Matt Yglesias has a Stopped Clock moment re: pollution and property rights, observing the oddity that, as far as the mainstream status quo has defined it, the “side” considered to represent property rights has an asterisk next to the term.
Far as I can tell, the underlying view when it comes to natural resources on the Right is that no one owns them, and anything that is done to them has no effect, so whatever. Unless it’s oil, in which case they say that’s owned by the company drilling for it under a government grant of permission (and extensive subsidies), the people in the actual area of the drilling be damned. The concept of common property being completely ignored, the underlying assumption left is a curious one when you consider who holds it: that property begins and ends at the individual as defined by the State. Don’t have a stamped piece of paper saying “I own this river”? Tough shit, then.
In my view, the imposition on the environment is rightfully seen as not the objection to fouling it, but the claim that allowed it in the first place without the say of the people already living off of it. If this were recognized, and as a result access were a matter of paying rental fees sufficient to compensate for use and damages, pollution as an issue would practically solve itself since outright abuse would be too expensive to bother. Regarding the example Matt cites, the people that utilize Coffee Creek and the Ouachita River have a clear and ongoing tort claim against Georgia-Pacific, and by extension the Koch brothers. The political system we live within though generally sneers at the commons, so odds of justice being served here are poor.