Category: Politics

Trump Administration Investigated for Poor Water Policy in San Francisco

by Anshul Dash

The Trump Administration has been accused of doing a poor job maintaining water policy in San Francisco. According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic lawmakers have discovered the carelessness of the Trump Administration in enforcing water policy in California, and this has caught the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA received a request from Democratic representative Jackie Spier to investigate the agency’s decision to issue a notice of violation to San Francisco for disposing waste into the bay and ocean. California senators Kamala Harris and Diane Feinstein have also requested an investigation. The EPA’s notice of violation came after President Trump’s alleged claims that waste connected to the problem of homelessness in San Francisco was being washed down storm drains and eventually emptied into the bay. The notice was issued two weeks later with a warning that if the issue wasn’t resolved, then the city would face civil, administrative, or criminal penalties.

However, San Francisco Mayor London Breed claims that President Trump’s claims are “ridiculous assertions.” He stated that the city has a combined sewer system that prevents waste from being dumped out into the ocean and redirects all of it to wastewater treatment plants. EPA Inspector General Sean O’Donnell has considered starting a project to review the reasons of the notice the EPA has issued, as well as reviewing water enforcements in other states besides California. O’Donnell plans to put the project into effect in 2021. Since the Government Accountability Office has also expressed interest to investigate this issue, the two offices are coordinating to prevent duplicate investigations.

President Trump’s claims about water enforcement in California have resulted in a new feud between the EPA and the state of California. Local government officials have said that they were “surprised by the EPA’s actions,” because they have always maintained contact with the EPA and have never encountered this problem before.

Killing Bear Cubs and Wolf Pups In Their Dens? Trump Administration Shockingly Lifts Ban On Cruel Hunting Tactics in Alaska

by Nakul

This past Tuesday, the Trump Administration repealed a 2015 policy set by President Obama regarding hunting practices in Alaska. Essentially, the policy prohibited cruel tactics of capturing game in the frigid Northern state – specifically, according to the legislation itself, the practices banned included using artificial light to blind bears, baiting bears with goods, hunting wolves and bears during denning/hibernation season, and using dogs to hunt down bears. However, with the latest changes made by the president, Alaskan hunters can now legally use extremely brutal hunting tactics, such as invading wolf dens regardless of the season and slaughtering wolf mothers and cubs, as well as luring bears out of their habitats with donuts and bacon and then viciously slaying them. So if this move by the Trump administration was so unfavorable, and, upon first glance, appalling, why exactly was it passed?

Throughout his reign as president, the Trump administration has been inclined to favor hunting rights over animal/environmental welfare and ethics. Just recently, in March of 2020, they appointed Anna Seidman as the assistant director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s assistant director of the International Affairs Program – there are a couple of harrowing issues with this: first, throughout her professional career, Seidman has advocated in favor of trophy hunting (hunting for recreation) and has consistently argued for increased rights for Alaskan hunters in wildlife areas as opposed to protection of wildlife species – the fact that Seidman supports recreational hunting and immoral increases in privileges for hunters itself is contradictory with regards to her role on the Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages and protects fish and other endangered species; furthermore, Seidman herself has directly opposed the Fish and Wildlife Service and even attempted to sue the federal agency. Another example of the Trump administration clearly valuing human benefit over the environment and animal welfare was apparent in April of 2019, when he attempted to open up millions of acres of Arctic wildlife refuge to drilling of oil and other natural resources. As for the justification behind this recent policy, the only valid argument that has been put forth by the administration and the supporters of the policy (namely Alaskan hunters) is that it is rightfully granting hunters rights that they deserve. As Eddie Grasser, director of wildlife management for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, explained, “From our perspective, the Park Service was infringing on our territory”. He justified the unethical nature of Trump’s policy by stating, “Those practices [brutal hunting tactics] are used by only a small number of people in a few places”. Likewise, Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan contended that the Obama administration was simply permitting an “attack on our unique game management authority”. All in all, it is quite clear that these stated benefits of Trump’s new policy simply do not outweigh the unethical repercussions that will inevitably come with the tolerance of cruel hunting tactics.

Predictably, the response to repealing Obama’s 2015 rule was heavily critical. While scientists have constantly opposed removing protective wildlife regulations, Theresa Pierno, president and chief executive of the National Parks Conservation Association, exclaimed, “We have never opposed hunting, but this can hardly be considered hunting. To be going into dens of hibernating bears and killing cubs and killing moms certainly is, I don’t think, the picture most people have of hunting.” Additionally, amie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, stated, “The Trump administration has shockingly reached a new low in its treatment of wildlife. Allowing the killing of bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens is barbaric and inhumane. The proposed regulations cast aside a primary purpose of national preserves to conserve wildlife and wild places.” 

