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E-M:/ RE: / the case for nationwide standards -Reply -Reply

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

Back on the topic:

Tracy, you didn't respond to Tim Flynn's very insightful discussion of the
reality that large, transboundary (whether township, county, state or
national) corporations, which are increasingly the dominant players in the
economy, often operate on the basis of finding the path of least resistance.
A single community may be able to raise its standards, improve quality of
life, etc., etc., but without a baseline for compliance with standards that is
uniform across the nation at least, if not the globe, then bottomline driven
corporations seek out the weakest links instead of rising to meet the locally
set higher standard.  Even worse, communities that see themselves as
impoverished are willing to prostitute themselves to these corporations,
setting up a race to the bottom of the barrel to elicit what appear at the
moment to be an improved economic situation. To me, this is simply the reality
of the situation, and as a result MUST be taken into account if we as a
society decide we wish to have clean air, water, and healthy habitat.

Even with such a federal or global standard communities may choose to push
further, and that is terrific.  But federal standards are a safety net that
say that the United States believes that it should be illegal for anyone to
derive a benefit by seeking to pollute and destroy the environment more than
his neighbors.  I am a big fan of encouraging local communities and
corporations to innovate and do better and think we need to assure that those
options always exist. 

But too often the trend set by those who like to beat up on what they label
derisively as the "command and control" system of regulation is to junk the
entire premise instead of actually fixing the problems they think exist.  The
Engler administration has aggressively claimed that the system of regulations,
permitting, monitoring, etc. to assure protection of the environment has been
a failure and that we should move increasingly to voluntary standards.  Yet
they then to turn around and point to the long term improvement in the
environment that has occurred because of these very regulations and pretend
these are indicative of the policies of the last few years that have in fact
been designed to destroy this safety net.  That this administration can even
begin to talk about "voluntary" efforts is attributable to the fact that
industry was dragged, far too often kicking and screaming, into a system that
required them to clean up.  

The fact is that the idea of uniform, federally required standards and
programs WORKED, despite all of the problems and flaws, the failure to
adequately fund such programs and the problems that arise within any
bureaucracy over time.  Is it the only solution? Probably not.  Can it be
improved?  You bet your sweet bippy!  But lets start with objective fact and
clear eyed assessments, instead of glomming onto political rhetoric when we
talk about how to improve it.

Anne Woiwode

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