With Bill, Rep. Matt Gaetz Seeks to Eliminate Tourism and Jobs in His Own District
This past Friday, first-term Republican Representative Matt Gaetz introduced a new piece of legislation that stands to directly kill jobs and indirectly harm the industry in the district he represents, possibly setting a new speed record for counterproductive behavior in the U.S. Congress.
Gaetz’s bill, H.R. 861, would if passed entirely eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency. No reforms and no replacement of EPA function are envisioned in the bill.
“It is time to take back our legislative power from the EPA and abolish it permanently…. This legislation abolishes the EPA effective December 31, 2018,” Gaetz wrote in an e-mail message to his congressional colleagues. With the elimination of the EPA, there would no longer be any agency empowered to stop corporations from polluting American cities, mountains, rivers, or beaches.
In an odd twist of fate, Rep. Gaetz’s legislation stands to negatively impact the 1st Congressional District of Florida that he was elected to represent. The Gulf Ecology Division of the EPA studies the relationship between on-land activities and water quality in order to maintain safe water conditions that sustain Florida’s considerable tourism industry. The GED is headquartered in Gulf Breeze, Florida, where it employs 123 people. If Gaetz’s legislation passes, 123 jobs will be immediately be lost in his district.
Over the long term, Gaetz’s legislation has the potential to cause serious harm to the Pensacola area that he represents. The area’s economy relies on a large number of visits by tourists to Pensacola’s famous beaches and the Gulf Islands National Seashore, but those visits are in turn dependent upon the health and safety of the Pensacola area coast. Unfortunately, before the creation of the EPA Pensacola’s waters were not that safe. Before the EPA was created, a private wood treatment factory released cancer-causing dioxins into Pensacola Bay without consequence. Since 1983, the EPA has been working to clean up the old factory, protecting Pensacola Bay and its tourism industry. The EPA has done the good work of cleaning up another wood treatment facility near Pensacola’s residential neighborhoods that poisoned residents’ soil. Before the EPA intervened, the Pensacola Naval Air Station was allowing radium paint and insecticides to leak in its bayside location. “Most of it is contamination that occurred before the environmental rules came out. People used to dump stuff wherever,” explains cleanup specialist Greg Campbell. These are just a few of the number of EPA projects to clean up pollution in Pensacola and make the city a safer place to live and to visit. They would be scuttled if Matt Gaetz’s bill passed, and the old “dump stuff wherever” standard would quickly return.
Although Rep. Gaetz’s bill is remarkably harmful to his own district, the impact of H.R. 861 will not be limited to Pensacola if it passes. Similar losses to jobs, to human health and to ecological health will be felt across the country. The Republican Party has frequently been criticized as the party of danger and damage; Matt Gaetz’s impulsive action does little to dispel this image.