Ultimately, based on the immoral nature of Trump’s repeal coupled with the arguments critical of the president’s policy, it appears that the policy is truly unjust, as it favors a few Alaskan hunters in exchange for the imminent, brutal murders of many innocent wildlife species.

Shortly, the Trump administration is expected to remove similar hunting restrictions in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Trump Administration Permits Use of Cancer-Causing Herbicide Against Court Orders

by: Arun, Kaushal Kumar, Sudhit Rao

Recently, the federal appeals court passed a decree that prohibits the use of a popular herbicide, Isoxaflutole manufactured by German agricultural giant, BASF. The reason for this ruling is due to their propensity for killing the incorrect crops. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refused to abide by this order and has prevented the future sales of the product but they have given permission to farmers to use their entire existing stock. 

Isoxaflutole is a herbicide specifically used for crops like soybean and corn. Its popularity comes from the fact that it is able to kill weeds and other unwanted plants that are resistant, or have become resistant to other more common, and less powerful herbicides. Its strength, however, does not come without a downside. Isoxaflutole has been linked to cause liver damage and cancer in humans who have been exposed to it. Its danger to people and the fact that it was drift hundreds of feet from where it is meant to be applied makes it a very dangerous chemical to use on crops of any kind.

This action by the EPA is just another that seems to prioritize the interests of large corporations over the safety of the public. The choice to not follow the court orders is directly beneficial to the agricultural companies that make the herbicide, even though the chemical has been proven to be harmful to those who come in contact with it. However, this is not the only move that the EPA has made in favor of industry giants. Only a couple weeks ago the EPA took steps to roll back all methane pollution regulations, to help support the fossil fuel industry. Throughout the Trump Administration’s time in power, the EPA has made many decisions that negatively affect the environment but still benefit corporations.

The decision comes as a shock to the general public as the Trump Administration has disregarded the court of law in their decision. They have permitted farmers to continually use the herbicide, making the public furious as they violate due process. The EPA cites that the herbicide is a “valuable pest control tool,” and doesn’t deem it crucial to ban the use of. However, the repercussions seem to outweigh the usage, as there are other alternatives that can warrant the ban of this herbicide. What’s more, by disobeying the court of law, the EPA shows that their agenda can be prioritized without due process.

The move to partially defy a court of law is one that has citizens scratching their heads. The decision to allow the use of the herbicide has been finalized, but only time will tell the repercussions of this decision and the impact it will have on crops and the climate as a whole.

Reiteration of EU Climate Law Causes Shift in Climate Change Mitigation Efforts

by Ritvik Dutta

The novel reiteration of the EU-wide climate law has caused a massive shift in the effort towards mitigating the rate of climate change by many countries in the European Union. Established in March of 2020, the law was created through the collaboration of all the countries belonging to the EU. Together, they all sought to set goals on the overall reduction of net greenhouse gas production by all EU nations to zero by 2050. This has led to many European countries scrambling to find solutions. Statistically in the European Union, transport ranks as the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and as of 2018, around 308 million cars circulate the coalition of countries. Of those countries, Norway, France, Germany, Netherlands, and Sweden are all in the top 10 in terms of PEV (plug-in electric vehicle) sales worldwide. On the other hand, however, Greece ranks as tenth in the total number of cars in the European Union with around 5.2 million cars, and yet, only a measly portion of Greece’s cars are good for the environment: one thousand cars are electric or hybrids. 

This matter presents itself as an alarming statistic and Greek officials have taken note. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently held an event last Friday in which he commented on Greece’s plans to move to a low-carbon mobility system in order to abide by the EU-wide climate law. The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that the Prime Minister explained at the event that Greece aims to focus the majority of its climate mitigation efforts in its capital city, Athens. Greece hopes to have at least 1 in every 3 cars in Athens to be a PEV by the year 2030. They plan on achieving this by subsidizing the purchases of new electric vehicles. Currently, they have about 100 million euros which Mitsotakis believes will “cover 25% of the cost for about 14,000 new electric cars.” Furthermore, the government is adding the exemption from any parking fines for the next two years for all the new PEVs that are purchased. Greece also plans to create subsidies for the purchase of electric taxis for the taxi services and set up multiple charging stations across the country. 

