Along with Medicare destruction and windfall tax breaks for the rich, Republicans nationally are pushing to dismantle federal environmental regulation. Just to be safe, the New York Times reports, Republicans are working to strip environmental regulation at the state level, too.
In the past month, the nation’s focus has been on the budget battle in Washington, where Republicans in Congress aligned with the Tea Party have fought hard for rollbacks to the Environmental Protection Agency, clean air and water regulations, renewable energy and other conservation programs.
But similar efforts to make historically large cuts to environmental programs are also in play at the state level as legislatures and governors take aim at conservation and regulations they see as too burdensome to business interests.
As most of you know, this work has long been done in Arkansas, thanks to the sway held by corporate lobbyists over Democrat and Republican legislator alike. Where but Arkansas could there be a popular uprising in behalf of the road destruction, stream sedimentation, poor waste disposal, air pollution and noise pollution created by exploration of the Fayetteville shale? Where else but Arkansas could a proud legislative caucus form to vow to stop ANY effort to preserve quality of life through better environmental oversight? Instead, the gas industry plunders without paying enough to even pay for the road damage. It makes only a token contribution for severance of a non-renewable resource.
ALSO: Columnist Joe Nocera defends gas exploration, including against recent charges that fracked gas is more dangerous than coal. He apparently no longer reads Texas newspapers, however, when he claims no one has complained about fracking in the Lone Star state. But note this and this is the critical issue, particularly in Arkansas. Even this outspoken advocate of fracking acknowledges environmental risks:
The truth is, every problem associated with drilling for natural gas is solvable. The technology exists to prevent most methane from escaping, for instance. Strong state regulation will help ensure environmentally safe wells. And so on. Somewhat to my surprise, this view was seconded by Abrahm Lustgarten, a reporter for ProPublica who has probably written more stories about the dangers of fracking than anyone. In a comment posted online to my Tuesday column, he wrote that while the environmental issues were real, they “can be readily addressed by the employment of best drilling practices, technological investment, and rigorous regulatory oversight.”
Strong state regulation. Riiiiiiiiight. This is the Natural State, remember? We don't need no stinkin' regulation. Just stinkin' gas wells.