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America 2011: The Non-Stop Assault on Air, Water and Land


BRADENTON -- A couple of weeks ago "The Jobs Through Growth Act" sponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and John McCain (R-AZ), was voted down by the Senate. It was Rand Paul's attempt to kill the EPA's rule to reduce across state-line power plant pollution in 27 states. It was rejected, 56 to 41. McCain's part of the bill excused the country's biggest polluters from any responsibility for the pollution they create. That measure also failed with the vote. Both senators claim excessive regulation is the job killer in America. 

What they didn't explain was that those who voted for the bill received an average of $361,370 each, in contributions from the mining and utilities industries, as reported by Think Progress.org. The Courier-Journal reported that Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) claimed 95 percent of his state's pollution comes from elsewhere, adding, "If the wind were blowing the other way, I'd say my colleagues would be standing up and arguing the opposite." 

Earth Justice claims Rand Paul's bill, if passed, would have exposed more than 240 million Americans to harmful and lethal air pollution and would have caused 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths each year. It's understood that had the bill passed, McCain's bill, attached to it, would have excused the polluters of any responsibility for those deaths and sickness.

This week it's the rivers and wetlands that are in the sights of the Republican Senators. The focus is on Amendment (SA-939) sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). It is attached to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act (HR-2354) and it would prevent the EPA from expanding its jurisdiction over waters currently out of reach of the Clean Water Act.

A decade ago, a decision in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v Army Corps of Engineers, ruled that the federal government could not impose regulations designed to protect migratory birds over ponds not connected to navigable waterways, which many wetlands aren't. Four years later, another ruling added temporary bodies of water to the unprotected list, endangering both uplands and wetlands.

An EPA study found that irregular flowing creeks, streams and non-perennial waterways make up half of the river miles throughout the U.S., and that almost 120 million people are forced to get at least some of their drinking water from these sources. The two previous Supreme Court decisions that left these water sources unprotected have left a magnitude of health hazards and sickness in their wake.

The New York Times reported that companies that have spilled oil, dumped dangerous bacteria and/or carcinogens into rivers, lakes and other waters, are not being prosecuted. The EPA reports more than 1,500 major pollution investigations have been discontinued or shelved in the last four years. They say of the 37,000 permits with locational discharge, 40 percent of them release in or near these waters and wetlands.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new rules to restore its authority over isolated wetlands. Wetlands filter out toxins when recharging the aquifer, reduce the possibility of flooding and provide wildlife habitat .The Barrasso/Heller Amendment will prevent any federal oversight for those venerable and valuable water sources.  

There is a point of no return for polluted waters, air and land. Beyond a certain event horizon, there will no longer exist an argument for contaminating our surroundings. The price of health care and disease will by far out pace any savings that might come from walking away from our waste. We may be nearing that mark, but one would have to be on the receiving end of the pollution, and or care about those who are, in order to know.

Certainly, at one point, even the deaf will hear the cries from the corporate pollution overdose. What excuse will we have then, when the only jobs are swimming in the sewage and treating the multitudes of infirm?  How well will our economy function under such conditions? There'll be certain interests who've already gotten theirs, to be sure. The rest of us might just have to pay with our lives, or the quality of them.


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