July 18, 2014
The Tulsa World
By World's Editorial Writers
Bureaucracies aren't people. That’s evidenced by two federal agencies’ wrongheaded decision to cut off a grant program awarding surplus military vehicles to rural fire departments.
Thanks to some tough words by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and Gov. Mary Fallin, the Defense Logistics Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency struck a pact restoring the program.
Inhofe is a senior member of the Senate committees that oversee the EPA and the DOD, and he enlisted other lawmakers to keep the surplus program alive.
We’re tempted to say, all’s well that ends well, but before everyone moves on, let’s review: Recently, the EPA and Pentagon announced they were discontinuing the program, citing the carbon emissions of the vehicles. Never mind the fact that repurposed surplus military vehicles are the engine that keeps many outlying fire departments going.
In Oklahoma, rural fire departments use 9,000 vehicles and other equipment, valued at more than $150 million for that program.
We support sensible emission controls, but let’s be realistic. In the past decade, at least 80 Oklahomans have been killed or injured by wildfires that burned 300,000 acres and destroyed 800 homes. As Fallin pointed out in a recent letter to the feds, “wildfires themselves are environmentally destructive events that produce carbon emissions and other toxins. The EPA decision to hamstring fire departments seeking to control those fires is counter-productive to its own environmental goals.”
Even with the pact, Inhofe argues there’s still far too much red tape for the rural departments, which must keep track of vehicles, making sure that when they become obsolete, they are returned to the feds to be destroyed.
Rural fire departments, underfunded and overworked, frankly, do the work of the lord, trying to protect huge swaths of Oklahoma.
They need all the help they can get. Last week, Inhofe and Fallin had their back