The writer is an environmental advocate, journalist and author. He resides in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
As population grows and pressures to use and exploit water, soil and air intensify, the need to protect citizens and the environment from pollution and natural resource predation becomes more challenging, not simpler. We need a vibrant private sector, but businesses and corporations cannot be counted on to regulate themselves. Their perspective is too often one-dimensional.
Consider the consequences of President Trump’s aggressive deregulatory pursuits.
Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency removed restrictions on sulfoxaflor, a general-use insecticide that kills and impairs honey bees and pollinators. Trump’s Department of Agriculture ceased data collection that would gauge the impacts of this decision.
Trump’s EPA ruled that glyphosate, a controversial chemical pesticide, does not cause health issues. This contradicts the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which in 2015 classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.
Trump is easing regulations on atrazine, a weed-killing farm chemical linked to birth defects and cancer. Trump’s changes will increase by 50% the amount of atrazine allowed in U.S. waterways.
Trump abolished the Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board, a group formed in 1995 to advise EPA regarding water testing protocols to ensure safer drinking water.
Trump’s EPA thinned protections for groundwater and destroyed safeguards for headwater streams, tributaries and wetlands, endangering more than one million miles of the nation’s smallest waterways. “This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” said Blan Holman of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Trump reduced nutrition standards for school meals. Encouraging Trump’s decision was the School Nutrition Association, a business coalition representing the processed food sector, including Domino’s Pizza and PepsiCo.
Trump shaved offshore oil regulations enacted after the 2010 BP catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, and he promotes expanded oil development in fragile, shallow-water locations. Trump also reduced offshore oil extraction royalty rates by 30%.
Trump permitted oil development in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge through his 2017 tax bill. Yes, you read right. Oil prospecting in this unique wildlife sanctuary was made lawful as a consequence of being added as an unrelated feature to the law that dramatically lowered taxes for American corporations.
Under Trump, oil and gas companies no longer report methane emissions, allowing polluters to go unmonitored. Trump removed regulations for oil pipelines and added regulations to wind-energy projects. He even suggested that wind energy causes cancer. Trump gutted fuel economy standards. More pollution and waste will result.
Trump proposes accelerated industrial development in our national parks, and he fired Dan Wenk, head of Yellowstone National Park, for resisting his plan. “Throughout my career,” said Wenk, a distinguished public servant for four decades, “I’ve not encountered anything like this, ever.”
Trump slashed the size of Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument by 85% so uranium mining could be pursued, and a single uranium developer — led by lobbyist Andrew Wheeler — pushed hardest for that reduction. Wheeler now heads EPA.
Trump, a climate change denier, proclaimed the Chinese invented global warming to harm U.S. manufacturing. This is irrational and false. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.
Trump ended funding for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System, and he disbanded the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, a scientific group that provided guidance about climate change impacts.
Trump’s EPA allows air polluters reaching safe emission thresholds to thereafter avoid adhering to Clean Air Act requirements and do as they please. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called this loophole “the worst environmental sin yet from the Trump [administration].”
Trump’s assault on regulations and science is without precedent. It appears Trump supporters agree with him that almost no government is better than good government. Reasonable people realize there is a useful role for government and regulations in our lives.Trump’s version of government emphasizes supporting and promoting the interests of corporations and business and mostly ignores societal considerations, including public and environmental health.