Saturday, May 28, 2016

Guest blog by Larry E. Fink: Why The Environmental Movement Is Not Winning ...

(The following is reprinted from a Sierra Club Everglades listserve with the author's permission. Larry Fink responds to a Huffington Post essay by Peter Montague, "Why The Environmental Movement Is Not Winning".)

If you believe bottom-up, self-regulation is the solution to the alleged failure of top-down, other-regulation to achieve its environmental restoration and protection objectives since the advent of the modern environmental era circa Earth Day 1970, when was the last time you pulled yourself over for speeding?

The environmental movement is losing what little it gained since the 1970s, but not because something is fundamentally wrong with its goals or approach.

To the contrary, public opinion continues to shift in favor of environmental values, issues and priorities over the last 30 years.

Instead, it losing because the environmental movement has been systematically outthought, outplayed and outgunned by Big Business to allow commerce to socialize more and more risk to privatize the same margin of profit, as evidenced by the increase over the last three decades in the number of untested and inadequately tested synthetic molecules at parts per trillion, billion, and million levels in our organs and tissues, including our reproductive organs and tissues.

The environmental backsliding required to pull off this increased socialization of risk has been covered up by the fog and flak of Big Lies running the gamut from none of the dire predictions of the environmental movement have come true to EPA is out of control and destroying the economy with overregulation based on junk science in general and specific overly protective state air, water and soil and sediment quality standards in particular.

This Big Business initiative implements the recommendations set forth in the Powell Memorandum written in 1971 by then future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USOC) in defense of capitalism that was allegedly under attack from the Liberals in academia, the mass media, and government.

This well-planned, -orchestrated, and -funded campaign combines:

(1) a disinformation propaganda blitz to confuse, misdirect and discredit the environmental movement based on the Big Lies that it failed to achieve its environmental restoration or protection objectives because of a faulty approach in the form of top-down regulation that develops overly protective standards based on junk science that are being too aggressively enforced by EPA. (Note 1)

(2) political influence with a Libertarian agenda at the Federal, state and local levels of tax cuts to starve the beast, deregulation to defang the beast, and free trade to elude the beast.

The combined campaign is being led by US Chamber of Commerce, implemented with model Federal state, and local legislation produced and distributed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), supported by reports from faux independent think tanks, advocated by non-profit groups with names that are the exact opposite of their real intent, and an army of lobbyists, all paid for by the Koch Brothers and those of like wealth and political inclination.

The anti-environmentalists are still screaming about Rachel Carson's junk science and EPA's overregulation of DDT. (Note 2)

Clearly, this blog is now being targeted by that same well-planned, -orchestrated, and -funded campaign to discredit the environmentalism, environmentalists and environmental laws, regulations and standards in general and specific, because it has shared too much useful information to the contrary on a wide range of topics like:

-- toxic substances under-regulation by USDA, FDA, EPA and FDEP,

-- climate disruption caused by unregulated greenhouse gas emissions, or

-- Lake Okeechobee releases, and not sewer overflows or line breaks, are contributing the most to the algae blooms and fish kills in the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River Estuary.

The environmentalist are failing because they are easily divided, gullible and gutless, not because their approach and methods are failures.

If you do not believe this is true, why did we need the Corps to accelerate the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan it delayed implementing since WARDA 2000 with a deficient Central Everglades Project Plan in 2014 that has done nothing for the Everglades lately?

The only reason the construction of new bridge segments over the Tamiami Trail have been accelerated is because of the flooding in the Homestead Area caused by the unseasonable rainfall and stormwater runoff piling up in WCA-3A, not the needs of under-hydrated Everglades National Park or Florida Bay.

Note (1):

Nixon was no environmentalist, as evidenced by his veto of the Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 that had to be overridden by Congress.

However, he was a political pragmatists, and by signing Federal laws passed by the Democrat-dominated House and Senate mandating uniform technology-based and environmental quality-based standards, the Federal government could administer the undelegated programs and oversee the state-delegated programs to establish a floor for environmental impairment, reversible damage and irreversible degradation below which no state could go and above which few states would risk, because industry would threaten to move to states with the lowest taxes, lowest pricess, and weakest regulations, unless you are California, because you can.

Nor was Nixon's EPA aggressive in its implementation of the letter, let alone the spirit, of any environmental law passed by Congress, as evidenced by having to be sued by NRDC in 1976 over its failure to promulgate technology-based standards for toxic substances in pursuit of the goal of zero discharge of toxic substances by July 1983.

In 1977 Congress passed the Clean Water Act Amendments that adopted the list of 127 toxic substances identified in the consent decree in the matter of NRDC vs EPA Administrator Russell Train et al. as Priority Pollutants for expedited regulation under Section 307(a). It also exempted farms from regulation as point sources under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

Instead of EPA forcing the progressive internalization of externalities by progressively tightening down the technology-based emissions controls for each industry category, it grandfathered in all existing facilities, allowing minor modifications that would not trigger the more protective and expensive Best Control Technology air emissions and wastewater discharge standards.

In fact, EPA has had to be goaded by Congress with mandated schedules and/or sued by environmentalists to implement virtually every provision of every environmental protection statute.

As an example, see the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 that forced EPA to regulate SOX, NOX and mercury according to a schedule that EPA ignored under Clinton, was sued by environmentalists for its Clinton-era failures under Bush II, who responded with the weak Clear Skies Initiative, and finally taken seriously by Obama's EPA 25 years too late.

Big Business and a few states then sued EPA for having the audacity to mandate a 90% reduction of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, even though that target was economically achievable with readily available technology.

EPA then had to be sued over its failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the CAA, eventually prevailing over several fossil fuel states and the fossil fuel industry all the way to SCOTUS.

In 1993 Congress amended the Pure Food and Drug Act to remove the Delaney Clause precluding known carcinogens in our foods in exchange for amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act to require the testing and regulation of endocrine disrupters.

Nearly a quarter century later EPA has completed a list for Tier 1 screening of pesticides but not many other substances in commerce, including polychlorinated, -brominated or -fluorinated substances detected in our reproductive organs and no Tier 2 screening.

So the claim that EPA has undermined the environmental movement through decades of top-down overregulation based on junk science that has failed to achieve its objectives is a manufactured myth by Big Business in the Big Lie tradition.

Note (2):

DDT was not banned by EPA based on the claim that it was a human carcinogen but because of its ability to cause egg shell thinning as a disrupter of the bird's endocrine system, combined with its unprecedented persistence and unprecedented ability to biomagnify in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems to toxic levels in fish-eating birds.

The issue of whether DDT should be resurrected to fight a new host of mosquito-borne diseases is moot, because the target pest species rapidly developed resistance to DDT from its overuse then and will do so again now. As a result, mosquitocides with half-lives of a few days to a few weeks like malathion are more effective for long-term use than highly bioaccumulative polychlorinated pesticides with half-lives of decades or centuries.

In contrast, no DDT-sensitive bird species evolved the ability to reproduce when DDT reaches that endocrine-disrupting threshold in its system.
I am a technological optimist, so when it comes to next-generation pollution control or mosquito control, where there are sufficient Federal grant funds, academia will find the solution and entrepreneurs will find a way to mass produce it cost-effectively at a profit.

The DDT ban was an unqualified success in restoring a number of highly exposed, highly susceptible bird species, including the fish-eating birds like the bald eagle and the carrion-eating birds like the condor.


Anonymous said...

Too many links that don't work. Hard to read.

Anonymous said...

I read some of the problem. Good article, good information!

Anonymous said...

I thought it was very insightful and gets to a lot of important points too rarely discussed....