Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Bush Environmental Legacy

The Times explorers the nightmarish Bush environmental legacy, compiling an excellent report on the massive EPA violations the administration allowed. To be specific, the Bush administration both hamstrung the EPA and got the word out to the states that violations would be pretty much ignored. Because of this, water is polluted throughout the country. Water quality has reached lows not seen since before the Clean Water Act was passed; in some places, particularly in the Appalachian coal country, it is far worse. The picture here from the Times article is the effects of this water tattooed upon a young boy's body.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was concerns like this that fueled the environmental movement. That could happen again today. But polluters are smarter today. Rather than dump coal slurry directly into the rivers, the coal companies are pumping it back into deserted mines. No one sees it, but it is still disposed straight into the water supply.

Clearly this needs to be a top priority for the Obama Administration. Activists interviewed in the article express some hope. But with climate change the top priority for Obama, they also wonder to what extent his appointees will pay enough attention to water to make a difference. What the EPA needs is a massive influx of funding to enforce laws against polluters. Perhaps funding the EPA through violations would be a good idea--there are dangers with agencies getting funding from those they punish (see the police and drug seizures), but this is a case where it could make a real positive difference.