By Brady Dennis
16 May 2017

(The Washington Post) – Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency put out a call for comments about what regulations are in need of repeal, replacement or modification. The effort stemmed from an executive order issued by President Trump earlier this year instructing agencies to reexamine regulations that “eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation” and/or “impose costs that exceed benefits.”

More than 55,100 responses rolled in by the time the comment period closed on Monday — but they were full of Americans sharing their experiences of growing up with dirty air and water, and with pleas for the agency not to undo safeguards that could return the country to more a more polluted era.

“Know your history or you’ll be doomed to repeat it,” one person wrote. “Environmental regulations came about for a reason. There is scientific reasoning behind the need for it. It is not a conspiracy to harm corporations. It’s an attempt to make the people’s lives better.”

“Have we failed to learn from history, and forgotten the harm done to our air, water, and wetlands?” wrote Karen Sonnessa from New York. “If anything, regulations need to be more stringent. I remember the days of smog, pollution, and rivers spontaneously combusting. EPA is for the people.”

Some respondents made moral and religious arguments.

“Reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and limiting the effects of climate change is one of the greatest moral challenges of our time,” the Rev. John D. Paarlberg wrote, defending the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, an effort to regulate carbon emissions from power plants that the Trump administration has vowed to roll back. “For the sake of the most vulnerable among us, for the sake of future generations, for the sake of the planet, please do not undermine the Clean Power Plan and other critical environmental protections.” […]

Screenshot showing 70,535 comments on EPA's 'Evaluation of Existing Regulations' that was ordered by Trump in Executive Order 13777, issued 24 February 2017. Graphic: EPA

The vast majority of comments, thousands upon thousands, echoed the sentiments of Jeff Baker, an investment strategist in Huntsville, Alabama.

“I’m well aware that excessive regulation can impose an undue burden on businesses both small and large. However, what is less discussed these days are the economic and societal costs already avoided and prevented by current rules,” he wrote.

“I implore you, as defenders of our nation’s health and security, to avoid shortsighted steps that might create prosperity for a few in the short term, at the expense of the many in the long term. The importance of clean air and water supplies, and of sustainable sources of energy and industrial raw materials, cannot be overemphasized in this day and age. These things are not, as many would claim, in conflict with mankind’s economic prosperity, quality of life, and freedom; rather, they are critically important to them, and integrally tied to them over a long enough timeline.” [more]

EPA asked the public which regulations to gut — and got an earful about leaving them alone

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