Tag: Environment

EPA Ruling Seeks to Discount Science and Aid the Fossil Fuel Industry

By Kaushal Kumar and Sudhit Rao

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded in the seventies with the sole goal of protecting the environment from harmful contamination. It has since been regarded as successful and extremely effective in its endeavors. However, with Trump’s elected officials under control, the goals of the EPA have shifted to instead benefit large fossil fuel companies and push back restrictions set in place by previous administrations.  

The newest rule that the EPA is pushing for is called “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” but don’t let the name fool you. The name was specifically chosen to make the bill seem more appealing and to encourage members of the congress to accept the bill, even though the motives and reasoning for the passing of the bill are corrupt, and contradicts the role that the EPA is supposed to play in the US. In reality, this bill was passed to help strengthen the fossil fuel industry and try to prevent climate scientists from regulating factories in the industry.

The bill will effectively allow the EPA to ignore any scientific data or study where all of the information about the study is not fully available to the American public. This means that if things like private information of participants in studies are not made available to the general public, the EPA can invalidate the study and move forward without taking into consideration the findings. 

This would be a huge win for fossil fuel companies, as they are the ones who are usually targeted by scientists to ensure that their procedures are sustainable and are not too damaging or dangerous, and without the EPA having to listen to these scientists, they will not have to ask for these large gas and oil companies to regulate their production.

Many scientists and public health experts have criticized the proposed ruling and have spoken out against it. The American Association for Advancement of Science said that the proposed ruling would “exclude the best available science from informing EPA regulations, making it difficult for the agency to fulfill its mission to protect environmental and human health.” Steve Pierson and Roger Peng, well known biostatisticians petitioned for the proposition to be dropped and said, in an article, that it “weakens EPA’s scientific process and undermines its mission to protect the environment and the health of the U.S. population.”

This proposition seeks to ignore science while instead benefiting the giants in the fossil fuel industry and destroying our already depreciating state of our environment. Only time will tell the magnitude of damage this proposed rule might have on Mother Nature.

Trump Weakens Federal Authority on Clean Air Regulations

by Anshul Dash

Recently, the Trump Administration signed executive orders waiving many environmental regulations. One of the regulations waived was federal authority on clean air regulations. The EPA proposed a new rule that changes the way the agency conducts analyses to impose Clean Air Act regulations. This new rule has been favored by the Trump Administration, and this new rule will effectively limit the strength of air pollution control.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler has stated that changing the way the federal government views public health benefits will allow the agency to come up with better justifications for weakening clean air and climate change regulations. The agency plans to justify their actions using economic arguments that stem from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plunging economy is adding stress to the regulations that need to be done by the EPA, and so to relieve that stress, the agency has decided to loosen regulation on clean air in order to not take in too much of the impacts from the changing economy.

The Trump administration plans to waive parts of the National Environmental Policy Act using “emergency authorities” in order to invest more in infrastructure projects such as construction of highways and pipelines. However, these plans have been questioned by lawyers and environmental activists, who believe that these projects are being rushed by the Trump administration. According to them, the Administration is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to speed up these projects, which have been developing at a slow pace before the pandemic hit.

To put things into perspective, during the Obama administration, the EPA drafted a rule toe limit toxic mercury pollution from power plants. The agency also estimated that imposing this rule would cost the electrical utility industry $9.6 billion annually. However, an initial analysis report claims that reducing mercury emissions would save only $6 million to be used for healthcare. To justify this imbalance, The Obama administration discovered that through the side effects of reducing mercury (reduction of soot and nitrogen oxide), there would be an additional $80 billion in health “co-benefits.” However, last month, the Trump administration decided to waive the mercury rule imposed during the Obama administration, thus getting rid of the discounts.

Andrew Wheeler has recently proposed extending the mercury rule through reducing the emphasis on co-benefits. He is expected to propose something similar with the clean water and chemical safety regulations. Mr. Wheeler has also stated that the EPA would continue to calculate the economic value of these co-benefits, but would no longer use these calculations when defending other rules. This means that previous rules such as the Obama-era mercury rule will no longer be defensible.

Through the recent actions taken by the Trump administration, many of the previous rules imposed by other presidents are facing a rollback. This can deeply affect the environment and can result in more pollution. The Trump administrations differs from other administrations in that it weakens federal authority and control while other administrations have done the opposite. Without proper regulation, power plants will not be kept in place and many pollutants can be released as a result.

Shutdown of the Indian Economy due to COVID-19 Causes Drastic Environmental Changes

By Saarang Kashyap

While the shutdown of the Indian economy was designed to stop the spread of COVID-19, it has also had a positive impact on the environment and health of Indian citizens. The lockdown order shut down offices, schools, movie theaters, malls, markets, and “non-essential” service providers. All modes of public transport, such as metro trains, buses, inter-state trains, and domestic and international flights for civilian movement have also been stopped, according to Quartz.

Since the March 25th lockdown that forced around 1.3 billion Indians into their houses, the air quality in New Delhi has dropped to “satisfactory levels.” Jordan Davidson, from EcoWatch, stated that on March 20, the air had an unhealthy 91 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5. On March 27, few days into the lockdown, that level fell to 26 micrograms per cubic meter. CNN reported that according to the World HealthOrganization, anything above 25 is considered unsafe. Recently, as construction, transport, and factories have come to a halt, Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) has fallen below 20, a huge improvement in the air quality of one of India’s most polluted cities.

Wildlife abundance has also increased during this halt in Indian economics. Due to reduced pollution in the water, South Asian River Dolphins have been spotted again in the Ganges after 30 years. Tens of thousands of flamingos flock to Navi Mumbai, a profound change in migration in comparison to previous years. The Ganga is finally fit for drinking in Haridwar after chlorination, as the drainage of industrial waste into the river has stopped, bringing a significant change in the quality of the water.

So how can India’s economy sustain this unprecedented recession while remaining environmentally friendly?

Investing in sustainable infrastructure may be the answer. Data from the 2008-09 financial crisis show that South Korea, which directed nearly 70% of its stimulus towards green measures, rebounded faster than other economies in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). India should increase its backing behind renewable energy, particularly solar power that can help spread critical services in remote regions. Similarly, increasing electrification and public transport after COVID-19 will be critically important to reduce air pollution.