It’s the mantra that makes me want to grab the TV remote, smack the person who held it, and change the channel ASAP away from FOX News.
THERE’S TOO MUCH REGULATION!
Me? I ♥ Regulations. I dote on them. I support them.
I understand them and why they are there. I even lecture about them (and not just here on Word Press – people actually pay me money to do so).* Regulations, I always tell folks, are the IKEA instructions that accompany the bookcase. They are the “how-tos.”
Laws are enacted in response to our understanding that a problem exists, and we need to change what we do as a country to prevent it from happening again. At the same time, we hopefully have enough vision to see some of the related problems that might occur and try to prevent them from occurring. A few examples:
Our current Food and Drug laws, the Food and Drug Act of 1936 and the Food and Drug Act Amendments (commonly known as the Kefauver-Harris Amendments). The FDCA was first enacted after a manufacturer added antifreeze (without testing its effects on people, animals or using their brains very much at all) to a cough remedy to make it more palatable to the kiddies. The then-current law didn’t actually say that they couldn’t add antifreeze. Guess what happened! 105 people died.
Another disaster involving a drug that was tested and tried, thalidomide, was found to cause serious birth defects in the babies born to pregnant women. It wasn’t ever approved in the US thanks to Dr. Frances Kelsey
Laws designed to safeguard our waters and land came about mostly in the 1970s after two hundred years of treating our country’s land and water like a sewer. Diseases were springing up in neighborhoods where chemical companies had dumped chemicals.
Our rivers were polluted. If you fell into the Potomac River when I first moved here in 1979, you had to get a typhoid shot. The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned.
And so our then-FUNCTIONAL Congress (made up of folks who understood why they were elected and who believed in compromise and who believed in the need for government) passed laws to protect us and our land and our water and our air. Now, our hazardous materials and hazardous waste are to be carefully monitored under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act. Under the Clean Water Act. The Clean Air Act. And a bunch of others designed to keep you and me safe and keep industry behaving itself.
But laws only say:
We’re Gonna Fix This Problem
Regulations give us step by step instructions on
How to Fix This Problem
Regulations are very specific. In order to comply, you must do A,B and C, according to specific instructions. When regulations are promulgated the agency asks the regulated industry to comment on them, how to make them more manageable, workable, less expensive to follow. But the regulations cover testing, manufacturing techniques, storage, monitoring, record-keeping, transportation, the works. Regulations have the force of law. If a company doesn’t follow them, they are liable for penalties and/or imprisonment.
I ♥ Regulations
Regulations protect me. They protect you. They protect the United States of America from bad manufacturers. They penalize the bad ones so that they don’t get away with messing up our planet. They must be strong enough so that manufacturers fear them and therefore follow them. Slaps on the wrist are ignored when there is money to be made by ignoring regulations. They must be strong. (Because remember, there are idiots who would add antifreeze to cough syrup for a buck.)
Regulations are the rules that society agrees to adhere to often in spite of the fact that they are a serious pain in the ass.
Regulations, I say to those still awake in my lectures, are like the IKEA instructions. The furniture is no good without them. But they need to be followed.
Take this week’s Freedom Industries leak of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a heavy-duty chemical used in processing coal. Current estimates are that this leak — from a facility brilliantly located upriver from a water purification plant — contaminated the drinking water of more than 100,000 residents of West Virginia.
Freedom Industries has said don’t know when the spill started. They don’t know how much spilled. They don’t know whether the stuff that has made the entire area smell like licorice is, in fact, terribly toxic to people or if so, how toxic it is to human health.
They are supposed to know or they didn’t comply with the regulations.
They are supposed to measure the amount in the tanks. Frequently.
They are supposed to record the amount they add or remove from the tanks. Every single time they do this.
They are supposed to test. Frequently.
They are supposed to monitor for leaks. Frequently.
They are supposed to comply with the regulations. It seems as if they did not.
They are supposed to make sure that they don’t fucking contaminate the fucking water for a hundred thousand people and possibly, probably more.
And if they didn’t they should go to jail.
I’m betting that they didn’t — that they didn’t follow the regulations. Time will tell.
Just imagine what the rest of our country, our land, our rivers, our air, would be like if there were no regulations. And you know, don’t you, that the Republican party is oh-so-determined to cut regulations. To protect industry. Not you. Not me. Industry. Like Freedom Industries.
Do me a favor. Think of Freedom Industries whenever you hear someone bitch about the loss of freedom from regulations.
Think of what we’d lose without regulation.
* * *
* From 1980-1989, I analyzed environmental regulations and drafted memos to folks on the steps they needed to comply with the regulations that are designed to keep our land, water and air cleaner.
For the past 10 years, I’ve examined a zillion company documents that show how they comply with their IKEA instructions.
* * *
Yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t be around much. But sometimes I just can’t shut up.