The Rachel Maddow Show | November 21, 2011
>>> okay. join think tree huggers , do you think "a," dirty hippies, "b," mom, or "c," richard nixon ? you should think richard nixon .
>> our land, this land that is ours together is a great and a good land. it is also an unfinished land. and the challenge of perfecting it is the summons of the '70s. it is in that spirit that i address myself to those great issues facing our nation which are above partisanship.
>> one of those things that was above partisanship that year, the creation of the environmental protection agency . the epa . richard nixon established it with support from congress in 1970 . in that state of the union address , he went on to say, "we can no longer afford to consider air and water common property, free to be abused by anyone with regard to the consequences." yes, i'm unsnarkly quoting richard nixon . the epa had photographers document the consequences of environmental neglect, of why our country needed something like an epa . these are some of those images. in 1970 , there was no clean water act . that's a woman holding water from her well. no clean air act , right? virtually no laws regulating how much toxic waste companies could dump into the water. the epa changed all that after richard nixon created it. richard nixon , by the way, in case you haven't heard, was a republican. today's republicans blame the epa for pretty much everything wrong in the country and that's only half hyperbole. seven of the ten jobs agenda ideas put forward by house republicans this august, ideas meant to create jobs, were things that would kill environmental regulations. seven of the ten were to undermine the epa in some way. anti- epa politics are so extreme in republican politics right now that kentucky senator rand paul recently argued against power plant pollution rules by actually sort of arguing that power plant emotions might be good for you. listen.
>> now, one of the other things people argue about and one of the big health concerns they have with pollution is with regard to asthma. the interesting thing is is that if you look at all the statistics on all of the emissions from our power plants , all of these declining lines are emissi emissions. we have decreased pollution and rising incidence of asthma. so either they're inversely proportional or they're not related at all.
>> maybe they're inversely proportion proportional. senator rand paul proposing it's possible that maybe power plant emissions cure asthma. think of the implications for medicine. feeling sick ? suck a tail pipe. the "associated press" called out senator paul 's baffling pseudoscience. it turns out senator paul 's biggest donor is the delicious, delicious coal industry . republican presidential candidates seem to be trying to one up each other this week. one up each other each week in how against the epa they are. candidates michele bachmann , newt gingrich and ron paul , runs in the family, i guess, are promising to dismantle the epa altogether. rick perry and herman cain want to overhaul it somehow. the ones not pledging to immediately abolish the agency or take it apart piece by piece are huing to this year's mystery science economics. broadly speaking, republican candidates line this year, that wall street blowing up in 2008 is not why the economy has gone off a cliff. no, no, they say it's richard nixon 's epa that did it. joining us now for "the interview" is not richard nixon but the administrator of our nation's environmental protection agency , lisa jackson . administrator jackson. thank you for being here.
>> that's a great intro. i'm not richard nixon .
>> you don't look a thing like him. it seems impossible that one of the republican legislative legacies of the century is the epa , because it seems that environmental protection has been an issue on which there is a spark partisan divide. is that fair?
>> yes. the fundamental bedrock laws of our country. and i loved -- i actually learned a new phrase, above partisanship. and i keep saying, i said that when i took office as administrator. the environment has always been nonpartisan, above partisanship. there's no one who doesn't argue that we should have clean air , clean water , a clean and healthy place to live.
>> the republican argument, though, is that in trying to ensure clean air , clean water and a healthy place to live, there has been regulatory overreach and that the epa essentially kills jobs by making it impossible for businesses to be profitable.
>> this is a great example, what i'm calling the fact- free zone inside the beltway. there is not one credible economic study, and in fact, there have been a raft of them in recent days, that has shown that environmental protections hurt job growth . in fact, epa 's been around for 41 years, as you said. during that time our gdp has grown over 200%. there's something like less than half of a percent of job losses that are attributed to any kind of government regulation . i want to be clear on this. i'm absolutely of the belief that we should have a smart, efficient government. that we should make sure that our regulations are up to date. that the standards we set reflect the latestin ing technology. all wonderful, good things. to tell the american people , the way i'm going to get you employed is to ask your child to suck on a tail pipe, to breathe your pollution is the choice being put before americans. it's a false choice .
>> is it -- does it make sense to you that in a crimped environment we have right now, crimped economic environment where people are desperate for something, some way to move forward, that the regulatory environment broadly and environmental regulation , itself, would become a target? i think you're right it's essentially operating in a fact- free zone . in the case of rand paul , the studies they're citing are sort of branded disney. but is there -- does -- it does also resonate with me that this argument would work politically, that people would think it's the heavy hand of government that's holding us back.
>> when people are scared, when they're worried about the economy, attacks on government pick up. epa has been the subject of attacks before. there's sort of a pendulum that swings back and forth. what's really scary now is that pendulum has swung to a pretty extreme place. we've seen over 170 votes in this congress, alone, most of them initiated by the house republicans, to overturn air and water rules. we're talking about the kind of votes that will literally gut the clean air act . something most americans are sitting at home assuming will be there to protect their families. it's really important to remind folks that we're not talking about the ability to see across the street which is a nice thing, we're talking about pollution that gets into your lungs, makes you sick. if you have a respiratory ailment, you'll be at the hospital or the doctor. if you're vulnerable, we're talking premature deaths. just one of our rule the, the mercury rules that the president talked about in this joint session to congress is estimated to save, to prevent 17,000 premature deaths a year. so we're not talking about the abstract clean air act . and even those pictures. we're talking about public health . we're talking about who pays those costs. health costs or do polluters pay to reduce emissions?
>> one of the areas of regulation and, i guess, and lack of regulation that's been a lot of concern to a lot of people this year is fracking. the means by which people release petroleum by-products from the earth and can be a very efficient way of getting at energy sources , but people are also concerned we do not know what the chemicals are that are injected into the earth in order to do that. do you think that there should be additional regulation of that? and does epa have enough room to maneuver in order to protect drinking water supplies in a fracking environment?
>> so epa 's in the middle of a study. it's going to take us another year and a half to look at the impacts of fracking on ground water . i think it's really important to get scientific information to show the american people what we know. epa has access to more data than is publicly available. and also to have our scientists look and crunch those numbers. in the meantime, we've also said where there are concerns, if there need to be additional enforcement, we can do that work. listen, as an environmentalist, i think natural gas is important to our country. i do think that it is a potential big change for us. it has immediate benefits from a pollution side. it has immediate benefits from an energy security side. but what we have to be able to say to people is that in the process of getting this natural gas , we're not going to screw up your ground water or drinking water or your air. there are air impacts potentially as well. states are stepping up and doing a good job. i always say, it doesn't have to be epa that regulates the 10,000 wells it might go in, but there needs to be standards and they need to be transparent. when it comes to the chemicals in the fracking fluid, that's a fair point. people want to know what's being injected into their water.
>> epa administrator lisa jackson . i know you don't to very more interviews like this. thank you for being here.
>> i'm happy to be here.
>> nice to see you.