Former EPA heads defend agency

Two former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrators who served under Republican presidents are decrying efforts in Congress to limit the agency’s authority.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post published online late Thursday, William Ruckelshaus and Christine Todd Whitman said the EPA is “under siege.”

“Today the agency President Richard Nixon created in response to the public outcry over visible air pollution and flammable rivers is under siege,” said Ruckelshaus, who served as EPA administrator under Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and Whitman, who headed the agency under President George W. Bush.

Ruckelshaus and Whitman argue the EPA should be protected from efforts in Congress to eliminate its regulatory authority and slash its budget. And they say the agency has significantly improved public health and the environment.

“Amid the virulent attacks on the EPA driven by concern about overregulation, it is easy to forget how far we have come in the past 40 years,” they say. “We should take heart from all this progress and not, as some in Congress have suggested, seek to tear down the agency that the president and Congress created to protect America’s health and environment.”

At the same time, Ruckelshaus and Whitman bash calls to abolish or slash the EPA budget.

“It has taken four decades to put in place the infrastructure to ensure that pollution is controlled through limitations on corporate, municipal and individual conduct. Dismantle that infrastructure today, and a new one would have to be created tomorrow at great expense and at great sacrifice to America’s public health and environment,” they say. “The American public will not long stand for an end to regulations that have protected their health and quality of life.”

The op-ed comes as the Senate is expected to vote next week on a series of amendments to small-business legislation that would limit or eliminate EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

An amendment offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which is based on a bill authored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), would permanently block EPA’s climate authority.

Two amendments offered by Democrats would limit EPA’s climate authority without permanently delaying it.

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