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 SPEAKER 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.
THINKPROGRESS: 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.
THINKPROGRESS: 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.
THINKPROGRESS: 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.
THINKPROGRESS: 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.
THINKPROGRESS: 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.
THINKPROGRESS: 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.
THINKPROGRESS: 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.