As Americans, it is absolutely essential that we take all necessary steps to protect our environment. At the federal level, this means stronger regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and stricter enforcement of existing rules. There is considerable natural beauty in Missouri’s Second Congressional District and we must take steps to preserve what exists and to expand protected lands.
It seems that many Americans regard care of the environment as more of a burden than a responsibility. Most of us like the environment when we see it as a “stand-alone” issue. However, when protecting the environment comes in conflict with elevated business costs or consumer prices, our commitment to a clean environment seems to waver.
Often times, the face of the environment in a conflict is a government agency such as the EPA. While the agency may call for sensible regulations to ensure that both business and government operate in a fashion that preserves, and yes, even enhances our environment, its recommendations or mandates are not always greeted with acceptance. The government agency can become a whipping boy to both businesses and consumers. These groups often want the environmental problems defined and solved NOW. Unfortunately, the realities of science means that accurate studies take time.
It is true that businesses often complain that environmental regulations raise their costs of doing business and thus will cut into their profits. However, uniform regulations from the government puts all businesses in a particular industry has an equal impact on all companies. If this means that coal-fueled power plants must use new and improved scrubbers to clean their emissions before they are sent into the air, so be it. If it means that pig farming must operate in a fashion that prevents pig waste and other toxic effluents from running into our creeks, streams, rivers and lakes, so be it.
Right-wingers now voice opposition to virtually all environmental regulations. That’s because the regulations curb the rights of businesses. But for more than a century, the United States has realized that unchecked business will abuse workers, customers, and the environment in order to maximize their profits.
I certainly recognize the need for businesses to make money and am happy to see them to do so. But they exist because government gives them a charter to operate in our society. The charter is like a contract which in some cases gives exceptional powers to the captains of industry. But in return for this license to make money, the businesses must curb their behavior to not do unnecessary harm to workers, consumers, or the environment. This is why we have fair labor practices, why we have consumer protection, and why we have environmental impact studies.
Companies, backed by conservative politicians and powerful PACs, spend considerable energy fighting reasonable regulations rather than working to adhere to them and work to create a “clean yield.”
In our current political climate, many businesses seem to lack a sense of social consciousness. A business really has two choices: it can willingly respect the rights of others or it can balk and then be forced to comply with reasonable government regulations.
It is indeed true that our patchwork of environmental regulations include some that are unreasonable. We need to take those off the books and replace them with ones that pass the test of common sense. But at the same time, business must see how common sense dictates that we should not pollute our air, nor our water, nor our land. Our environment should have a symbiotic relationship with humankind, one in which each is providing for the other with a common goal of improving the well-being of all. For that reason, I support most government actions to protect the environment and feel that additional resources must be made available to the EPA and other agencies protecting our environment so that they can responsibly do their work.