we temporarily disrupt the face of the earth? Yes, but when we were done, we put it all back together again.”

    But how often do coal companies even attempt such repairs — let alone actually succeed in restoring the landscape’s original condition?

    That, Mr. Beard, is the problem: They leave it in God’s hands. Just as you would.

    “How did Hiroshima and Nagasaki work out? We destroyed that, but here we are, 60 years later and they are tremendously effective and livable cities. Yes, it was pretty horrible. But, can we recover?” Beard asked. “Of course we can.”

    It’s irresistible to quote John Boehner here: “Hell no you can’t!”

    Even now, with destruction limited to parts of a few coal-mining states, very little of it is getting repaired. And most of what is called repair is more like commercialization: replacing terrain that won’t support building with flat land fit for golf courses and shopping malls.

    If we can’t deal with the limited damage we have done so far, how will we cope when the disruptive effects of climate change kick in?