Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Once Again, Something Completely Different

I try to keep this blog limited to water related postings. I did call it "The Water Law" after all. But every once in a while something comes along that is important enough to go "off message." This is one of those things.

I have just finished reading an article in Wired Magazine that explores the "controversy" over child vaccination. As a new parent myself, it is an article that I think every parent should read.

This article also embodies something I have written about here before - the importance of making good science comprehensible to the public. Because, as Ms. Wade, the author of the article points out, it is when science becomes incomprehensible that pseudo-science and fearmongers creep in to fill the void.

Monday, October 19, 2009

And The Hammer Comes Down

No...it's not a gavel reference, but rather a reference to a New York Times article that I just came across (thanks to WaterSISWEB). The head of the EPA, Lisa P. Jackson, was recently before Congress's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. What she had to say was very interesting.

Ms. Jackson essentially admitted what everyone has long known - that the EPA has done very little to enforce clean water regulations over the last decade. Moreover, she has promised that the EPA's laxity is now at an end. This signals the enforcement sea change that many have expected ever since the Obama administration came into office.

Of course the proof is in the pudding as they say. We will have to wait and see whether the EPA will really carry through on the rhetoric. But for an administration eager to take a strong line on environmental issues - an ambition that is being thwarted in Congress - the EPA provides a convenient executive tool for unilateral action.

Clean Air = Dirty Water?

There is an interesting article over at the New York Times regarding an unintended side-effect of stricter air pollution regulations on coal fired power plants.

The gist of the article is that tougher clean air laws have forced power plants to scrub their air emissions. Unfortunately, the plants apparently dump much of the scrubbed material into local rivers and water supplies. And while the material they are dumping is supposedly "treated," the treatment doesn't remove everything - including a number of heavy metals that have been shown to be carcinogenic.

The EPA is currently considering tougher regulations on power plant discharges, and has attempted to enact them in the past. But the lobbyists are out in force opposing any heavier regulation.

I take away from this article the importance of regarding environmental regulation in a holistic sense. This problem was created with the best of intentions - the desire to clean up air pollution. But an inability or unwillingness to look at the situation as a whole - i.e. "where are the plants' by-products going to go if not into the air?" - has simply shifted the environmental impact rather than ameliorated or eliminated it.

I also believe that regardless of the lobbying efforts to the contrary, greater regulation of power plant emissions will happen. I believe that is simply the political reality of the 21st century. And it would behoove the industry to get ahead of the problem.