Hey, EPA, What Does a Little Cancer Matter When We Have Drilling to Do?

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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I had a big light-bulb moment this morning while reading both daily newspapers. We just price things wrong. We need to stop thinking of clean air in terms of dollars and cents and start quantifying it in our heads by cancer cases.

Governor Rick Perry keeps telling us that EPA clean air rules are costing us jobs, meaning money, and he has a certain case. If Texas had no rules at all and industries here were free to blast really bad black smoke out their chimneys, maybe a lot of industries would move here from other places. We might even recruit some of the steel industry back from China.

That's the money way of looking at it. But what about the cancer way?

Any time you see a Randy Lee Loftis byline in The Dallas Morning News, you need to stop and give it a read, because this guy is one of the best environmental reporters anywhere -- definitely a must-read dude. Loftis has a pay-walled story in the paper today about a hearing in Arlington yesterday where the oil and gas polluters gathered to kvetch about new EPA clean air standards.

Toward the bottom of that piece, Loftis provides the basis for my proposed pricing structure. He says actual nationwide emissions right now are causing 40 cancer cases in every one million population. But the rules in place now -- the old ones -- would allow industry to amp that up to 400 cancer cases per million. I assume that's when the economy comes back and happy days are here again.

Proposed new rules -- the ones Perry says are job-killers -- would hold the future cancer price of emissions somewhere closer to the current 40-per-million range.

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Then you have to read The New York Times today, too. They have a story about Perry's war on the EPA. The piece quotes him in Florida this month: "Somebody has to tell the EPA that we don't need you monkeying around and fiddling around and getting in our business with every kind of regulation you can dream up."

But OMG. The same story has a graphic showing Texas air pollution compared with the rest of the United States, and we're way up at the top, way up -- imagine me stretching one hand as high as I can go and then jumping up higher to show you -- above everybody except California, which has worse ozone than we do.

So here is all I am suggesting. It's fair to debate the issue. What are we going to do about it? Who should make the decisions? And what's the price?

Measuring the price in jobs seems wrong-headed. What's the real bottom line here? Wouldn't most people be better able to quantify the risk and assess it logically if we posed it in terms of how many cancer cases we're willing to tolerate?

Hey, the answer can't be zero. I think we all recognize that. For our state to prosper and people to be able to afford nice things and drive to church on Sunday, somebody must get cancer. Right? Somebody's got to take a bullet. But how many bullets for how many somebodies? And who? Somebody you know?

Maybe if we thought of things this way, it would allow us to focus more closely on particular types of cancers associated with particular types of air pollution and specific populations. That way we could calibrate.

I would think we would want to aim our cancer bullets away from the kids and more toward mature populations who've already had a life. But that's just me. And, after all, I do recognize we'd be shooting at the Tea Party that way.

But think: If we measured air pollution this way, wouldn't that give the right-to-lifers something more to think about? Does the right to life include the right not to die of cancer caused by air pollution? Maybe not. What do I know? I've always been more of a damn-lucky-to-still-be-alive-er myself. But it's something to talk about.

The guy who could really do something with it might be Perry. He could show up at these debates and cock that cowboy smile at the camera and say, "I'm gonna git 'Merica lined up like we do in Texas and get that cancer rate back up where she belongs."

Listen, there may be a huge constituency out there that wants to see us get that cancer per million rate way up higher than it is. Shoot for the moon! Are the Chinese beating us on this? How do we know unless we at least start the conversation?

All I'm saying: Think about it.

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Ben
Ben

If Dallas signed a lease & then denied the company the right to drill, they absolutely will get sued! What law school did you go to?

matilda of tuscany
matilda of tuscany

So what!  I don't want to trade my children's health and water sustainability for corporate greed.  How many jobs will be lost from companies not moving here because of our poor air quality rating?  How many dollars will we spend on asthma, poor school performance (from exposure to pollutants) and cancer?  How much money will tax payers have to pay to monitor the air, clean the water, pay for city water that drilling companies hook into, roads and bridges that their heavy equipment damages?  if you live nearby, how much money in property value do those home owners lose? Sue away, better to pay for yesterday's bad decision now, rather than a lifetime of tomorrow's bad decisions.

