Tag: EPA

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.