51. Flint Water and GOP Policy

17 Mar

The water problem in Flint, MI is very serious and is the subject of investigations and hearings. The entities involved in this Flint problem are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the Michigan Governor Snyder, and other Michigan officials. The MDEQ officials are appointees of the Governor.

The role of the EPA  is to develop policies, conduct assessments, publish guidelines, and to provide advice. The EPA does not repair pipes, does not make specific decisions on water supplies, does not have the authority to arrest anyone, or to demand actions and punish those that do not comply.  Gina McCarthy is currently in charge of the EPA.

It is the responsibility of the states to make specific environmental decisions, to run water and other systems, to make repairs, to set charges and so forth. The MDEQ  is responsible for specific decisions and repairs.

In the current Congressional committee meeting (March 17, 2016) it has been clearly established that as soon as the EPA (and Gina McCarthy) had definite and sufficient information on the lead problem it took appropriate actions under their mission statement.  McCarthy testified that they “had insufficient information to indicate a systemic lead problem until mid-summer of 2015.”  They then immediately provided urgent warnings to the Michigan DEQ and state Governor.  The MDEQ replied that they would act on the this problem, but was slow to do so. The EPA did everything it could reasonably do under their rules. Early in 2015 there were indications of contamination, but the testing was only done on a very small sample and info from the MDEQ was faulty and incomplete. Further, the MDEQ told the public many times that the water was tested and safe.  It would have been wrong for the EPA to make a general alarm before there was definite information — but the MDEQ could have run immediate, competent testing and provided effective solutions.

The badgering and insults directed at Gina McCarthy and the suppressions of her response, by Republicans on the Congressional committee, is shameful. It reflects a general trend towards bullying, mindless attacks, and scapegoating as a GOP method of governing.  This abusive method is also a characteristic of the GOP presidential candidates. The leading GOP candidate, in most cases (more so recently), refuses to answer reporters questions and now does not want to debate. When asked a challenging question, he usually answers by crudely attacking the questioner, and by pointing out how successful his campaign is.  It is rare to get a real answer for a specific question. Violence is a part of his policy.

Republicans say that we don’t need an EPA, but at the same time, say that the EPA was not aggressive enough when faced with the incompetence of a state’s environmental agency. We should not eliminate the EPA, but make it stronger. We need to protect the people, not the politicians that ignore pollution and the industrialists the cause it.   The lesson of Flint is that we do need Federal agencies and regulations to protect our people.

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