THE BLOG
03/13/2013 05:43 pm ET Updated May 13, 2013

Seeing Red

The Republican members of Congress most outspoken about rolling back environmental regulations have been found to hail from states in greatest need of stricter enforcement.

It is a classic case of the "chickens come home to roost" -- and Utah has come to that sorry realization as its urban areas experience increasing stretches of severe air pollution. The good people of Utah have no one to blame but themselves, and it is not just because they are the principle emitters of the pollutants. They have not helped matters by sending to Congress a delegation with one of the worst environmental voting records on Capitol Hill. State officials are scrambling to turn things around. Nevertheless, they can expect little aid for a long term solution from Washington as long as Utah has environmental deadbeats representing its interests in Congress. And Utah is not alone.

The correlation between the ideological environmental negativity of other Republican-controlled "red" state congressional delegations and sub-par conditions in their respective jurisdictions remains striking. Maybe it shouldn't be, given these federal lawmakers usually mirror official hostility back home towards environmental regulation (and in some instances, the very existence of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

Upon reflection, there is no surprise that Mississippi is the leader among all states in regard to the most pesticides in the water; Louisiana features the fastest loss of wetlands; Tennessee has the most sewer overflows; Kansas the most cases of pathogens in the water; and Texas the most carbon emissions. All of these states' congressional delegations seem oblivious to their home fronts' dubious distinctions and are in the vanguard of those calling for relaxation in environmental regulation.

An Institute for Southern Studies survey provides further corroboration of this phenomenon with its list of the 10 environmentally unhealthiest states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

Along the same lines, United Health Foundation researchers recently identified the five unhealthiest states in the union as Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia and South Carolina. Environmental conditions were not the only factors in compiling this list, but certainly were instrumental.

Documented affirmation of this linkage between anti-environmental crusading in Washington and deteriorating conditions in home districts is provided by the League of Conservation Voters, the research arm of the national environmental movement. Its 2012 environmental scorecard identifies the representatives from all the aforementioned states as well as Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wyoming possessing the worst voting records in Congress.

That leaves it up to the voters in those states to recognize that "what goes around comes around" and choose their elected officials accordingly. Otherwise, change for the better in their quality of life will be problematic at best.

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