What the West was like before the EPA

The agency’s legacy isn’t perfect, but the region’s air and water are cleaner now than they once were.

 
  • Discharge from the Weyerhauser Paper Mills and Reynolds Metal Plant along the Columbia River fills the sky in Longview, Washington. April 1973.

    David Falconer, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-5620
  • Strip mining with dragline equipment at the Navajo Mine in Yavapai County, Arizona, circa 1973.

    Lyntha Scott Eiler, U.S National Archives: 412-DA-1663
  • Spoil piles left by Burlington-Northern strip mining operations in Kootenai County, Idaho, 20 to 30 previously. June 1973.

    Boyd Norton, U.S National Archives: 412-DA-6690
  • Water samples taken in October 1972 after a pipeline of the Texas-New Mexico Pipeline Co. burst, releasing 285,000 gallons of crude oil into the San Juan River in southern San Juan County, Utah.

    David Hiser, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-3147
  • Old cars serve as a water break on Navajo Nation in Apache County, Arizona, circa 1972.

    Terry Eiler, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-1940
  • Dead fish at the wildlife refuge at Pahranagat Lake, Nevada, near Las Vegas, May 1972.

    Charles O’Rear, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-5250
  • Waste floating on Colorado River south of Parker, Colorado, May 1972.

    Charles O’Rear, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-6614
  • Crop duster plane over Imperial Valley farms, May 1972.

    Charles O’Rear, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-6396
  • Settling ponds of the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company’s Potash Division in Moab, Utah, May 1972.

    David Hiser, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-3140
  • Trash mounds at a homeless camp at 24th Street and South Platte in Denver, Colorado, May 1972.

    Shel Hershorn, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-2307
  • White dust creates a haze at the gypsum plant at Plaster City near El Centro, California, in May 1972.

    Charles O’Rear, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-6363
  • Sunbathers at Huntington Beach, California, with an oil platform visible in the distance, May 1975.

    Charles O’Rear, U.S. National Archives: 412-DA-1503

President Donald Trump says that he wants to “.” But the federal agency responsible for protecting those resources may soon have to make do with less: the White House hopes to slash the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency budget by 31 percent, according to the , released on March 16.

Though Congressional wrangling will alter the budget before it’s final, the implication is clear: The EPA, created in 1970 and tasked with safeguarding both human health and the environment, will likely soon have fewer resources and less staff. “This budget is a fantasy if the administration believes it will preserve EPA’s mission to protect public health,” former agency head Gina McCarthy told the Washington Post. “It ignores the lessons of history that led to EPA’s creation 46 years ago.”

Those lessons include often-recited examples of environmental disasters in the industrial East and Midwest. But polluted places dot the West, too, and before EPA cleanups and enforcement were in full swing, arsenic and lead spewed from smelter stacks; waste was dumped into ponds, creating acidic deathtraps for birds and other wildlife; and car engines and industrial activity sent lethal smoke and haze into the sky. Although some of these problems persist today, they’re generally much less severe now. While state-level efforts and a rising public awareness of environmental issues will likely keep the West from returning to its pre-EPA condition, the region is at risk if protective regulations are revoked, or if a lack of resources leaves them unenforced. The agency is often maligned by small-government proponents. Its critics say the agency exemplifies the kind of federal overreach Republicans would like to do away with. However, recalling a few of the environmental disasters of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s can serve as a reminder of how far the West has come under the EPA’s watch.

One of the Western disasters that galvanized the modern U.S. environmental movement was a major oil spill off the coast of California, says environmental historian Benjamin Kline of De Anza College in Cupertino, California. In 1969, an estimated near Santa Barbara. Vivid images of dying, oil-soaked birds, fish, seals and dolphins blazed across the nation’s television screens. It was one of the first environmental catastrophes widely shown on TV, Kline says. “You actually saw it as opposed to just hearing about it,” he adds. “That really changed everything.”

Thick clouds of smog shrouding the skyscrapers of Los Angeles were another stark reminder of lax environmental protections, Kline says. Airborne pollutants such as ozone and lead harm both people and ecosystems: they reduce crop yields by damaging plant leaves, for example; and exposure to them can cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and premature death. Congress first passed the Clean Air Act in 1963, then , leading to the development of national and state limits on air pollutants from sources like industry, utilities and vehicles and giving the nascent EPA enforcement authority. Since 1970, emissions of contaminants like particulate matter and carbon monoxide have nationwide, and thanks to the development of cleaner cars — — maximum ozone levels in the Los Angeles area have since the 1950s.

Airborne pollutants can also settle out onto the ground, contaminating soil. A smelter operated by the Asarco Company in Tacoma and Ruston, Washington, for instance, sent arsenic and lead into the sky for nearly 100 years, of soil before shutting down in 1985. The area is now part of an . While government officials have removed dirt laced with heavy metals from lawns and parks in the area, .

