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A New Captain to the Weather-Helm EPA Ship

The Significance of Michael Regan’s pick as EPA Director is defined by the paths that the brought them together. -- Staff, GreenTek Planet

Rooted in the Facts is an ongoing series written by journalists, engineers, scientists, and enthusiasts designed to provide insight into Sustainability Initiatives, Green Technology, and Prosperous Circular Economies at the nexus of People, Profits and the Planet.

Sometimes you open the news to find outstanding, faith-restoring updates on the world around you. While the team at GreenTek often focuses on fighting for circular economies without giving great weight to the larger political sea of influence, we do understand the importance of competent, genuine problem solvers being in positions of power. So this week its worth delving into a change in leadership that affects the bigger picture of a sustainable future.

Accountability means that despite headwinds, we must use our ingenuity and willpower to sail in the right direction—but its far easier with the wind at your back. Unfortunately, the last 4 years have been a gale force wind against environmental protections designed to capsize the vessel. Let’s look at the numbers.

While genuinely concerned citizens continue to fight climate change, in the last few years, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent lobbying to successfully reverse or weaken 130 environmental policies, and support the spread of misinformation to the masses. With 90+% of their contributions going to the republican party, last year the coal mining industry gave $7.3 million dollars to politicians who have voted against environmental policies to improve their profitability. The Oil & Gas Lobby? $112 Million, represented by firms like Faegre Baker Daniels, that generate half a billion dollars annually doing so.

Its easy to see why these companies promote the idea that sustainability / climate change are a hoax. Courts around the nation have upheld calculations that the social cost of carbon emissions industry leaders produced is over $120Billion dollars/year. This represents the negative socioeconomic impact of pollution on the American public—damages for profiting without accounting for the waste. For perspective, that doesn’t even represent half of the profit the combined Oil, Gas and Energy industry draws annually, something they can **and would be** forced to pay in taxes if the American people better understood those dynamics. By itself, Exxon Mobil is responsible for $5 Billion/year in damages, only a piece of its annual profits of over $15 Billion/year. How is the American public subsidizing their 50% increase in profits? Exxon has spent roughly $15 million/year lobbying against carbon taxation--a return on their investment no hedge-fund manager could dream of.

Who headed Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, representing coal magnates like the “Geriatric Dr. Evil” Robert Murray a man found guilty of unsafe mining practices that led to the deaths of his workers? Who fought to obstruct green energy alternatives and undermine industry wide science impacting these profitable companies? Andrew Wheeler, a man who, following in the footsteps of his predecessors claim as one of the foremost fighters against environmental regulation. His reward-- (*drumroll please*) being placed as the Director of the Environmental Protection Agency by the current administration. in terms of protection, that’s the equivalent needing a babysitter and calling a dingo.

The problem this leadership has found with outwardly prioritizing greed, power, and a disregard for demonstrable truth/reality over the people in a democracy, is that you can expedite your removal. That was demonstrated in this year’s greatest participation in an election in American history—one that shows promise for a breeze of fresh air in a polluted room.

That change comes in the form of a proven and reasonably inspiring selection in management on the environmental front. Fresh from leading the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, where he successfully yielded a multibillion-dollar legal settlement against Duke Energy for their toxic coal ash ponds, Michael Regan has the track record of a man of honor and competence. While spearheading efforts to reduce pollution, agricultural waste and environmental destruction concentrated near low-income and minority communities, he made a name for himself stopping chemical companies like Chemour and Dupont from releasing toxic PFAs into local rivers, chemicals known to increase infant mortality, immune deficiencies, and even cancer.

These may be polarizing times, but it is not the facts that are polarizing—it’s our clouded perspectives. Reaching worthwhile goals on the horizon requires we understand the forces propelling the ship, as much as who is at the wheel. Small businesses often bear equal brunt of regulations meant for the giants of industry doing all the damage because they don't have the lobbying influence. Individuals like Regan raise the posibility of cutting through headwinds with surgical precision, substantially improving the the odds for positive outcomes. For those of us committed to the task of creating thriving circular economies, it is an auspicious note on which to end the year.

@MichaelSRegan -- welcome to the fray, you are needed. Let’s get to work.

Photo Credit to the #WashingtonPost #Vox , #E&ENews and the #EnvironmentalDefenseFund

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