The Clean Water Act is a cornerstone of protecting our waters in this country. It was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, a Republican. Fires on the Cuyahoga River (burning on pollution) and unsafe drinking water spurred Congress into action, but it took President Nixon's support to get this legislation passed.
From then on, America has made miraculous progress in cleaning up and protecting our vital rivers, streams, and wetlands. These are the watersheds for not only farms and cities, but also provide critical habitat for wildlife.
As the Obama Administration grappled with the drinking water debacle in Flint, Michigan, the Environmental Protection Agency promulgated new rules implementing the Clean Water Act. In many ways, the new rules enhanced water quality protections. As our society becomes more complex, ensuring clean water is essential.
However, like everything else, there was a huge push back from developers and corporate agriculture. Now, the Trump Administration wants to repeal those rules and allow more discretion as to what ends up in our water.
Sometimes discretion is not a good thing.
Today, the Brookings Institute issued a paper on the abuses of conservation easements in the United States.
Conservation easements are a valuable tool for both landowners and regional landscapes, often preventing overdevelopment while granting the landowner valuable tax credits for not developing their land.
But, like any good thing, folks find a way to abuse it.
Working with land trusts, The Nature Conservancy, and other established non-governmental organizations can prevent and ensure that the landowner will not, sometime down the road, be subject to scrutiny over their attempts to protect landscapes.
We recently finished reading "Janesville" which we highly recommend. It's a thorough and interesting narrative about a town in Wisconsin (where Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is from) where GM closed it's factory and the impacts on several GM and other plant workers. One of the most searing observations is how many of the assembly workers from GM did not know how to use even the most rudimentary applications on a personal computer. For instance, few knew how to turn one on, much less type a paper from a computer, which seriously inhibited their ability to be "re-trained" at the local community college.
As our current President unwinds environmental regulations, particularly in the energy sector, we have a suggestion. Perhaps the quid pro quo for loosening regulations for many dying industries is that they have to provide mandatory computer training for all of their employees. So that when they are finally laid off, they at least have some technological capacity. That way, as we find jobs in restoring the polluted streams, restoring the mountain tops, remediating the open pit mines, all which will require the workers to have technological skills, they will be some what prepared.
It's the least we can ask for if the energy sector wants to willy-nilly dig into the earth without any oversight. Get your workers prepared for change.