Americans support the EPA, oppose its dismantling

Once again Republicans are proving to be out of step with the American people. This time calls by leading Republicans to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency have been met with resistance by nearly two-thirds of Americans, according to a recent survey.

In a bid for some attention to his presidential pretensions, late last month former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich called on Congress to dismantle the EPA. Calling the agency “the tool of ideologues,” the deposed former House Speaker accused it of being responsible for the economic crisis.

Nowhere in his remarks did Gingrich point to the role of Wall Street speculators or failed government oversight in sparking the financial collapse that lay at the heart of this recession.

Nor did Gingrich point the finger corporations that moved good manufacturing jobs move overseas or led the way in eroding the earning power of working families as the main culprits who’ve ensured depth and length of the Great Recession.

Gingrich wants to replace the EPA with “a bureaucracy that would cater to polluters,” Pete Altman of the Natural Resources Defense Council said at a Feb. 2 media teleconference.

Gingrich’s out-of-touch demand came in conjunction with a new push by congressional Republicans to follow through with similar legislation.

New polling data about American attitudes toward the EPA and to environmental regulation generally reveals, however, that Gingrich is again far outside the mainstream of public opinion.

According to the Graham Hueber, senior project manager at Opinion Research Center International, a supermajority of Americans, including more than six in 10 Republicans disagree with Gingrich’s demand.

“The poll findings reflect strong bipartisan support both for the EPA in general and also for its playing a vigorous role in fighting air pollution,” Hueber announced on the Feb. 2 teleconference. He noted the polling data was collected after Gingrich made his  eyebrow-raising statement.

“There is no evidence in the polling data to suggest that Americans have any appetite for dismantling an agency that they see as protecting the health of themselves and their families,” he added.

According to Hueber, 67 percent of Americans reject Gringich’s demand to abolish the EPA. This includes 61 percent of Republicans. Sixty-three percent want the EPA to do more to protect air and water from polluters. Less than three in 10 Americans think it already does too much. And even fewer Americans, about 18 percent, want Congress to do what Republicans are threatening to do: block the EPA’s active role in updating pollution regulations.

“Americans prefer to protect the health of their families over allowing more pollution from corporations,” said Altman, climate campaign director for the NRDC, the organization that sponsored the survey.

“The bottom line is clear: Democrats, Republicans and Independents want politicians to protect the health of America’s children rather than the profit-driven agenda of big polluters,” he explained. “People get that the EPA is dedicated to protecting public health and want Congress to let the agency do its job.”

The Republican Party’s push to dismantle the EPA and to block its role in regulating pollution emissions, including carbon emissions, “puts our health at risk,” added. Brenda Afzal, Health Care Without Harm climate policy coordinator.

Afzal, who is also a nurse, explained, “Leading health organizations and experts consider carbon dioxide pollution to be a wide-ranging threat to public health.”

The EPA should retain its authority to control the air pollution that has caused large increases in asthma and other respiratory disease among American children, she stated.

“Our health should not suffer so that members of Congress can put corporate profits ahead of the public’s health,” she said.

This show of strong public support for the EPA and its role in regulating pollution comes the same week the EPA is expected to announce new regulations on carbon emissions that cause global warming and an array of public health problems.

Photo: Clean up crew remove oil and contamiments from  Talmadge Creek in Michigan, which was affected by the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010. The EPA was put in charge of the disaster clean up. (United States Government Work)


Joel Wendland
Joel Wendland

Joel Wendland works in higher education. He was previously editor of Political Affairs magazine. He is a union member and a US Army veteran. He is working on a collection of essays for a book, writing a new collection of poetry and tries to find environmentally-friendly alternatives to everyday living. Become his friend on Facebook. Follow Political Affairs on Twitter.