Wednesday, March 28, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Ignoring pollution

Here is a truly baffling idea for the state watchdog agency on the environment: Ignore every anonymous complaint about pollution of Arkansas waters, air and land. Yet that is what a bill that sailed through the Arkansas House of Representatives last week will do. Now we must depend upon the state Senate to protect us from this grievous assault on our environment, which is a long shot, or else hope that Gov. Beebe exercises his veto.

House Bill 2653 by Rep. Daryl Pace, R-Siloam Springs, would forbid the state Department of Environmental Quality to investigate any complaint about pollution unless the people complaining fully identified themselves in writing. The Arkansas Farm Bureau wanted the bill, which the department, the attorney general and the federal Environmental Protection Agency opposed.

“We feel like (the bill) would very much be pro-landowner and pro-agriculture,” the Farm Bureau lobbyist said. Well, yes! The Farm Bureau’s wishes are ordinarily the legislature’s commands. But what about the public, which depends upon the already weak Department of Environmental Quality to protect the waters and earth? Both the department and the federal agency said anonymous complaints were vital sources of information. The best hope is that Beebe will veto the bill. It will be a good test of his independence.