In this free-for-all we call American Democracy in the year 2017, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a bill on Feb. 3, 2017 titled H.R. 861 – To Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.
Though the abolition of the EPA sounds like an evil scheme to get rid of any federal oversight in order to rape and pillage the American landscape in an attempt to extract its great riches, rest assured, it is. But, it has been cleverly disguised a states’ rights issue.
Consider the following:
NEWS REPORTER: We’re standing here in Pensacola, FL where there has just been a major pipeline burst, spilling at least 300,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico which is washing up on the shores of Louisiana. I’m here with oil-industry tycoon and head of the Florida Department of Environmental Oversight, Mr. Old White Guy in a Suit.
MR. OLD WHITE GUY IN A SUIT: Hello.
NEWS REPORTER: Sir, can you tell me how you plan to clean up the spill?
MR. OLD WHITE GUY IN A SUIT: The what? Oh, that. That’s just the cost of doing business, you know. We have such things built into our business plan, so we’re not losing any more money than we would have expected. Thanks for your concern. We’ll be just fine.
NEWS REPORTER: Wait. I thought you were the head of the Florida Department of Environmental Oversight.
MR. OLD WHITE GUY IN A SUIT: Oh, yes. About that. We’ll clean up the best we can within the borders of Florida. You know, we’re only a state organization and we have limited funds and resources, and very few scientists here to monitor how we’re doing. (Chuckles.)
NEWS REPORTER: What about the oil that’s washing up on the Louisiana shoreline?
MR. OLD WHITE GUY IN A SUIT: Well, that is the responsibility of the Louisiana Bureau of Environmental Control. We have nothing do to with it.
The above scenario is fictional, but it is one that could be very real in the near future.
According to Rep. Gaetz, the EPA has “exceeded their original mission substantially under both Republican and Democratic presidents and violated the sovereignty of the states. I think we need to start fresh.” (Italics mine.)
The sovereignty of the states, eh? I’m sorry, but I’m always suspicious of someone who presents their issue as a states’ rights issue. So were James Madison (see Federalist Papers No. 10 and No. 45), and Abraham Lincoln. (See here for an interesting discussion of states’ rights and racism.)
So what’s going on?
Well, Congressman Gaetz represents Florida’s 1st Congressional District. This includes Pensacola, where there happens to be an oil refinery run by TransMontaigne Product Services LLP (a wholly-owned subsidiary of NGL Energy Partners LC). I’m sure TransMontaigne would be quite obliged to Rep. Gaetz for getting rid of those pesky EPA rules and regulations that protect the environment.
Additionally, Gaetz received a campaign contribution from a super PAC called North Florida Neighbors that received a $100,000 donation from Harness Oil & Gas, Inc, which is owned by the daughter of Lester Smith, who owns Smith Energy Company. Smith Energy Company has oil-drilling leases throughout the state of Texas. I’m sure this company wouldn’t mind branching out into Florida.
Coincidentally, Lester Smith (of the aforementioned Smith Energy Company) and his wife own property in Florida’s 1st Congressional District (which Gaetz represents).
One way or another, I think it’s safe to say that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is beholden the oil and gas industry. And this is why he’s attempting to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.
N.B.: Gaetz is not alone in sponsoring the bill to terminate the EPA. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Steven Palazzo (R-MS) are also sponsoring the bill.