Tea Party Fights for Companies' Freedom to Pollute


Photo: nmfbihop, Flickr, CC BY

I can understand the anti-regulatory sentiment that cable news shows tell us is still sweeping the nation; it makes for an attractive ideology. The notion that government interference is the root cause of all our current woes -- that if the gov would just get out of the way, the American people would sort it all out -- makes for a straightforward, patriotic-seeming solution to get behind. But is there no bounds to this sentiment? The Tea Party is turning out to protest regulations on pollution -- and not even just the contentious greenhouse gas variety, but the plain ol' toxic kind. The Tea Party, it seems, is fighting to give companies the right to pollute more freely:The 'Regulation Reality Tour' began last spring and continued on through the summer, both to protest the EPA's plans to regulate carbon pollution, and to attack more general waste management and toxic pollution regulations. It was organized by the Americans for Prosperity, the chief grassroots Tea Party group, and funded by Koch Industries (an oil & coal company that has an interest in skirting pollution regs). Tea Partiers turned out to the event to join the protest -- here's a snapshot from the Wonk Room:

This summer's "Regulation Reality Tour," produced by Koch's grassroots marketing arm Americans for Prosperity (AFP), featured a "moon bounce in the shape of a SWAT car for children," ostensibly symbolizing the boogeyman of Environmental Protection Agency "Carbon Cops." "Let's make sure we keep doing our part to ensure that our generation passes on to our children and grandchildren the same freedoms we enjoyed," AFP cries, in protest of sewage overflow rules.

Photo: Americans for Prosperity

Yes, there was a moon bounce. In addition to protesting sewage overflow rules, various events protested the EPA's water quality standards, the crude oil reporting guidelines, and the EPA's effort to update the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Now, I understand why folks would turn out to rally against greenhouse gas reduction measures -- they've been told time and again by various right-wing media outlets that global climate change is a hoax, and that measures to address it would destabilize the economy. It's wrong, but I get it. Yet I remain puzzled by the aversion to sewage, toxic waste, and water pollution regulations -- how is restricting the amount of harmful waste corporations can deposit into our environment and communities in any way a threat to our freedom? A threat to our freedom to be exposed, unwittingly, to toxic substances? To unknowingly drink contaminated water?


Photo: Thoth, God of Knowledge, Flickr, CC

This just attests to the power of ideology -- in what world is allowing companies to pollute our community something that's not only okay, but worth fighting for? Since the general concept of 'anti-regulation' has been co-opted by political movements to be the equivalent of 'freedom', it seems that there's no end to the things that folks will protest that are in place specifically to protect their own interests.

People protesting the idea that corporations should be responsible for their own pollution, so as to prevent the public and local ecosystems from being exposed to and harmed by it, is perhaps the starkest example.

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Tags: Air Pollution | United States