In Hard Times, the Environment Takes a Beating

A huge pile of coal ash sits next to a power plant in our Florida town, and the city fathers are worrying they might have to clean it up. The clean-up would be costly.  An article in today’s Ledger explains:

Because much of Florida has absorbent soil and high groundwater levels, state law leaves Lakeland and other cities only one choice for getting rid of the thousands of tons of ash they produce. They can ship it out of state to the nearest approved landfill, which is in Emelle, Ala., said Kevin Cook, city spokesman.

And the shipping bill isn’t cheap. If Lakeland had paid for the service in fiscal year 2010, taxpayers would have coughed up at least $5 million, according to data provided by the city. Statewide, energy officials estimated a price tag of up to $312 million.

The story reminds me of the many evenings I spent as a reporter covering environmental hearings.  Often it would boil down to a conflict between economics and the environment. The city fathers might be faced with providing new jobs or preserving natural beauty, for example. As I recall, the jobs usually won.

And those were the good times.

In these hard times, the environment is more at risk than ever.

As you might expect, powerful forces that stand to benefit from environmental anarchy are seizing the opportunity to dismantle pollution control regulations. The Koch brothers spring to mind. As coal and oil producers, they stand to save billions, perhaps hundreds of billions, from deregulation.

And the Republicans are eager to oblige them. Without exception, the party’s presidential candidates are attacking the federal Environmental Protection Agency, promising to eliminate it – or at least drastically scale it back – if they get into the White House.

The party’s jobs plan is centered on this approach.  It consists of three proposals:

  • Drill-baby-drill
  • Deregulate corporations and cut their taxes
  •  To hell with the environment

It’s tempting to go along with this approach when funds are scarce. But, as I am sure you would agree,  it’s the path to disaster.

Fouling our nest is no solution to our problems. This is the only earth we will ever have. We destroy it at our peril.

To read about the dilemma facing Lakeland, Florida, click here.