EPA, Pebble and The West Wing
I’m sorry to report that watching box sets of “The West Wing” isn’t enough distraction from our real politics. I am tired.
I can confirm a fresh batch of baby sea otters, riding on their mama’s bellies, blown in by the latest storm can provide some relief. Their cuteness is enough to make anyone ovulate – I don’t care who you are. Their squeaks and mewing are impossible to ignore.
I learned about something called “embryonic diapause.” It’s really fascinating and a little science-y. See, lady sea otters can get pregnant and put a pause on implanting the embryos for up to six months – then BAM! Baby time! Who knew? I guess they aren’t the kind of creatures who need to establish paternity.
See how that works? I know, you have a ton of questions now, and trust me, the rabbit hole goes deep on what’s with the curious sea otters.
Now, back to the business of what fresh hell we absolutely have to pay attention to this week.
Finally, that millstone wrapped around the neck of industry in Alaska is being cut loose to float to the bottom of the deep, and for the time being, blue sea. For so many years our leaders have waged an active war in the media and courts against the Environmental Protection Agency.
For all the bloviating, you would think “EPA” was a misspelling of ISIS. It looks like that war is all but won for people who object to protecting the environment. I’m encouraged by NASA’s recent announcement of finding seven new planets only 40,000 light years away. We may need them.
The Trump administration has announced they want to cut EPA’s budget by at least 25 percent. Oh, the cheers that went up. One Republican who has held office in our state commented to me, “It’s a good start.”
I suppose that’s a luxury to say when you’re sitting in a house with plumbing. Many Alaskans aren’t so lucky. Many of the villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta rely on funds from the EPA to manage their water and sewage issues. Last year those programs cost $20 million.
It’s been estimated 4,499 households in Alaska don’t have indoor plumbing – 4,500 if you include mine. The Alaska Native Villages and Rural Communities Water Grant Program was created by Sen. Ted Stevens and voted on by Congress. Oh, for the good old days when we had leadership that was more concerned about the living conditions of their constituents than their political party.
As KYUK noted, “A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared rural Alaskans living with and without running water. It found that children living in homes without running water were 10 times more likely to have viral pneumonia, severe bacterial infections, or skin infections. Adults were more likely to have pneumonia, influenza, and skin infections, like boils.”
After years of research, the EPA agreed with every district in Alaska that voted against the Pebble mine. Wrong mine. Wrong place. Last week, a Republican representative from Texas, Lamar Smith, wrote the EPA asking it to withdraw its decision on Pebble. Doesn’t that make sense? I don’t know Lamar, but he doesn’t know jack squat about what Alaska needs.
Alaska has multiple Superfund sites. Cleaning those up, monitoring and remediating them seems like a good thing. It also means jobs. Lots of jobs. I tried to find out how many, but the EPA has been directed to stop updating websites, social media postings or answering questions.
The EPA has been monitoring our air quality, pollutants in our waterways, underground injection wells, how much sludge is dumped in our waters by seafood processors and how resource development affects our salmon. Oh, and apparently the agency put up a “Closed for Business” sign on our state, if you listen to the rhetoric.
If our federal government is going to hold the protection of our environment at such a lower standard, maybe Alaska needs to raise ours. Maybe it’s time to update our state laws, since the last time many of them were instituted was in 1959.
Some people are going to be happy about the decision out of Washington, D.C., to cripple the EPA. Before they do a victory dance they should realize they are celebrating the loss of jobs, cleaner air, protected salmon and the health for many Alaskans. That’s what you won. Congrats.
It’s gotten quiet here. Must be nap time in the sea otter nursery. Did you know a good way to get a baby otter to float on his own? Lick all his fur straight up so he looks like he put a fork in a light socket. His puffed-out hairdo makes him float like a cork when it’s time to dive for clams. I just wanted you to know that.