Dirty Water Under the Bridge
Fainter, president of the electric companies trade group, said that members of his organization “actively partcipate in the rulemaking process, both at the EPA and the [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality], and they will continue to do so.
“We have a lot of coal in this country, and for a long time it has been the backbone of electric generation here,” he said. “I think the debate is going to be pretty intense.”
While the coal plant operators and their allies resist regulation, Smith said, another generation of kids has been born in this country who may be affected by the waste products from that industry.
“It was back during the first Bush administration” — that of George H.W. Bush — “that the older Bush asked the EPA what was the biggest pollution problem facing the United States,” Smith said, and the agency’s answer was mercury. But regulation of mercury went nowhere. Mercury causes “neurological [damage] to babies and heart attacks among our elders,” he said.
“Our friends in the power industry for 20 years have fought” such regulation, he said, and “a whole ’nother generation has been born facing impairments that could have been stopped. That’s the net effect of what they [industry lobbyists] do.”
In the telephonic press conference marking the release of the environmental groups’ report, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. talked about the strides that have been made in many areas under the Clean Water Act and those that haven’t been made, he said, because of the political power of the industry.
Before the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, he said, “I remember the Cuyahoga River burning for a week with flames that were eight stories high. I remember when we declared Lake Erie dead. I couldn’t swim in the Charles, the Hudson, the Potomac when I was growing up because of toxic and sewage pollution.” The Clean Water Act “has been by far America’s most popular environmental statute and probably its most successful.”
Despite those successes, however, Kennedy said, “We’re living today in a science fiction nightmare … in America, where my children and the children of most Americans can no longer engage in the seminal primal act of the American youth, which is to go fishing with their father and mother in a local fishing hole and then come home and eat the fish.”
That’s no longer possible, he said, “because of the political clout that this industry has been able to exercise on Capitol Hill to escape the rules and regulations that apply to every other American. People are being injured.
“Environmental crime is real crime,” he said. “Environmental laws are real laws, and they have real victims.”