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When politicians keep promises, real change is possible

Ripley County, Ind. wetland
LANDOWNERS CARE: Here is a beautiful restored wetland on a farm in Ripley County. Farmers care about the environment; they just expect civil treatment from groups like IDEM.
Choice for head of EPA was a shot fired across the bow!

President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination for director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was a shot across the bow of radical environmentalists who have held sway over environmental policy in the U.S. for decades. Trump nominated Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general. He has a reputation for battling against what he sees as EPA overreach.

Whether or not Pruitt is confirmed by Congress remains to be seen. And if he does get the nod, will one man be able to turn around an entire agency? Only time will answer those questions.

No matter who leads the agency in the next four years, what’s clear is that it will hardly be business as usual. Trump promised change, and when he nominated Pruitt, he sent a clear message that when it comes to reining in overreach and defusing regulations that hamstring farmers and businesses, he meant every word.

TRUMP NOMINEE: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the EPA.

Groups like Friends of the Earth have opposed several Trump nominations, but perhaps none more vehemently than Pruitt. If you’re on that group’s email list or visit its website, you will soon figure out why they’re upset. Some might say that those backing regulations and proposals that impede progress in agriculture and related industries, including logging, have had their day. You might argue that they’ve had like-minded people at the helm of key agencies for a very long time — perhaps far too long.

Hoosiers should relate
No one more than a Hoosier should know what happens when voters finally elect a candidate who actually follows through on his or her promises. Flashback to 2004. A feisty politician named Mitch Daniels crisscrossed the state in a motor home, making bold promises few thought he would keep.

It didn’t take long to figure out he wasn’t a typical politician. He meant what he said. Not everyone agreed with what he promised or later did, but no one can deny that he meant business. Those who were most surprised were the people used to business as usual. They couldn’t believe a politician would actually keep his word on key issues.

One of Daniels' biggest promises was to shake up the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Looking back, no one would argue it was anywhere near as out of control as EPA seems to be today. But the department's reputation for working with farmers and understanding their issues was less than stellar. Various farm groups, either privately or publicly, urged, if not begged, Daniels to straighten out the agency if elected. They wanted to protect the environment as much as anyone, but they were tired of what seemed like overreach, often presented with a condescending attitude.

One of the first things Daniels did after he took office in January 2005 was what he said he would do —  shake up IDEM. Many top staff positions soon turned over. And within a matter of months, the change in attitude was obvious. IDEM still enforced Indiana’s laws related to environmental protection, but the sense of "us vs. them" between farmers and IDEM soon softened. For the most part, it appears a workable atmosphere continues today.

So will EPA change overnight with a new leader, whoever it is? Probably not. Can the culture change over time? A history lesson based on an Indiana example says it could.

It could happen because of a unique candidate who will seemingly do what he said he would do. Let’s hope this particular change works out as well for America as it did for Indiana.


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