The second administrator of the EPA, Russell Train, passed away today at the age of 92. This loss is assuredly great for his family, but it is also a loss for the environmental community and citizens of conscience throughout the country.
You see, Train was a Republican.
I’m not trying to be partisan and say there aren’t green elephants out there – surely there are. But when Mitt Romney openly mocks taking action on climate change during his keynote speech of the Republican convention, it sends the wrong signals – not just to folks concerned about extreme weather events, climate refugees, and other effects of climate change, but Romney’s statements ripple throughout his own party.
He’s planning on gutting the EPA, drilling in the Arctic, fracking the shalefields and continuing the destruction of Appalachia and the Powder River Basin.
That’s just plain unacceptable.
Less environmental enforcement means more people will get sick, more public land taken for the profit of a very few, a destabilized climate and the destruction of those wild spaces that predicate so much of the American psyche.
That brings us to Russell Train.
Train’s achievements at EPA and CEQ are some of the pillars of a safer, less toxic world for all Americans. This includes the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). And of course, he is widely believed to have been the driver behind the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is the cornerstone document of environmental protection from state and federal actions.
Surely his work didn’t end there, as he spent much of his life working with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and supporting a laundry list of causes that would be the envy of any progressive.
But he was a Republican.
He didn’t let his political affiliation blur one fundamental point: clean air, clean water, and a stable climate are not partisan issues. They are fundamental rights that all people deserve regardless of any immutable or social characteristic.
It’s time to get back to basics: We are all downstream. We are all in this together. And despite our political party or affiliation, we can all do our part to make this a cleaner, safer, and a more sustainable planet.