Supreme Court Agrees, EPA Has Right To Regulate Pollution

There are times when the Supreme Court makes a ruling that changes things. There are other times when they do not make a ruling, and it has the same effect.

Today, the Supreme Court turned down the opportunity to hear arguments in an attempt to overturn a lower court ruling in favor of the EPA’s right to regulate pollution, specifically on sulfur dioxide. The case, which began over a fine levied against Asarco LLC, a subsidiary of the Mexican metals conglomerate Grupo Mexico SAB, over the release of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide is well documented to be a lung irritant and long-term exposure can damage a person’s lungs, even kill them as the lungs find themselves unable to deliver oxygen to the body. The Supreme Court turned down the opportunity to hear arguments on the case, finding that the lower courts had exercised prudence in their actions.

The case had far-reaching implications had the court ruled against it. Had this happened, the ability of the EPA, and, by extension, the entire federal government, to regulate dangers to the general population would have been called into question. The precedent would have been made to open up other areas, from banking regulations to chemicals that can be used for children’s toys, that could have been argued. And who would pay the price for that? The common, every day citizens of the United States.

It was not that long ago that leaded gasoline was poisoning the air. There is also a group who would like nothing better than to return to the “good ol’ days” of dumping waste byproduct into rivers, killing people downstream. The EPA’s job, ultimately, is to protect Americans from the short-sighted vision of those who care little for the consequences of their actions. If something they do happens to hurt some stranger years down the line, it matters not to them, so long as they have made their money in the meantime.

It is also the EPA’s job to secure the long-term viability of this nation’s natural resources. When it was formed in 1970 by Richard Nixon, this is what he wrote:

To the Congress of the United States:

As concern with the condition of our physical environment has intensified, it has become increasingly clear that we need to know more about the total environment – land, water and air. It also has become increasingly clear that only by reorganizing our Federal efforts can we develop that knowledge, and effectively ensure the protection, development and enhancement of the total environment itself.

The Government’s environmentally-related activities have grown up piecemeal over the years. The time has come to organize them rationally and systematically. As a major step in this direction, I am transmitting today two reorganization plans: one to establish an Environmental Protection Agency, and one to establish, within the Department of Commerce, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On that day, July 9th, 1970, Richard Nixon brought the EPA into existence, to preserve the environment and secure it for future generations. He wisely understood that if the environment is not protected, there would be no future for business at all. A family that eats its seed corn starves the following year. Nixon was aiming to preserve our natural resources and our people resources. The greed of a few would serve to undermine this, with disastrous results in the future. The Supreme Court’s decision today reaffirms the EPA and its role in preserving this nation, its natural beauty, and its resources for the generations to come.

Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.

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