The Washington Post

Biting humor: GOP members of environment panel say shutdown has a silver lining

Stuck on the losing end of public opinion polls since the start of the government shutdown, at least some Senate Republicans think they’ve found some silver lining in a very dark cloud.

On the GOP section of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Web site, Republicans offered the David Letterman-style "Top Ten Reasons The Government Shutdown Isn't All Bad."  It apparently has nothing to do with stopping entitlements such as Obamacare, or shaving the national debt, or showing that conservative fiscal managers have backbone.

Nope. It has almost everything to do with their hated rival, the Environmental Protection Agency,  and its crusade to regulate pollution.

The list shines more light on the GOP’s fierce fight against anti-pollution measures that affect corporations, and its no-holds-barred approach to grappling with the agency charged with enforcing the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

It was released on the eve of a Wednesday news conference led by the Senate committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), “to highlight the damaging impacts” of the shutdown on communities and businesses.

Unlike Letterman’s top ten, this bottom-to-top list isn’t all that funny. But it has plenty of bite. There’s not enough room to take on all of them (hint: half target a single agency, EPA). But here are a few.

Coming in at No. 10 is the wacky incident involving former EPA employee John C. Beale. At least none of the agency’s 15,000 furloughed workers can pretend to work for the Central Intelligence Agency like Beale and steal nearly a million dollars.

This knee slapper has less punch when you consider that Beale’s embarrassing, isolated case developed over nearly two decades and had nothing to do with the government shutdown.

The number 8 reason the shutdown is good, the list says, is EPA scientists can’t produce more science to back up regulations on coal-fired power plants and factories responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions. EPA’s rules agree with climate scientists, but not Republicans on the committee that oversees environmental matters.

The panel’s “Republicans have pointed out the flawed science behind a number of EPA rules and regulations,” the list says, as well as the economic hit to the industry in costs to clear the air.

Fair enough, but the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and numerous public health agencies have pointed out that particulate matter that cloud the air from the emissions often sicken and sometimes kill Americans with respiratory illnesses.

The No. 5 reason the shutdown rocks is that EPA lacks the “manpower to unilaterally expand its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.” So true. EPA lacks the money continue cleaning up of toxic Superfund sites and monitoring contaminants that leak into waterways and drinking wells.

And the top reason the shutdown is great, so the list says, is that former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, the same Lisa Jackson who left the government at least eight months before the shutdown, is no longer around to bedevil Republicans.

Conservatives assert that Jackson stepped down after the discovery of her shadow e-mail address under the name Richard Windsor. They don’t buy the contention by liberals that Jackson left to protest the Obama administration’s reluctant support of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

“Richard Windsor is the now infamous email alias,” Republicans said, mocking Jackson, a nemesis who’s now in private life, and hasn’t appeared before their panel in a long, long time.

Darryl Fears has worked at The Washington Post for more than a decade, mostly as a reporter on the National staff. He currently covers the environment, focusing on the Chesapeake Bay and issues affecting wildlife.

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