My wife and I moved to Knoxville last March from Dallas. We assumed we would get away from large-city air pollution, but air quality alerts began in April, a flashback we did not need. Now, I well know Texas will give any state a hard fight for a ranking at the bottom of any social indicator, but really, Tennessee does not have to compete. But we are. In an Earth Day attack on environmental protection, Knoxville's congressional representative, John Duncan Jr. equated tree counts with... well, I'm not sure, but anyway, he knows environmental regulations have sent millions of jobs overseas and have delayed road and runway construction 10 to14 years, that politicians have created too many parks, and that environmentalism is just socialism with a new name ("Environmental Policies Need Balance," Roll Call, 12 April, or see Rep. Duncan's website press release).
Why, although Knox and surrounding counties have some of the nation's worst air pollution, does the area not have auto emission testing, while western Tennessee counties do? Relatively new but untuned cars will choke you with half-burned gas here. Texas is no great model, but emissions testing and kill bounties on clunkers noticeably helped Dallas.
The near-universal reaction to my announcement that we were moving to Tennessee was a questioning raise of eyebrow, followed by, "It is beautiful there." I believe environmental protection can serve as a foundation, not an impediment, to economic development. See Silicon Valley as evidence that industry and knowledge can flourish where the environment is protected. Or see Austin, which has both the strictest regs in Texas and regularly ranks at the top of national job growth/life quality charts.