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Chasing Down The Muse: EPA under fire from Congress

February 10, 2011|By Catharine Cooper

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives."

– Carl Sagan, "Pale Blue Dot"

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The hardest task of being human is to stand far enough outside of us to see our true place in and on this planet. As we hurry between appointments, schools and different jobs, our focus is on the moment, the task at hand. Rarely do we pause to consider the long-range consequences of any of our actions.

The exhaust from our vehicle as we careen toward the day-care center. The origin and processing of the fuel we pour into our empty gas tanks. The source of the meat, fish, poultry and vegetables pulled from the shelves of our markets and used to feed our families. The full environmental costs of the plastic bottle from which we drink our "designer" water.

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Occasionally, we snap to consciousness. An event — a major oil spill, a toxic flow of some gunk into the ocean, a discovery of percolates in our water — shocks us from our somnambulism into a course of action. We become aware; we become warriors for our cause; we stand tall in the name of our planet.

And then, we drift back to sleep for a while, and relegate the task of protecting our air, water, and earth to one of the many agencies we have put in place for oversight.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the largest of those organizations. Founded on Dec. 2, 1970, the EPA's mission is simple: to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment — air, water, and land — upon which life depends.

In recent weeks, a partisan stew has been brewing in Congress. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and Reps. Fred Upton (R-Michigan) and Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky) have joined with other opponents of EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases, and are circulating a draft bill called the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. Their goal is to undermine and limit the EPA's authority to impose limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases under the Clean Air Act.

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