In the wake of the coronavirus, carbon emissions in Athens have been steadily declining due to the prompted closures. Per Vox Media, Athens has also expanded infrastructure for bikes by adding more bike lanes, an implementation that may or may not be permanent in due time. Although steady progress towards climate mitigation is being made within Greece, the final goal to completely neutralize net greenhouse gas output still seems like a daunting task. Whether or not the country is able to fulfill its promises is left to be seen. 

Amid Economic Downturn During Pandemic, Trump Passes Executive Order Weakening Environmental Regulations

by Nakul

President Trump recently signed an order that waived several key environmental regulations on large projects in an effort to combat the massive economic downturn during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The president adduced increasing unemployment and unnecessarily lengthy regulatory processes as important reasons for the implementation of this policy – however, millions concerned about the environmental implications of this decision firmly opposed the president’s action with arguments grounded on quality of life, environmental impacts, and even race.

For context, there were numerous acts put in place over the years that aimed to prevent corporate encroachment of environmental guidelines. The most relevant of these acts is the  National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which enacted rigorous procedural requirements on companies with regards to their plans and the impacts of their projects on the environment. Due to the tolls that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the global economy as well as the rise in domestic unemployment, however, President Trump decided to remove various rigorous requirements of NEPA, along with other acts such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. In essence, the elimination of key components of these environmental laws now allows companies to easily and legally circumvent vital prerequisites. Trump explained the necessity of this action in his official executive order: “Unnecessary regulatory delays will deny our citizens opportunities for jobs and economic security, keeping millions of Americans out of work and hindering our economic recovery from the national emergency”. Fossil fuel companies and other developers have long been complaining about the many regulations of the environmental acts and were largely in favor of the president’s decision. Anne Bradbury, chief executive of the American Exploration and Production Council, stated “These reforms help to avoid federal rules that could otherwise hurt American workers, businesses and our economy”.

While there was corporate support for Trump’s order, the opposition towards the policy was much more overwhelming. Citizens and activists alike were angered at the seemingly unjust act that allowed for increased environmental damage – Gina McCarthy, head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, explained, “Instead of trying to ease the pain of a nation in crisis, President Trump is focused on easing the pain of polluters”. Additionally, many were concerned about the health impacts of the president’s order. Historically, the numerous environmental acts have tended to reduce emissions of deadly pollutants, known as PM 2.5. However, the weakening of these acts will undoubtedly increase the presence of these hazardous pollutants; this is especially alarming today, as a study done by researchers at Harvard revealed that even “a small increase in long-term exposure to PM 2.5 leads to a large increase in the COVID-19 death rate”. Regarding race, a 2018 study by the American Public Health Association revealed that “those in poverty had 1.35 times the exposure to PM 2.5 than others”, and African Americans specifically faced 1.54 times the amount of PM 2.5 than the rest of the population, on average. U.S. House Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva responded to the order, explaining that “President Trump is dealing another blow to the Black community. Gutting NEPA takes away one of the few tools communities of color have to protect themselves and make their voices heard on federal decisions impacting them”. Senator Chuck Schumer agreed, stating “By signing this executive order, Donald Trump is muzzling the voice of environmental justice communities, and continues to make clear his total disregard for those speaking out and fighting for racial justice and a sustainable environment”.

Trump Administration Makes Move to completely Roll Back Methane Pollution Regulations

By Kaushal Kumar and Sudhit Rao

The EPA has recently made steps in its work to roll back its methane emissions limits. With the current timelines the rollbacks could be finalized as early as July. Right now the EPA has sent in the proposal to the Office of Management and Budget to be reviewed and possibly accepted. This particular piece of legislation has been worked on by the Trump Administration’s EPA since 2016.

These rollbacks would effectively eliminate  any federal regulation of methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from pipelines and other forms of energy related infrastructure. It would allow over 800 thousand older coal and oil plants to no longer regulate their pollution of methane into the atmosphere. This action would undo years of climate activism and policy making to help combat the climate crisis, and would also prevent any plant currently affected from ever having to regulate their pollution. Experts estimate that this move could result in the release of an additional 5 million tons of methane released into the atmosphere each year.

Image from the EDF

Methane is a greenhouse gas, and its effect on the planet in such large quantities is catastrophic. When substantial amounts of methane are in Earth’s atmosphere the methane particles absorb the heat from sunlight and contribute to global warming. In simpler terms, the addition of methane to the atmosphere is speeding up global warming. 

The EPA’s reasoning behind this change is rather weak and inadequate. Even though plants have been running for years with the current regulations, the agency claims that the previous methane regulations were superfluous of the VOC or Volatile Organic Compounds regulations. Also by law, before regulating the industry, the EPA must first do research on an industry and confirm a source of pollution. However, the EPA is assessing whether or not to ignore the law and remove the requirement of scientific evidence. Previously, in 2016, the EPA conducted studies on methane gas pollution and concluded that methane had a huge impact on climate change. The EPA is attempting to overlook scientific findings and in effect, ignore the fact that methane is a huge contributor in climate change.

