Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Very Un-Idealistic View of Slashing the EPA

This is not exactly the post I want to write today. I'm home sick today, with a fever and a dodgy stomach. So I'm not at the top of my game.

But there's something I really, really want to address. So I'm going to take a stab at it, even though I most likely can't do the topic justice in my current state.

Forces you to write.
Today President Trump (bwhahahahahasob) unleashed his proposed budget.

It's a corker, you guys.

It funds the border wall, the military, and the defense contractors.

It defunds all kinds of unimportant, unAmerican shit.

Like public television.

And legal representation for the poor.

And health care for women.

And education.

And the environment.

Because those things are dumb.

When are people going to stop whining about clean air, anyway?
All of these cuts are part of putting Americans first, according to Herr President. Not female Americans, or child Americans, or elderly Americans, or poor Americans. But, you know, real Americans.

Wealthy White Suit-Wearing Americans.
Whatever. I'm no expert on education (except in that my child has received an exceptional one through our local public schools), or public television (except that it has had a profound positive effect on me and my family), or the poor (except that I have no illusions about the grace and good fortune that has allowed me to keep my child fed and housed, and immense gratitude for the people and institutions that have helped me when I was in need).

I do, however, claim some small expertise in the area of environmental policy, because IRL I've worked in the environmental compliance industry for 15 years. I fell into it completely by chance, but I've learned a thing or two about the business of regulating and remediating contaminated properties over the last decade and a half.

 Now, very often, when I tell people that I work for an environmental consulting company, their reactions suggest that they think we're some kind of tree-hugging, green enterprise.

We're not.

The purpose of environmental consulting companies - and there are thousands of them, large and small (here are the top 200 of 2016) - is not to advocate for the environment or environmental laws. It is to support banks, developers, property owners, and others who need to demonstrate compliance with environmental regulations.

In other words, anyone who wishes to buy, sell, refinance, remodel, or redevelop a commercial property routinely engages an environmental consultant to assess the level of risk they're assuming by getting involved with that property.


 - If your retail store was a gas station 40 years ago, have the underground storage tanks been removed? Was the removal properly documented? Did the tanks leak petroleum into the ground?

- If you're about to raze a dry cleaner to put up an office building, did it use hazardous solvents? Were there documented releases of such solvents to the soil or groundwater? Have they been investigated?

- If you're going to tear down an apartment complex, does it contain asbestos, a known carcinogen that could be released into the air during demolition?

- If you want to build on a tract that historically was farmland, did the former farmers use arsenic or other toxic pesticides that could still be present?

In a nutshell, banks don't want to lend on properties that will expose them to environmental liability.

Developers need to include remediation costs in their budgets to ensure that they can profitably build on a property.

Owners of commercial properties (especially places like auto repair shops, gas stations, recycling facilities, etc.) need to assure potential buyers that they won't be responsible for environmental cleanup costs.

That's where environmental consultants come in.

We conduct what is called a Phase I assessment to assure these entities that properties are environmentally compliant. If we discover evidence of contamination, we conduct Phase II assessments to determine the extent and migration of such. And if necessary, we shepherd property owners through state programs to clean up, and certify cleanup, of contamination to acceptable regulatory levels.

It's pretty cool stuff, honestly.

Read more here.

Here's the thing: So far, the Trump administration has issued executive orders that relax EPA oversight of water pollution and cut the overall budget of the agency by 31%.

This is what that means.

With 31% fewer dollars at its disposal, the EPA will likely trim staff.

If it trims staff, it will slow its response to lenders, developers, and property owners attempting to  meet regulatory obligations.

That will slow purchases, sales, and redevelopment of commercial properties all over the United States.

You know, the commercial properties that provide jobs in construction, design, and customer service all over our country.

But no biggie.

The EPA doesn't contribute to the American economy at all.

Get rid of those regulations, which don't improve our country's environmental health OR put people to work.

The environmental consulting industry was decimated in 2008, when commercial investment/development screeched to a halt.

Just saying.

I plan to write/publish my book soon, so I think I'll be OK.

But you know...environmental consultants - awesome, educated, productive people - may be out of work again pretty soon.

Not to mention those involved in elder care, education, health care, etc.

Let's build some more fucking fighter jets.

Maybe I'm just on the fringe here.

Comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Again and again I hear the argument that businesses should be allowed to regulate themselves, but the reason the EPA was created, and the reason you have a job, is because businesses won’t, or can’t, regulate themselves. Even for the ones that want to avoid environmental damage it’s complicated and expensive and getting it wrong can result in a lot of illness and even deaths.
    I hope you feel better soon. I have a bad feeling we’re all going to be feeling a lot worse.


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