Trump has declared war on the EPA: 5 chilling examples

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While running for president, Donald Trump threatened to virtually eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, leaving only “little tidbits.”

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s EPA administrator, has been tasked with the job of tearing down the agency from within. This is the man who sued the EPA 14 times – with strong financial backing from companies seeking to weaken clean air and clean water standards – when serving as Oklahoma’s Attorney General.

The president has used deception to reassure the general public that critical environmental laws will continue to protect public health, and is now taking our country in a dangerous direction.

Here are five ways he and Pruitt will go about weakening the agency responsible for keeping our air clean, drinking water safe, and toxic chemicals from harming our families.

1. Gut the EPAs budget

Deep budget cuts at the EPA are being proposed under the guise of  fixing budget issues.

In reality, the agency accounts for a mere two-tenths of 1 percent of federal spending. Any claim that major budget issues can be dealt with on the back of such a small sliver of the budget is false.

Instead, the proposed budget cuts are a clear signal to a narrow group of special interests and supporters who share Trump’s disdain for the EPA because environmental regulations don’t serve their agenda.

2. Relax enforcement against illegal pollution

Leaked budget documents show that Trump has already directed the EPA to curtail pollution-monitoring and get states “to assume more active enforcement roles.” But this isn’t about states’ rights; it’s merely a convenient cover for gutting federal enforcement responsibility without any assurance that states will pick up the slack.

In fact, Pruitt took Oklahoma in the opposite direction as attorney general by shutting down the state’s environmental enforcement unit.

Meanwhile, delegating enforcement to states puts everyone at the mercy of neighboring states’ enforcement. Almost every state has communities that are downwind or downstream from polluters across state boundaries.

3. Roll back pollution standards

“The future ain’t what it used to be at the EPA,” Pruitt explained in a fiery speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington shortly after his contentious and narrow confirmation by the Senate. He went on to pledge he would “roll back the regulatory state.”

President Trump has already issued an executive order seeking to weaken Clean Water Act protections for American rivers and streams. With Pruitt now at his side, he is expected to next take aim at rolling back standards that reduce toxic emissions from cars and power plants.

Trump says he is slashing federal clean air and water standards to ease what he calls “job-crushing regulations.” Of course, increasing pollution does not grow the economy.

4. Use misinformation to justify political agenda

During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt ran away from his anti-environmental record and assured senators that he was “concerned” about pollution contributing to climate change, that mercury “should be regulated” and that ground-level ozone is “a dangerous pollutant.”

Once he had been confirmed as EPA administrator, his tone has changed back to his roots. Pruitt is already a ready partner to Trump when it comes to spreading misinformation and denying climate change.

Political interference in science will come in many forms, but the most dangerous may be an effort to permanently meddle with the EPA’s scientific capacity under the guise of “reforming” the scientific process. Such meddling is a top Trump transition goal, according to Myron Ebell, the head of Trump’s EPA transition team.

Ebell makes no bones about it: The objective, he’s said, is to permanently cripple the agency’s capacity to bounce back under future presidents.

5. Surrender to allow “sue and pollute” lawsuits

We expect Pruitt and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take up a new practice of surrendering to “sue and pollute” lawsuits in court. That would abandon the legal defense of EPA rules against suits brought by some polluters who would rather fight in court than invest in cleaner technology.

Pruitt may even take the unprecedented step to refuse to recuse himself from overseeing decisions about lawsuits that he himself brought against the EPA as Oklahoma’s attorney general – conveniently switching sides from plaintiff to defendant.

The question now is how Pruitt and Trump will contend with growing opposition as they walk the tightrope between broad public support for the EPA’s mission while serving the narrow interests of those who want to permanently weaken the agency.

If we remain vigilant and demand accountability from our elected officials, we can make every step they take along that tightrope more strenuous than the last.

Jeremy Symons

Jeremy Symons

Jeremy is EDF's Associate Vice President of Climate Political Affairs.

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Comments

Yeah, what's been chilling is the unelected mandates evolving from the corrupt EPA for the last 40 years unabated. That's been the most chilling effect on human freedom I can ever recall in all of human history. Don't tread on me!

Don't like your clean, drinkable water? I remember the Jersey Turnpike in the early '70s from the refineries. Roll up your windows! I see you are a full-fledged science denier. Don't tread on my clean water! Don't tread on my clean air. It's not a constitutional right to use the environment as a toxic waste dump. The right to healthy air and water supersedes your right to destroy MY air and MY water, and my soil, as a way to maximize your individual profits. The common good outweighs the profit maximization of your coal plant. And cleaning up the environment has spurred economic growth too.

Disease and death from pollution has a bigger chilling effect on human freedom.

So, i guess you and your family don't breathe air or need water at all? Or are you planning on moving to a bunker somewhere?

Without the EPA you'll have the freedom to gather, maintain and analyze your own soil, water and air data in multiple states. Get rid of the USEPA and you tax state government and industry. Junk!

Dodge 12, your knowledge of 'all of human history' is very limited if you think that the EPA's regulations to protect the environment have had the most chilling effect on human freedom you can ever recall... (ever heard of the Gulag?).
Do you simply mean that you don't like the limits government regulations place on your personal freedom in the interests of achieving some public policy objective?
And what do you mean by unelected mandates? The EPA was established by an elected government and applies the laws passed by elected members of Congress.
Finally, could you explain in what way the EPA is 'corrupt' (giving concrete examples)?

How can we call ourselves great leaders when we cannot even commit to a clean planet. How shameful. We are certainly not, and have never been, the best in the world.

Don't tread on my drinking water, corporate shill. Don't give my family cancer from your effluents. Don't destroy the air, the soil and the forests. Natural resources are real. And climate change is real too. Go ahead and bury your head in Teanomics. Wouldn't want to crack a book, would you?

Dodge 12. You have made a serious claim with allegations that the EPA is corrupt and had a chilling effect on human freedom. Serious claims. Please provide references to the alleged corruption and published restrictions on human freedom. I will agree that one of the EPA's goals and objectives is to protect the environment for the health of people and all other living things on this earth. To do this, it is necessary to reign those who benefit financially (while they and their descendents will suffer the health consequences) for temporary financial gain by passing the overall costs of poisoning the earth is bourn by taxpayers and human suffering from environment destruction and impaired health.

To think in the early 80's that the American Bald Eagle was near extinction due to the effects of acid rain on egg shells. Not only did the work of the EPA find the cause, but also the chemicals that were creating the negative impact on the eagle's eggs. Industry in turn, began using different chemicals and procedures and after some adjustments went back to manufacturing their products and making profits.

Manufacturing jobs didn't leave America just because of environmental regulations! [Think] labor costs! This will always be true until Americans are willing to work for a bowl of rice and a nickel.

I was in Jr. High during this time and instead of paying attention sentence structure and grammar I was writing letters and engaging classmates to sign petitions and get involved to save the American Bald Eagle. Because of the EPA and of people caring enough
the American Bald Eagle is no longer an endangered species.

When I'm out in the woods hiking with my sons and point out a American Bald Eagle flying high in the sky as a symbol of freedom
and American pride I think about how great this nation is
because of the EPA and people who care.