An overview of H.R.861
In an effort to further accommodate fossil fuel and corporate interests, H.R.861 - To Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency was submitted by Republican Matt Gaetz in Florida along with Republicans from Kentucky, Mississippi, and Georgia to remove the Environmental Protection Agency and move its responsibilities to the state level. On February 3rd it was referred to the House’s committee on Science, Space, and Technology, along with a whopping four other committees for review. It has a long way to go before becoming a policy but many are still shocked at the idea of laws that remove the accountability of the wealthy and their corporations.
This proposed bill comes in the wake of a presidential administration that denies climate change, cut corners to approve an anti-environmental attorney general as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and is strategizing an exit from the Paris climate agreement. Much of Trump’s administration has ties with the fossil fuel industry. Myron Ebell, a member of one of Trump’s transition teams who calls himself the “number one enemy of climate change alarmism” reasoned that the government is obligated to take down climate change info because most of “what the EPA puts out in the way of so-called ‘climate education’ – some of the research that they’ve not necessarily done but promoted—does not meet the minimal standards legally required by the federal information quality act” (Neslen, 2017). This kind of reasoning spans across all of their efforts to subdue dialogue on climate change.
Most of Trump’s policy moves are closely monitored by the media, not the least by environmental watchdogs. While a lot of the coverage is light-hearted ridicule, there are plenty of major outlets raising genuine concern over America’s sustainability in these next four years and framing the issue to reach maximum audiences. Despite still being in its infancy, this particular bill has received an inordinate amount of attention.
The problem with this move, along with most of Trump’s policy moves, is that they are removing safeguards that have been put in place to afford average citizens environmental, financial, social, and health equality (among many others). To remove the EPA is to permit corporate interests to profit at any environmental expense of the public. Whether or not one believes in climate change, an oil leak into a water table that serves as your community’s water source is detrimental to your health and pervades other parts of your life. The Environmental Protection Agency ensures quality of air, land, and water to climate change believers and nonbelievers alike.
As any corporate-interest policy tends to do, H.R.861 will most impact the lowest-income regions that are already burdened with housing the nation’s most environmentally damaging businesses. Richer communities have the voice and leverage to keep factory-like businesses out of their areas. Low-income populations have neither the leverage or the solidarity to object. Removing EPA protection is basically permitting these businesses to discard safety measures where they are already producing dangerous materials, dealing with toxins, and tainting the region’s air quality.