The Trump administration’s stumbling start – daily controversies, “alternative facts,” historically low approval ratings and much more – doesn’t mean the president and his allies can’t carry out plans to undermine decades of environmental progress.
But the fact that their views are unpopular with the American people, and that there’s been a massive mobilization to fight back, does mean we have a good chance to protect much of what we’ve gained.
The attacks from the White House and Congress have been coming fast since Trump took office.
- The House has voted to end a rule that limits methane pollution from oil and gas leaks and saves taxpayers millions of dollars every year – a hat trick by lawmakers that’s fiscally irresponsible, damages our health and accelerates climate warming.
- The House also passed bills to hobble agencies from developing health and safety rules on clean air, worker protections and food safety.
- As many as 118 House members co-sponsored a bill to amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit federal agencies from limiting carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – all dangerous climate pollutants. The bill would declare them not to be pollutants under the law, despite decades of scientific evidence showing they contribute to climate change.
- Several new House bills would weaken the Clean Water Act and eliminate the latest updates to the Good Neighbor Rule, which limits air pollution that floats from one state into another. How the state on the receiving end is supposed to deal with pollution coming from outside its borders is unclear.
This week brought a new rash of assaults, some shockingly radical. One bill consists of a single sentence, “The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on Dec. 31, 2018.”
The agency of 15,000 employees who have saved the lives of countless Americans and transformed our nation into a dramatically cleaner and healthier place would simply go away.
Odds are that Congress won’t go that far, but the fact that three members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sponsored it shows just how extreme some elected officials have become.
It is true that President Trump said during the campaign he wanted to dismantle the EPA as we know it, explaining he didn’t like limits on big business. In other words, we were warned and given an explanation. But, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, we are nevertheless persisting in fighting back.
This week, Environmental Defense Fund filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act asking for documents on the Trump transition team’s advice for overhauling the EPA, including a reported “Action Plan” that called from drastic changes to the agency. It’s critical that these plans be made transparent and available for public scrutiny.
Our advocacy partner, EDF Action, has also spent more than $1 million fighting against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, the anti-EPA crusader nominated to run the agency – and on ads running across the country against overturning the methane waste rule and other health and safety protections.
We must hold members of Congress who voted for these bills accountable.
The battle, in other words, is fully engaged on both sides.
With all its flaws, our democracy still responds to public opinion. And we continue to focus on making Congress aware that Americans will not be happy if our air, water and future become less healthy.