JimS
JimS

Pak152 below is a great example of wacko Fox-think. He offers a post in which he exposes an EPA threat or plot ot hire "230,000" bureaucrats toprocess 6.1 million new permits it will require of Americans, sourced with a link to Fox Business News. But if you take about 20 seconds to trace the links back, you learn the real story: the EPA is seeking to limit its own potential authority and mandate with a "tailoring rule" that would cut back on what current law requires the agency to do. The original story has been debunked and debunked, but it fits the Foxious narrative, so the Foxoids won't give it up. Hey, Pak152, seriously .... no, seriously, please ... tell us if tyou also believe that Obama is surroudned by secret teleprompters that he can read with idiot-savant fluency linking him back to a committeeof smart white eople who create all of his thoughts for him because he's black and couldn't be that smart? Seriously. Tell us about that Fox narratve, too, while you're at it. 

RTGolden
RTGolden

Not a fan of Fox, or the liberal media either, but c'mon seriously, Foxious?? An 'agenda' claiming the president uses teleprompters??  Of course he does, like all presidents have going back at least to Carter. (Before Carter, I was but a slip of a lad, more concerned with Superfriends cartoons on Saturday mornings than presidential BS in prime time).Why not be fair, Jim, and bring up all the idiotic conspiracies the liberals painted on Bush?  For instance, at the same time Bush was both a brainless buffoon, stumbling his way to ruin AND an evil mastermind bent on world domination.I'm not asking for a lot here JS, just some impartiality and fairness in reporting.  I find the articles here, by you and Wilonsky, to be well researched, and just about the most trustworthy available in the DFW metro area, but, DAMN, parting the floodwaters of liberal bias in some of your articles is straining even my own miraculous analytical abilities.

G_David
G_David

I fairly liberal-ish, and I've NEVER once thought Bush was any kind of mastermind, evil or otherwise.  Nor have I ever heard anyone else make that claim.

amazed
amazed

bush is smarter than you think. he made everyone forget that he was born and raised in  Connecticut ruined texas's economy and school districts for money and never owned the rangers just a 3% share so like i own ford because i took a test drive. even tricked an entire nation into blaming the president after him for spending trillions of dollars he never claimed in the budget like all the money spent on a couple of wars like we wouldn't notice

JimS
JimS

By the way, Bush waged a war based on lies against a nation that had done our own nation no wrong. That's a very big one, history-wise. I'm afraid you'll have trouble summoning enough "imatriality and fairness in reporting" to relativize that one away. 

Edgar
Edgar

And now the conversation about the extent to which oil and gas pollution causes cancer is being framed in the context of the war in Iraq.  Or else it was a digression.  Either way, I lost interest.

JimS
JimS

impartiality

JimS
JimS

I never promised you a  rose garden.

pak152
pak152

"Earlier this month the EPA filed a 161-page brief suggesting that, unless they were given broad discretion, in order to enforce existing pollution laws they would need Americans to file an additional 6,100,000 (no, that is not a typo-- over six million) permit applications and the EPA would have to hire an additional 230,000 bureaucrats to process those permit applications.Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/on-..."

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

You're not going to get many of the readers of this blog to click on a link from Fox Business.

pak152
pak152

If they won't click on the link (fear of cooties?) then maybe they'll read this piece by Jonathan Adler in the HARVARD (not exactly a bastion of conservatism) Journal of Law & Public Policy. http://www.harvard-jlpp.com/wp... In it Adler wrote "These controls could represent the largest expansion of federal environmental regulation in decades, and yet they have never been explicitly endorsed, let alone authorized, by Congress.""The proposed regulations would set greenhouse gas emission thresholds above which businesses must file for an EPA permit and complete extra paperwork in order to continue operating. If the EPA wins its court battle and fully rolls out the greenhouse gas regulations, the number of businesses forced into this regulatory regime would grow tremendously — from approximately 14,000 now to as many as 6.1 million."Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/09..."

pak152
pak152

which shows how close minded folks are about information the column is by John Stossel a leading libertarian. but then I guess. Stossel is reporting only on what the EPA has said. oh well just a bunch of sheeple

cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

 Fox is not news. Try again. Propaganda and lies do not count as credible, believable sources.

