It’s sometimes easy to forget that certain rules and regulations are in place for a reason.
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution exist because, as the nation developed and grew, more freedoms and protections were needed. Either a situation arose, or an old injustice was finally recognized, and action in the form of an amendment was required.
It’s the same for federal rules and regulations. The pesticide DDT was once considered safe. When it was scientifically proven that it wasn’t, the chemical compound was banned.
That’s the way a society going forward operates. When you realize a practice is harmful, and the benefit is not worth the cost (ethically or monetarily), you stop doing it. Sometimes it takes longer for the country, corporate industry or the government to get to the point where a problem can be acknowledged, but they typically do arrive there.
It was this type of buildup that led to Republican President Richard Nixon signing the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970. It was one of a handful of early environmental policies that required the government to take into account whether a project — say a new mine site or a pipeline — would be harmful to air quality or unnecessarily harmful to the land.
The act also requires consideration of a project’s impact on water and wildlife. Not only is this good policy for the environment, but it obviously protects people, as well. Clean air and clean water are basic tenets of survival and health. And ruined land or devastated wildlife populations have broader-reaching impacts.
Now, President Trump would like to roll back these protections considerably, arguing that federal regulations are too tough on industrial development and bog down potential projects. Opponents are quick to point out that Trump’s proposal is not only dangerous, but would also remove the American public’s right to review and comment on such projects.
Trump has been rolling back or attempting to eliminate certain environmental protections ever since he entered office, using the logic that removing these protections will somehow enhance industrial and manufacturing growth. So far, the new policies haven’t produced any results. Allowing more pollution from power plants and industry hasn’t revitalized coal, as West Virginians know all too well.
Flawed logic aside, such policies ignore history. Congress enacted and Nixon signed this act because it was clear that unchecked industry was resulting in toxic land, eradication of certain wildlife and posed a major threat to public health.
West Virginians have enough trouble fighting for their right to clean air and clean water within the regulations that are already in place. Hamstringing what some call the “Magna Carta” of federal regulations concerning the environment will only make that battle more difficult, and it’s highly questionable whether they will see any economic benefit in return.