Trump’s War on the Environment

By Christopher R Rice

President Trump released a statement on Earth Day declaring that his administration is committed to maintaining his personal wealth at the expense of the environment.

“My Administration is committed to keeping our air and water polluted, to giving away our forests, lakes, and open spaces to Big Oil and to killing off those pesky endangered species,” the statement read.

The Environmental Protection Agency deregulated some major sources of toxic air pollution, which could have huge implications for public health.

Under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to regulate facilities that emit one or more of 189 hazardous air toxics like benzene, dioxin, and lead that cause health problems such as cancer and birth defects.

“The possibility seems very likely that some [downgraded] sources could actually increase their emissions as long as they don’t hit the cap,” said Janice Nolen, assistant vice president for national policy at the American Lung Association, who added that changing these rules has removed an important tool for the public to enforce air quality laws.

In a press release, Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said the policy was intended to “reduce regulatory burden for industries and the states.”

Changing the “once in, always in” rule has been a long-running project for the EPA’s Wehrum.

He previously spent six years in the EPA’s air office under President George W. Bush. In between his previous and current government posts, Wehrum represented clients including the American Petroleum Institute, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council, and the Utility Air Regulatory Group, many of which wanted to end the “once in, always in” rule.

Senate Republicans sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asking repeal the air pollution policy, and Wehrum, who rejoined the EPA in November, obliged.

NYTimes: Since taking office, President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from the Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as overly burdensome to the fossil fuel industry.

To date, the Trump administration has sought to reverse more than 70 environmental rules, according to a New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School’s Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker, Columbia Law School’s Climate Tracker and other sources.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been involved in more than a third of the policy reversals identified by The Times. Scott Pruitt, the head of the E.P.A. who spearheaded the administration’s agenda of environmental deregulation, resigned after facing a number of ethics scandals. Andrew Wheeler, the new acting chief of the agency, is a former coal lobbyist who also wants to roll back environmental regulations.

All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could lead to at least 80,000 extra deaths per decade and cause respiratory problems for more than one million people, according to a recent analysis conducted by researchers from Harvard University. That number, however, is likely to be “a major underestimate of the global public health impact,” said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health.

BusinessInsider: Trump signed a bill repealing an Obama-era regulation that prevented coal mining companies from dumping debris and toxic waste into streams and rivers

Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, who said that carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to climate change, to head up the Environmental Protection Agency

The Trump administration refused to ban a common pesticide used in food that has been shows to affect the development of children’s brains

The White House’s budget proposal slashed funding for federal programs aimed at environmental protection, like the EPA

Trump canceled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions.

Loosened a Clinton-era rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters.

Trump revoked a 2015 rule that prohibited the use of hydrofluorocarbons – powerful greenhouse gases – as a replacement for ozone-depleting substances.

Changed rules for oil and gas facilities to allow methane leaks to go unrepaired during unscheduled or emergency shutdowns, and proposed withdrawing guidlines that reduce emissions from existing sources.

Trump lifted a freeze on new coal leases on public lands.

Trump rescinded water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands.

Trump withdrew a requirement that Gulf oil rig owners prove they can cover the costs of removing rigs once they have stopped producing.

Trump opened up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In April 2018, the Interior Department announced it was taking steps to prepare for a lease sale in the refuge.

Trump wants to make it easier to drill in national parks. Trump ordered review of regulations on oil and gas drilling in national parks where mineral rights are privately owned.

Trump proposed changes to regulations for oil well control and blowout prevention systems implemented after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

Trump recommended shrinking or opening to commercial fishing three marine protected areas.

Trump revoked directive for federal agencies to cut impacts on water, wildlife, land and other natural resources of development projects.

Trump revoked a 2016 order protecting the northern Bering Sea region in Alaska.

Trump said that his executive order reversed Obama’s “Arctic leasing ban.” It directed the Interior Department to reconsider actions by Obama that put large swaths of the Arctic Ocean off limits to oil drilling. The tribes say the Obama order was prompted to address the effects of climate change and increased shipping.

AnchorageDailyNews: “Everything we have worked for has pretty much gone out the window,” said Frank Oxereok, from Wales and an elder from the group, in the statement. “Indigenous people rely on resources in areas that we live.”

Oxereok singled out Murkowski, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, for particular criticism.

“This may destroy our way of life and I’m really disappointed in Lisa Murkowski, who was standing next to the president when he signed this order,” he said.

Trump removed a number of species from the endangered list (including the Yellowstone grizzly bear.)

Trump withdrew proposed limits on endangered marine mammals and sea turtles unintentionally caught by fishing nets on the West Coast.

Trump proposed elimination of two programs limiting children’s exposure to lead paint, which is known to damage brain and nervous system development.

Trump withdrew a proposed rule reducing pollutants, including air pollution, at sewage treatment plants.

Trump suspended a rule, known as Waters of the United States, that protected tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Trump reversed restrictions on the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks designed to cut down on litter despite a Park Service report that the effort worked.

Reuters: Environmental groups sued the Trump administration on Wednesday challenging moves they say weaken protections for rivers, wetlands and other waterways.

The actions follow an executive order by President Donald Trump in February 2017 that directed the Environmental Protection Agency to work toward rescinding a clean water rule.

“This is yet another gift by the Trump administration to big agribusiness operations, allowing more agricultural pollutants on our food and in our environment,” Adam Keats, a senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement online.

“The EPA’s mission use to be to protect public health and the environment, but under Trump the EPA’s new mission is to protect corporate earnings. It’s very concerning to see.”

Trump signed a bill repealing an anti-corruption rule that required energy companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.

Trump signed an unusual act of Congress rolling back a regulation to protect streams from mining pollution, President Donald Trump made good on his promise to ease up on coal mining.

The repeal will mean more greenhouse gas pollution from burning coal. It’s also bad news for scores of little-known imperiled species, such as nearly 50 types of freshwater mussels that live in waters affected by mining.

As with so many regulations, the rules being overturned are costly to industry but have far-reaching environmental benefits.

One of Bernhardt’s recent papers found that in southern West Virginia alone, coal companies had blasted apart more than 1.5 cubic miles of bedrock and dumped it into 1,544 valleys. An earlier study found that by 2005, 5 percent of southern West Virginia’s land surface had been consumed by mines while 6 percent of its streams had been buried in “valley fill.”

The debris leaches heavy metals and minerals that elevate the water’s salinity for miles downstream.

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