This move is just another taken by the EPA that seems to not only contribute to our world’s climate crisis, but also one that puts the safety and security of the US public at risk. During the following two months, there will be a series of reviews with local governments, organizations and communities. It is up to them to take action and oppose the ruling for the better of the Earth and the public.

Trump Administration Loosens Fuel Emission Standards amid COVID-19 Pandemic

by: Arun

This past Wednesday, more than twenty states filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, claiming that their decision to lower fuel economy standards puts public health at risk– with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, this ruling has only become increasingly magnified. Because of this ruling, it is predicted there will be approximately 900 million more tons of carbon dioxide released than the Obama administration standards.

Due to this ruling, automakers only need to increase their fuel economy across their fleets by 1.5% per year, with a goal of averaging 40 miles per gallon by 2026. This is a far cry from the current rule set by the Obama administration, which mandates an annual increase of 5%, and a goal of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. With the pressing pressure of climate change, the government’s battle has weakened, as nationwide economy and standing is currently prioritized over the health of the planet. What’s more, COVID-19 can cause respiratory illnesses, and decreased pollution regulations allows factories and large corporations to continue maintaining their high carbon emissions without any legal repercussions.

With oil prices at an all-time low, it can be seen why this rule may have been softened. One of the largest beneficiaries of this ruling is the oil industry, as consumers will drive less efficient cars with weak fuel economy, leading to billions of additional gallons of fuel to be consumed.

California, amongst countless other states, have had enough and are speaking out against this rule. The ruling comes at an inopportune time to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and is endangering the public health, hence states are taking the issue to court, being the 82nd lawsuit filed by California against the Trump Administration.

The Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made several decisions during this pandemic with differing opinions across the board. Since the pandemic has started, they have decreased mercury emission and clean water regulations, on top of limiting monitoring of waterways of chemicals and restricting potentially harmful pipeline projects.

The EPA and the Trump Administration has been under heavy fire during the current pandemic, and with limiting yet another method of mitigating climate change, the planet’s condition only worsens as no new legislation or regulations are introduced. While the world recovers from the pandemic, only time will tell how climate change will be impacted by these changes.

Trump Administration Revokes Another Key Clean Water Regulation amid COVID-19 Pandemic

by: Arun, Sudhit Rao, Kaushal Kumar

On Monday, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they would be removing a key portion of the Clean Water Act, now depriving states the ability to block what would be harmful pipeline projects that cross within their waterways. States are now limited in yet another way in moderating clean water quality– before the removal of this rule, part of section 401, states were allowed one year to approve or reject projects that go through rivers and streams to weigh how the project would affect the water quality in the surrounding region. The justification given by an EPA administrator was that the law has “held [the] nation’s energy infrastructure projects hostage.”

The announcement is the latest in a series of controversial decisions made by the EPA since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The EPA has loosened pollution regulations, limited clean water regulations, and has lifted regulations on harmful chemicals, warranting a fierce opposition in their decisions.

The original laws stood in place to prevent the construction of pipelines or other pieces of infrastructure that may have a negative impact on the quality of water in the area, but also for other worries such as the project’s impact on the climate or how the scarcity of water is may cause. This allowed local governments to determine what was best for their communities and block the construction of projects that may have had an adverse impact on the well-being of the surrounding and people of the area. The new legislation that was recently put out by the EPA prevents states from vetoing construction if climate change or worries about the water supply are their main disputes of the project. 

The Trump Administration claims that the current rules in place were being misused to stall and in some cases prevent the development of infrastructure that would have no impact on the water quality, but rather were disliked due to political beliefs. The Trump Administration hopes that new construction projects will be approved faster, and prevent them from being in political limbos for extended periods of time. This choice is a huge win for fossil fuel companies, who now will have an easier time securing infrastructure projects without a state government being able to step in and prevent the construction with concerns of sustainability and resource management. This action is just another step taken by the Trump Administration to support the harmful fossil fuel industry.

Mark Ryan, an environmental lawyer who worked at the EPA for over 20 years reacted to this saying “I think it’s very low probability they’ll get this past the Supreme Court.” He claims that applicants will be motivated to leave out information to drag projects into the following year. Washington’s Governor and Attorney General, Jay Inslee and Bob Ferguson, were opposed to the rule when it was first announced stating that they will continue to evaluate projects as per their criteria. Environmental groups such as the National Resource Defense Council called the change a “dangerous mistake.” 

