How Trump is redefining the EPA

Under President Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency has made industry happy and environmentalists angry. Here’s everything you need to know:

What is the EPA’s mission?
The agency was created by President Richard Nixon in 1970 — a time when industrial pollution shrouded cities in smog, turned rivers and lakes into toxic stews of human waste and chemicals, and left shorelines blackened by garbage and oil spills. “Through our years of past carelessness,” Nixon said, “we incurred a debt to nature, and now that debt is being called.” He tasked the new agency with protecting Americans’ health and the environment. For most of the past half-century, Congress and the White House have enacted environmental laws that set out broad policy goals, which the EPA turns into regulations rooted in scientific research. These regulations carry the force of law. Essentially, Congress loans the EPA its constitutional authority to regulate commerce, on the assumption that scientists and technically oriented experts are able to make more specific, up-to-date regulations than legislators can.

What is Trump’s view of the EPA?
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump decried the EPA as a job-killing bureaucracy that had needlessly hamstrung the American economy with costly regulations. He vowed to “get rid of it in almost every form,” leaving just “little tidbits” of environmental regulation. This view was welcomed by many hard-line conservatives and, of course, by industry. “The American people are drowning in rules and regulation promulgated by unelected bureaucrats,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who was one of the four Republican congressmen who sponsored a 2017 bill that would have abolished the EPA. “And the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender.” Since his inauguration, Trump has stacked the EPA’s senior leadership with officials openly hostile to the agency’s original mission. His first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, had sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma’s attorney general in behalf of the state’s oil industry. The second, Andrew Wheeler, is a former energy industry lobbyist and lawyer. The EPA’s senior deputy general counsel worked at American Petroleum Institute.

What has this new EPA done?
So far, it has abolished a total of 47 environmental regulations — and is in the process of rolling back 31 more, according to a New York Times analysis. A separate analysis, by Harvard Law School, found that such rollbacks could lead to at least 80,000 additional deaths per decade and cause respiratory problems for more than a million people. To reverse the ongoing decline of the coal industry, Pruitt killed a 2015 rule banning coal-fired electricity plants from dumping 1.4 billion pounds a year of toxic wastewater into rivers and streams, contaminating them with mercury, selenium, and arsenic. These pollutants have been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological disorders. Under Trump, oil and gas companies no longer have to inform the EPA about their methane emissions, or leaks — an important regulatory easing, since these companies emit 13 million metric tons of this extremely potent greenhouse gas annually. The EPA also lifted key controls mandating that …read more

Source:: The Week – Science


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