Maley: When did EPA jump the shark?

From the beginning.

Steve Maley asks on, “When did EPA jump the shark?’. His article begins:

Iron Eyes Cody cried at the sight of polluted waters and skies in a famous public service announcement, first aired in 1971. Old Iron Eyes may have been a faux-Indian, but his message resonated with people. The Crying Indian PSA was one of the most successful ever.

It resonated because it was true. In the early ’70s, the environment was a mess. Urban skies were noticeably tinged in sepia/grey. Rivers and streams were often clogged with discarded debris and fouled with chemical sludge.

April 1970 saw the first Earth Day. In December of the same year, the Environmental Protection Agency was born.

The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, with the Clean Water Act to follow in 1972. 1973 brought the Endangered Species Act. [Note: see comments. The Fish & Wildlife Service & NOAA are the lead ESA agencies, with EPA in a support role. I stand corrected. Ed.]

Gradually, the environment improved. The bald eagle and the American alligator came back from the brink of extinction. Air quality improved, there was less litter, and the phosphate foam disappeared from streams.

And, rightly or wrongly, EPA got the credit.

Maley is a little too loose with the history for our liking.

EPA’s first major decision was the 1972 DDT ban. Tens of millions have since died. That was a pretty big f***-up.

The bald eagle came back because of hunting restrictions. The alligator was saved, ironically, by alligator farms. EPA was not involved with either “saving.”

Air quality had been steadily improving since the 1950s. If anything, litigation about EPA overregulation slowed the implementation of various Clean Air Act provisions.

The EPA does not enforce no-littering laws.

Finally, Congress writes the laws, not the EPA. What made those laws workable — even the over-regulation — was vast American wealth. But we can no longer afford over-regulation.

The EPA was President Nixon’s sop to the anti-war left. He consolidated the environmental functions of the executive branch into one agency. It was a bureaucratic reshuffling for political purposes.

Maley is correct in his general thesis that EPA has “jumped the shark,” but it’s important to get the small details right.

Read Maley’s article.

3 thoughts on “Maley: When did EPA jump the shark?”

  1. Thanks for linking to my post.

    To clarify, I wasn’t trying to be rigorous in documenting the particular successes or failures of EPA, but rather to observe that reforming EPA might be difficult. The guy on the street (especially those of us old enough to remember Those Fabulous ’60s), upon observing that the environment has been “protected”, finds it all too easy to give EPA all the credit.

    The big failure here is base-line budgeting, along with demagoguing politicians, environmental extremists and a sympathetic press that would have the public believe that a 0.5% cut in the agency’s budget would mean a return to the days when the skies were brown and rivers caught on fire.

  2. While I don’t want to dispute such learned folks about alligators being saved, I’ll make this observation. When I moved to New Orleans in 1975, folks would laugh at comments about alligators being endangered. I was told that nutria had only two enemies: alligators and Cajun hide hunters. Neither could keep up with nutria. I recall shining lights into swamps and seeing glowing nutria and alligator eyes. Pete Renaldi’s KFC had, in season, alligator sauce picante. Folks were hunting wild alligators. Any alligator farms in that area were more likely a means to make harvesting them easier. Alligators may have been endangered in other places, but not there. (I moved to Michigan in 1980). I understand that alligators are so prevelant now that they are causing damage to canal and levee banks from burrowing and, if the TV show was correct, are being hunted to remove this threat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.