02/23/2011 06:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mississippi Gov. Barbour Wants His State to Be Healthy -- But Not Necessarily Yours

At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was one of this year's piñatas. First, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took his stick and made a major swipe at the EPA by calling for its shutdown and elimination. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was a little more cautious, merely stating that through the EPA, the Obama administration is "trying to achieve through regulation what it can't pass through legislation." Following up on that statement, Barbour told a group of Kentucky coal executives that the EPA is over-regulating the coal industry with its strict environmental standards.

Both Gingrich and Barbour are rumored to be getting ready to run for president, so it's possible that they're just preaching to the greenhouse gas-denying crowd. It's not unheard of to make extreme pronouncements when trying to achieve the highest elected office in the land, but doing so leaves a very wide berth for the discussion and analysis of such statements.

Recently, Mississippi was ranked as the 50th healthiest state in the nation by the United Health Foundation. This annual ranking looks at 22 indicators of health, including everything from how many children receive recommended vaccinations, to obesity and smoking rates, to cancer deaths. Scores for each state are determined by gathering data from a variety of government and nongovernmental databases and then calculating how much each state is better or worse than the national average for each measure.

With this in mind, perhaps Barbour's real intent is to bring down other states' comparative rankings so that Mississippi's can begin to rise. Showing an improved healthy outlook in his home state certainly would be good politicking, and besides, it's really difficult to get any worse than the bottom of the list.

On the other hand, Barbour also recently petitioned the EPA regarding its serving Mississippi's own environmental needs. Just last August he sent a letter to the agency to halt the construction of a 27,000-square-foot slot machine facility in Jones County proposed by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians because its wastewater system would cause a hardship on the groundwater in that area. In Barbour's own words:

"Because the current design of the wastewater system jeopardizes the safety of the water supply in the area where both tribal members and Mississippi citizens live and work, I ask this agency to stand behind its...comments and enforce all applicable environmental laws and regulations. Those comments make clear that the slot parlor as planned will not live up to federal environmental standards."

Is Gov. Barbour practicing a double standard or does he simply want to create an unhealthy environment in any state other than his own? Either way, his actions and statements just don't pass the smell test.

Jonathan A. Schein is CEO/ScheinMedia, publisher of