The Environmental Protection Agency has gotten a lot of criticism in the last few years especially from Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans. Their claim is that the protections of air and water make it too hard for businesses to operate and that to compete with China and other countries. They further claim that protecting air and water is best left to the states. There are significant problems with both points.

Individual states can't replace EPA

The prevailing theory is that the EPA could be replaced by every state policing its own air and water.

Looking at any map of this country, and you'll see a big problem with that arrangements. Entire rivers and aquifers cut across multiple states. For example, someone dumps something hazardous in the Ohio River, it not only affects people living in Ohio but people living in West Virginia as well. Whatever one state lets happen to their water will affect the water of other states as well.

It's the same with air. Air does not stop at the borders of random states. A state cannot pass a law that bans air from a different state. Anything that happens in the air of one state will affect the air of the surrounding states. Consider acid rain. Sulfur dioxide produced in Midwestern states like Ohio was getting into the rain in Northeastern states like New York and turning into acid rain.

As a result, structures, many of them historical, were damaged and people were hurt. It took the EPA stepping in to get something done. If we were to go to letting states regulate their own environments, as suggested by Trump and other Republicans, the inevitable result would be multiple states suing each other.

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The EPA needs to police corporations

The prevailing thought among Republicans and Libertarians is that corporations need to be free of the EPA so that they can create jobs. The problem is that there is a need to police these companies. People are terrible and will most often choose the most convenient option rather than the right option.

The picture above is a picture of the Cuyahoga River. The river famously caught on fire 13 times as a result of factories dumping their waste in it. It took the government stepping in to put a stop to it. For a more modern example, North Carolinians along the Dan River, are still drinking bottled water after Duke Energy contaminated the river and wells with coal ash.

People say we need to be more like China and other Asian nations that have few environmental protections. Look at the pictures of people in Chinese cities wearing surgical masks because the air is so polluted. Look at their constant smog alerts. Can we not do better?

Has the EPA gone out of bounds sometimes? Yes.. However so-called job creators have done serious wrong as well.

We need the EPA for the same reason we need local police. People do bad things. Wherever you stand on things like climate change and the Endangered Species Act, deep down you know that we can't just pour any old in thing into rivers and air and expect positive results.