Top 10 policy fights we're watching in 2019

Keith Zukowski

The New Year ushered in a long list of environmental policy battles we’ll be watching closely in 2019. Here are the top 10, and why they matter to you, too.

1. Wheeler confirmation hearing is imminent

Over the next few weeks, President Trump is expected to formally nominate Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, to officially lead the Environmental Protection Agency. This will likely trigger a Senate confirmation hearing for January or February. Will the Senate endorse Wheeler’s continuing attacks on environmental safeguards, or challenge the nominee?

2. The new Congress tackles climate change

There’s no question: Climate discussions in Washington are heating up. Will the new majority in the House of Representatives develop climate legislation? How will lawmakers address climate in any infrastructure bill? What movement will we see to advance clean energy?

3. Mercury and air toxics rule could be undone

Just before the New Year, Wheeler unleashed an attack against federal mercury and air toxics protections, which limit poisonous pollution such as mercury, chromium, lead and acid gas from the nation’s coal plants. Will the EPA move ahead with this dangerous move, and in spite of industry and bipartisan support for the protections?

4.  States push forward on climate change

Across the country, red and blue states have been stepping up to deal with climate change. Will there be surprises? Which governors take the lead on climate action, and how will the Trump administration react?

5. Methane pollution rules remain in jeopardy

Days before the 2018 Christmas holidays, Wheeler faced an outpouring of opposition from health experts, moms, attorneys general and others concerned with his proposal to weaken EPA methane rules. Will Wheeler finalize this unpopular weakening of a common-sense rule? Will he move forward with an even more severe attempt to gut regulations of this dangerous climate pollutant?

6. Clean car standards face uncertain future

The Trump administration has proposed to roll back clean car standards – a step that would massively increase climate pollution and cost Americans hard-earned money at the gas pump. Will the administration finalize this oil industry-backed rollback in 2019? Or will they listen to sound science and keep the strong standards in place?

7. Push to censor science may reappear

Wheeler may revive a widely discredited attempt to limit how much science the EPA can use when assessing environmental safeguards that are key to protecting human health. The effects of his action could include looser restrictions on air pollution and deadly chemicals in our drinking water, wood products, and paint and paint strippers.

8. Toxic chemicals continue to hit the market

Industry lobbyists and conflicted political appointees controlling the EPA spent much of 2018 diligently working to undermine our new chemical safety law, and to keep toxic chemicals in use. In 2019 there will be even more such chemicals allowed onto the market without adequate review, along with new attacks against the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act.

9. New lead rule coming down the pipe

In another move just before the holidays, the Trump administration released a deeply disappointing federal “Lead Action Plan.” As the administration touts its efforts to tackle lead exposure, will Wheeler follow through with his promise to release the long-delayed revision of the Lead & Copper Rule this spring and new lead dust standards in June. Will they actually offer better protections?

10. The 2020 campaign trail heats up

Last but certainly not least, the 2020 campaign is heating up with polling showing that climate change is becoming a priority for more voters. We expect some presidential candidates could make climate change central to their platforms. If so, 2019 will bring renewed hope for Americans who care about the future of our planet, and for nations everywhere.

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