RTGolden
RTGolden

I don't think you put enough of a bias in this article.  I mean, I could hardly tell you were against pollution.While I happen to agree with you, this issue needs to be opened up for debate and consideration, and all the facts need to be presented for analysis.  Where you lose me is with your snide, obviously biased wording.  To read your article, if we got rid of business and industry, we'd all live forever, with perfect health, and nobody would get crabgrass in their lawns.Which industries do we shut down?  The petroleum industry?  What about all the plastics that are made from petroleum by-products?  You know, all those packages that provide sterility for hospital instruments, the hoses and tubes that are necessary for things like blood transfusions, IV bags and tubes, artificial limbs, joints, etc.  Remember, it's not just the old and infirm that need health care, part of the justification for the health care reform act was to provide said care for "millions of children".I'm not disagreeing with your article Jim, in fact, I'm all for it.  What better way to reduce overpopulation problems and human-caused volatile emmisions than by reducing humans to a pre-industrial age lifespan of 40-60 years?  Oughta make all the liberals happy. Sure we'll have rampant starvation, escalating violence as we degenerate into a survival of the fittest society, disease will eradicate great swaths of the very young and the very old and women won't have to worry about choosing abortions, because childbirth will kill approximately 30% of them anyway.By the way, at least the biased stats i'm putting up here aren't conjecture arrived at by scientifically arranging studies to produce the results I'd like to see.  They're historically accurate representations of society before the Industrial revolution brought us lifesaving technologies on an unprecedented scale.  And the cost of extending lifespans by 30 years, raising the standard of living by leaps and bounds, bringing the world closer together with instantaneous communication was 40 cases of cancer per million of population.Remember Jim, it wont be just SUV's, coal and gas power plants, and obnoxious parkie shopping malls that go away with the demise of industry. It will be solar panels, wind generators, cell phones, computers, bicycles, recyclable water bottles. you get the picture.

ViniVidiDejaVu
ViniVidiDejaVu

Wow! What a giant leap of imagination you have. And a very long rant just to prove that you didn't comprehend what Jim was saying. To help you, Jim said it is not worth reducing EPA regulations to make corporations happy while causing more cancer, other diseases, and higher death rate. You interpreted this to mean shut down businesses, bring civilization to a standstill, and bring deaths due to starvation. The EPA brings doom, gloom, and the paralysis of mankind! Pardon me, but DUH.

Responsible business practice has it's costs, and one of those expenses has to do with not poisoning the very environment in which YOUR kids and grandkids will existing. Protecting the environment is just a cost of doing business; just as advertising, exorbitant bonuses, bribes lobbyists pay to congress persons, etc.

The problem most of you right-wingnuts (don't deny it) have is that rules ruin business. The reality is rule keep you from getting cheated, killed, poisoned, and gypped. History has proved this.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Apparently, you missed the point of my post.  I'll type slowly so you can keep up.  I was matching bias with bias, you know, to prove a point.  Still with me?  Now, pay attention here, this is important, my post was targeted at the obvious bias in JS's writing, not at the point he was making.  The problem most of you libtards, and right-wingnuts, have is that if anyone tries to inject reason into your fantasies, you go apeshit on them and launch into histrionics fit for a Bette Middler farewell tour.  Sorry, I might have gotten too lucid for you to follow.

Anonymous
Anonymous

But the idea that we can have the same standard of living worldwide while incurring the costs of environmental responsibility is naive. We can't.

