First came the War on Coal. Now, there's a War on the Fourth of July.
Or so the GOP would have you believe. In their tireless crusade against the Environmental Protection Agency, Senate Republicans are claiming an agency proposal will invite environmental lawsuits over fireworks displays and “foster expanded efforts to undermine this form of celebration,” reports The Hill.
The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a rule that clarifies which federal waters and wetlands are under their legal jurisdiction. To the ten Republican senators who wrote a letter of complaint to the agency, this is “overreach” because projects that might pollute these waterways would require approval. The EPA says this is simply a legal clarification and does not offer any new protections, while the GOP letter warns this will open recreational activities—such as fireworks set over water—to environmental litigation.
In the letter, the senators cite one almost-victim of the EPA’s "war." In November, two Nevada residents sued a Lake Tahoe tourism authority for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act more than 1,000 times over five years with its fireworks displays. Republicans didn’t mention what this lawsuit has to do with the rule change, and failed to mention that Lake Tahoe residents can still enjoy their fireworks—just now with slightly more oversight and cleanup, per the terms of the lawsuit settlement.
Those Nevadans had it right: There should be more scrutiny of fireworks displays, which don't just pose hazards to fingers and over-hairsprayed hairdos. The explosion scatters a chemical mixture usually including potassium perchlorate, which sets off the gunpowder, and toxic metals that make the fireworks colorful. Various studies show these chemicals could be damaging to human health and harm aquatic ecosystems, posing enough of a risk to prompt warnings from public health officials. So if nothing else, perhaps the EPA rule will push organizers toward readily accessible eco-friendly fireworks.
Rebecca Leber is a staff writer for The New Republic.