Published in the Delaware County Daily Times Thursday, October 17, 2019
Environment Protection Regulations Under Attack!
By Joseph Batory
The Washington swamp is slimier than ever. In the past two years, the federal government has been restocked with more than 164 former lobbyists who now have influential governmental positions.
In the worst example, at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly half of these political appointees have previously had strong ties to the industries that the EPA is supposed to regulate to protect America’s citizenry.
The Associated Press has reported that among these EPA appointees are numerous individuals who formerly worked as registered lobbyists, executives or lawyers for fossil fuel companies, chemical manufacturers, or other corporate clients.
So, it is hardly surprising that the Trump Administration’s swampy EPA has now targeted rollbacks of a wide variety of regulations that previously protected water, air, land, and public health across America. This new EPA direction is in large part political payback to high-pollution industries in gratitude for their financial support in the last presidential election. The result is that in many cases, “pollution by businesses” has now been given the “OK” by the EPA over the health interests of our nation’s citizenry.
Research at the Harvard Law School and the Columbia Law School has counted more than 80 environmental rules which have been recently cancelled or are in the process of being repealed. Regulations meant to control greenhouse gases, coal ash waste, water pollution, mercury, and smog are under attack.
Here are just some of the rollbacks: With regard to air pollution, 10 environmental protection regulations have been destroyed and 14 more rollbacks are in progress; Nine regulations re drilling and extracting regulations have been wiped out and nine more are under consideration for negation; Nine regulations to protect animals/wildlife have been cancelled and another is on the way; Four environmental protection rules regarding toxic substances have been repealed and one more is under consideration; and, Five regulations to prevent water pollution have been destroyed and seven more rollbacks of rules have been proposed.
According to the New York University Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, these recent environmental protection rollbacks are likely to significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year in the USA.
Based on documentation by The New York Times and the Environmental Integrity Project, here are just a few summarized lowlights of these environmental rollbacks:
- The EPA has cancelled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions, i.e., intentional venting and flaring on public lands which are a major cause of greenhouse gases.
- Just when many States across America had already agreed to limit carbon emissions from cars and trucks, the federal government is now proposing the opposite! This irony in that the current administration has been advocating “States’ Rights” on many other issues. Nevertheless, California’s “States Right” to implement strict vehicle emission standards is now under attack. This action will also immediately impact 13 other States and the District of Columbia. And nationally, it means that regulations to protect Americans from auto emission pollution will be greatly reduced. All of this runs counter to a recent poll which indicates that 2/3 of USA citizens are urging more USA action on climate change. It also reverses the intent of several large automakers that recently agreed that building cars which comply with the California emissions standards. Small wonder that 24 states have announced plans to challenge this counter-productive EPA decision, which ignores climate change science as well as public opinion and even market forces.
- The EPA has scaled back existing regulations that redefine and restrict which waterways are protected by the federal Clean Water Act. As a result, about 51 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of streams across the USA will lose their federal protections. Most of these streams and wetlands are important for water quality, because they serve as the headwaters for rivers and lakes that provide drinking water for millions of people, and because they act as filters to keep farm fertilizer and other pollutants from flowing downstream.
Added to this is the revocation of a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping toxic mining debris into streams.
- The EPA has also announced that it will be reconsidering its Coal Ash Disposal Rule, the first federal rule governing disposal of coal ash, the by-product created from burning coal. Coal ash contains toxic pollutants including arsenic, cadmium, and chromium that can leach into groundwater, surface water, or air and threaten health and the environment without proper disposal controls.
- By executive (presidential) order, the United States has already announced its intent (withdrawal cannot legally occur until 2020) to remove the United States from the international Paris Climate Agreement, eliminating the USA from a climate change reduction pact agreed to by 196 other nations.
- The EPA has set in motion a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan which requires utilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent by 2030. Ironically, this regulation had been projected to add tens of thousands of renewable energy jobs by 2040 in addition to generating billions of dollars of savings in health benefits, avoiding 90,000 childhood asthma attacks, and avoiding 3,600 premature deaths in 2030 due to reduced air pollution.
- The EPA has further announced that it will be reviewing its past findings regarding the benefits of eliminating mercury and other toxic air pollutants. In doing so, the EPA is refuting its own research studies which had previously found that the dollars spent to comply with these regulations would result in billions of dollars in medical costs/savings since the standards/rules would prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks every year.
In summary, the Environmental Protection Agency in our nation is no longer functioning. We now have a new government agency… the Environmental Pollution Agency. This is politics at its worst with government decisions being driven by money and corporate greed. But politics aside, rolling back environmental protection regulations violates ethical and moral principles and the very purposes of government, to protect its citizenry. These environmental protection rollbacks are endangering the health and welfare of present and future generations of Americans.
Joseph Batory is the author of three books and has been widely published on politics, history and education.