For local environmental activists, the celebration was probably brief.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt – long an enemy to anyone who enjoys breathing – resigned yesterday. He had been buried under a mountain of misconduct allegations involving everything from wasted taxpayer money to soiled mattresses to Chick-Fil-A.
Environmental groups have loathed Pruitt for awhile, and he returned the sentiment.
Now they’ll get a chance to hate someone new. Whoever that person is, they’ll probably be much, much worse.
President Trump announced the man taking Pruitt’s place in the interim would be Andrew Wheeler – who, policy-wise, has been described as a lot like Pruitt, only competent.
That spells trouble for Evansville and Indiana at large. After all, the state is in great environmental shape aside from these two things:
1.) The air
2.) The water
Southwestern Indiana is home to four super polluters. And according to a Center for Public Integrity report from 2016, more coal plant pollution was vomited into the skies around Evansville than any other city in the country.
Vectren is supposedly attempting to curb that by shuttering coal-fired plants and building a massive proposed natural gas facility. It also hopes to construct a 300-acre solar farm in Spencer County after it successfully lobbied to kill net metering. But all that is still years away.
You know what else can increase pollution? Heat.
Back in simpler times, the EPA published a pamphlet on how warmer temperatures were affecting Indiana.
“Warmer weather can increase the production of ground-level ozone, a pollutant that causes lung and heart problems,” it read.
That’s not much of a comfort after Thursday, when at one point Evansville had the highest heat index in the country. I heard unconfirmed reports of people spontaneously liquefying in the streets.
And days like Thursday will only become more frequent. That is, if you believe junk like universally accepted science.
I don’t know if you could tell by its motor-oil pallor, but the Ohio River isn’t doing so hot.
It regularly tops the list of the year’s most polluted rivers. And it could be the reigning champ for a while.
Last month the commission ORSANCO, which has long overseen Ohio River water quality, took a preliminary vote and decided to no longer oversee Ohio River water quality.
Their final decision will come in October, and if the vote holds, the fate of our water could lie in the hands of either the state or the federal EPA. That means Pruitt’s replacement would be responsible for the water our children drink.
Of course, whoever that turns out to be won’t think of it that way. The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency isn’t to protect the environment.
Its purpose is the same as any other governmental agency: enrich your benefactors and walk away with some of that money in your own pocket. In that sense, Scott Pruitt’s tenure at the EPA was a wild success.
No doubt his successor will be good at their job, too. They’ll pursue the same goals as Pruitt, only without the extracurricular nonsense that made us pay attention.
And without the distraction of building multi-million dollar phone booths in their office, they may actually be able to get stuff done.
That’s bad news for Evansville – and everywhere else.