The Trump Administration has yet again made a controversial decision in regards to the Clean Water Act, by limiting states’ rights from dismissing pipeline projects. This decision has countless ramifications on the environment due to the damaging nature of these pipeline projects and will worsen the state of the environment in the future. 

Trump Administration Denies Limitations on Downwind Pollution in States Affected by COVID-19

By Kunaal and Arun

Despite their ongoing battle with COVID-19, New York and New Jersey, among other states, appeared in Washington D.C. to argue that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrongfully denied their petitions to place emission controls on several power plants. The regulations would aim to limit pollution affecting downwind states. While the states petitioned for stronger regulations on power plants, the EPA argued that they were in the right to deny the petition, stating that any findings that link greenhouse gas emissions to COVID-19 deaths don’t justify stronger regulation.

According to the EPA, The “Good Neighbor” Provision “requires EPA and states to address interstate transport of air pollution that affects downwind states’ ability to attain and maintain National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). New York’s petition aims to implement limits on 350 different power plants, which are industrial sources of nitrogen oxides. The EPA cites that “Tropospheric, or ground-level ozone… is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).” Tropospheric ozone is harmful to people and can worsen chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma.

COVID-19 is especially detrimental to certain groups, including those with chronic respiratory illness. A Harvard study in April “looked at more than 3,000 counties across the country, comparing levels of fine particulate air pollution with coronavirus death counts for each area.” With the findings “that an increase of only 1 μg/m3 in PM2.5 is associated with an 8% increase in the COVID-19 death rate” they concluded by emphasizing the “importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.”

These states now are restricted in their response to the pandemic. State governors are expressing frustration with the EPA over denying reforms that are seemingly obvious. With the effort to “flatten the curve” in the United States, experts and governors alike agree that the EPA isn’t helping the cause.

The decision made by the EPA is in accordance with their other rulings regarding mercury emissions and clean water. Because COVID-19 is worse with respiratory illnesses, the EPA is under heavy criticism from their decisions, commonly citing insufficient evidence and non-justifiable cause as backing for their decisions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPA has been under heavy fire, making decisions that have shocked the American public. With the future of the pandemic unknown, only time will tell what the repercussions of these decisions will be.

Trump Administration’s EPA Sued by States due to Waiving Pollution and other Water Regulations

By Ritvik Dutta

Shortly after announcing that COVID-19 is the direct cause of their loosening of strict law enforcement, the EPA received major backlash from many environmental agencies and organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, who petitioned to require all companies to document and disclose when they stop checking their own water and carbon emissions and usage publicly. So far, the EPA has failed to answer these calls to action. 

Instead, Trump’s EPA has continued to hold onto its belief that restrictions on largely fossil-fuel dependent industries are unnecessary. In his willingness to undo all of Obama’s reforms, President Trump has elected to keep all air pollution standards untouched even with multiple studies suggesting that the increase of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) actually increases the transmission rate of the SARS-CoV-2 strain. Given the current situation, many people like Sally Hardin were outraged. Hardin wrote, “At a time when the Trump administration should be doing everything in its power to save American lives, it is instead putting more and more of them at risk through reckless rollbacks of clean air protections.” This governmental obstinacy has been relatively under the radar, with Trump sneaking all of his changes throughout this quarantine period. 

However, some states have had enough of this governmental intransigence. New York and New Jersey have already sought out legal action to solve their issues related to downwind air pollution. These issues were first introduced when the EPA refused to mandate emission controls on the 350 power plants bordering New York and New Jersey, the states that were most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. When brought to court, EPA administrators tried to defend their organization, arguing that the multiple studies that corroborate that air pollution is linked to the spread of the coronavirus do not warrant tougher regulations. 

New Jersey has been seen to frequent legal battles with the EPA, with this case being the second in the month of May. The other case was brought up due to the EPA’s exemption of many bodies of water from the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule”, which was enacted by the Obama administration. New Jersey, along with California, New York, and fourteen other states and two major American cities, compiled a 29-page lawsuit suing the EPA due to their dependence on the affected bodies of water for resources. In response, an EPA spokesperson said the agency and Department of the Army “believe that the Navigable Waters Protection Rule will stand the test of time […] [and that] Congress, in the Clean Water Act, explicitly directed the Agencies to protect ‘navigable waters.’ The Navigable Waters Protection Rule regulates these waters and the core tributary systems that provide perennial or intermittent flow into them.” 

Whether or not the efforts of these states prove useful is yet to be seen.