We can and should have a conversation about what levels of pollution we are willing to accept to maintain our current lifestyle and improve it in the future. But we can't have that discussion until people recognize that you can't just talk about "green technology" and pretend that everyone can have an ipad and a fake hip in this hypothetical green future. 

Stan
Stan

If you want to show a link between lax regulation and cancer deaths, check out the number of cancer cases in Beaumont, Port Arthur or Houston near the oil refineries & chemical plants.  While these businesses provide jobs, they also cause a lot of cancer.   Cancer of course is a very expensive illness to treat which Rick Perry does not want to cover.    Unfortunately, science can not pin point the exact cause of a person's cancer so the appropriate business can be billed for the illness or death that they cause.

214 Cocksucker Lane
214 Cocksucker Lane

Who cares about jobs if you're dead?

I have news for these like-minded fuckers, you are either going to grow old or you are not. Either way, purposely propelling poison into our bodies in the name of commerce earned you a fitful nursing home death.

Diana Powe
Diana Powe

Here's the abstract of a paper in last month's American Economics Review that exactly does what you propose:

This study presents a framework to include environmental externalities into a system of national accounts. The paper estimates the air pollution damages for each industry in the United States. An integrated-assessment model quantifies the marginal damages of air pollution emissions for the US which are multiplied times the quantity of emissions by industry to compute gross damages. Solid waste combustion, sewage treatment, stone quarrying, marinas, and oil and coal-fired power plants have air pollution damages larger than their value added. The largest industrial contributor to external costs is coal-fired electric generation, whose damages range from 0.8 to 5.6 times value added.SOURCE: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles...

MichaelH
MichaelH

As for drilling being worth the price of cancer - in the big picture of it all - cancer caused by drilling will affect a relative few (not trying to be cheeky or cruel).  But - the red flag question should be, 'is the drilling worth the 'price' of water?'.  That will affect all - in our region at least.  

Regarding the nuke waste site... although the eventual cancer cluster out near Simmons' new money maker will likely be rather large, statistically speaking, there's really no need to go all the way to W. TX for evidence of 'landfills' causing cancer - just go to W. Ft. Worth.  I would wager that the community of Lost Creek has more cancer per block than just about any other in the Metroplex, due to the landfill across I-20.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

JimLike many other situations in the past where Dallas jumped into the money pile without looking at the consequences, this issue has to be carefully thought out if the city thinks that drilling is worth the price. Forget the talk about being 'sued'. It'll never happen. But there are those who want you to think it could happen. It's called strategy.We will present new recommendations to the City of Dallas in the very near future that will helpto make Dallas a place you want to live going forward. Without strong regulations, there's going to be huge issues.

G_David
G_David

Thanks for clearing up the fact that we won't actually live going backward.

Ruth Ann Cook
Ruth Ann Cook

SImmons is a serious donor to Perry-some writers have declared  "unlimited funds" available.And this waste disposal site accepts waste from all over the country, from the military, and can potentially house classes 1-3 rad waste, not just "low level,"  All atop  a major aquifer used by at least six states. Thanks, Rick.

Augie
Augie

Nope, not "business friendly" enough and Texas is first and foremost business friendly.  People think business friendly is Rick P in front of an old timey main street shop with a bell on the door when he opens it.  What is really is:  corporate welfare, unregulated pollution of all types, poor labor conditions, a workers compensation system the excludes lawyers by not allowing for much if any compensation, but requires a PHD to work through all of the tricks and traps.  Business friendly is filthy air, water and earth - such as Mr. Simmons buying the right to accept and store radioactive waste in W. Texas.  Business friendly means taking advantage of lax regulations and not paying the real price for activities now, and instead leaving a legacy of carcinogens and other pollutants for Texans to pay the real price with their health and ultimately their lives for generations to come.  Not nearly enough people give a damn about these consequences, so long as it doesn't affect them right now in this week's paycheck, so they keep voting R and thinking that is in their own best interest.

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