Roth: Happy Earth Day

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 16, 2018.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Roth: Happy Earth Day

Earth Day is approaching. It’s celebrated annually on April 22, a Sunday this year. Events are held in places all across the globe to promote environmental protection. It is even recognized as the largest secular observance in the world. There are some great events in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman that should be fun and educational.

April 22 was designated Earth Day in 1970 when 20 million Americans came together to both combat against and bring awareness to pollution, toxic waste dumping, pesticides and numerous other human activity that was destructive to the environment. In the couple of decades leading up to the first Earth Day, we were fighting the Vietnam War, our country’s industrial economy was growing, American cars were large (think V8 sedans that ran on leaded gas). The condition of the environment was not something that was paid much attention by most people.

The first effort to address environmental issues at a federal level was through the Resources and Conservation Act in 1959, which was the precursor to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

Much due credit is given to Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, which was published in 1962, between the two acts, for elevating awareness on a global level. President Richard Nixon signed NEPA into law, and soon reorganized all related efforts into the Environmental Protection Agency and confirmed its first administrator in late 1970. Policies to follow include the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Citizens, both Democrats and Republicans, joined together to come up with practical ways to protect the environment.

These foundational environmental policies weathered administrations of all sorts until last year when the Trump administration began to undermine them by chipping away at the Clean Power Plan, which was passed as part of the Clean Air Act. For now, we will have to see what happens. Perhaps the clock will run out on President Donald Trump’s term in office before a replacement can make its way through the process.

While we cannot control much of what goes on in D.C., we can help keep Oklahoma beautiful by celebrating Earth Day and supporting our local and national nonprofit organizations that work hard to keep Mother Earth clean and green. There is plenty of fascinating research taking place all over the world to better understand human effect on climate change.

Earth Day is a great time to consider the recent studies. We can all do our part to remain engaged and pay attention, and importantly, voice our opinions to the people we’ve elected when we don’t agree with a position they’ve adopted. About a billion people are expected to celebrate Earth Day. I hope you will, too.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.