Industrial waste has been another significant source of . Images from an undertaken to document environmental issues and agency activities in the 1970s, for example, show dumped into the Snohomish River near Everett, Washington and a and cluttering a 5-acre pond in Ogden, Utah. The pond was cleaned up under the direction of the EPA: “Some 1.2 million gallons of liquid was pumped from the site, neutralized and taken to a disposal site.”

Unintentional spills have taken a toll, too. An oil spill on the San Juan River in 1972 . That same year, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, laying out pollution control programs and contamination standards overseen by the EPA. The agency , estimated at 285,000 gallons, and led cleanup efforts.

While the West is cleaner than it once was, the EPA doesn’t have a spotless record in the region: Accidents and mismanagement have at times hindered its efforts. The Gold King Mine spill in Colorado two years ago, the result of a botched cleanup by the agency, sent acidic mine waste and heavy metals down the Animas and San Juan Rivers. That incident and earlier mishaps have sown a deep distrust of the EPA among rural, conservative corners of the West. Critics of the agency say that states could act more efficiently on their own, without the bloated federal bureaucracy.

“Without some kind of national policy, though, it does appear that people in the past have simply done what was in their own self-interest,” Kline says. He and environmental historian and activist Robert Gottlieb, a professor emeritus at Occidental College in Los Angeles, note that the EPA arose out of a need for a national-scale environmental program. Statewide or regional environmental initiatives aren’t sufficient to address broad-scale, border-crossing problems, Gottlieb says. “You still need that kind of national — and in fact on some issues, global — presence to address the issues.”

One safeguard that may keep the West from returning to its pre-EPA state if the agency is diminished, Gottlieb says, is the much greater degree of environmental consciousness among the modern American public. But changing attitudes alone aren’t enough to prevent a backwards slide, says John Wise, a former deputy regional administrator of the EPA who retired in 2001. If car emission standards are loosened or not enforced, for example, he says, air quality will take a perceptible nose-dive. “To the extent that EPA is savagely cut, it’s going to have an effect on the environmental conditions in our cities and in our wilderness areas; in our ranches, in our forests,” Wise says. “It will manifest everywhere, and that, to me, is a grave danger.”

Emily Benson is an editorial intern at NewTowncarShare News

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • The National Parks Conservation Association, the nations leading national park advocacy organization, seeks a Regional Director to lead and manage staff for the Southwest Regional...
  • available in Gothic, CO for 2019 summer season - Manager, Lead Cooks, Prep-Cooks, Dishwasher - at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). The Dining Hall...
  • Suitable for planting hay, hemp, fruit. Excellent water rights. 1800 square foot farmhouse, outbuildings, worker housing.
  • More information: jobs.wisc.edu. Search 96076
  • Friends of the Verde River is looking for someone to join our team who has a keen investigative mind and is an excellent communicator and...
  • - Thriving Indie bookstore in Durango, CO. 1800 sf of busy retail space in a 3100 sf historic building. Long term lease or option to...
  • with home on one acre in Pocatello, ID. For information and photos visit www.blackrockforgeproperty.com.
  • The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is seeking a technical partner to develop a land management plan for the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears Landscape in southeastern...
  • Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • on 3 acres near Moxon. 3 bd/1.5 bath, apt. Views/access to hiking, fishing, wildlife.1-207-593-6312. $165,900.
  • Senior position responsible for the development of all marketing and fundraising strategies to grow the base of philanthropic support and awareness of GSEP.
  • This newly created position with The Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program will play a key role in the development and implementation of strategies to achieve...
  • The Wilderness Society works to protect Wildlands and inspire Americans to care for our public lands. We seek to hire a strategic, experienced leader who...
  • Organic grocery/cafe at Glacier Bay needs a vibrant leader. Love good food, community, and Alaska? Join us!
  • Collector's Item! The story of barley, the field crop. 50 years of non-fiction research. www.barleybook.com
  • near Ennis, MT. Artist designed, 1900 SF, 2BR/2BA home on 11.6 acres with creek, tree, views, privacy. 406-570-9233 or [email protected] www.arrowreal.com (Country Homes).
  • Colorado Farm to Table is looking for a full-time energetic, creative Executive Director to lead our team in Salida.
  • Join HCN and Black Sheep Adventures on an expedition through the national parks and monuments of Utah and Southwest Colorado, September 7 - 15, 2019....
  • 25 acre in native grasses. Cedar draw. Year-round spring. At foot of Moscow Mnt, ID, 7 miles from town.

У нашей фирмы классный портал со статьями про оксиметолон http://biceps-ua.com/