Tag: Trump

Trump Administration Waives Brain Damage-Causing Clean Water Regulation Against Court Orders

by Arun Balaji and Kunaal Venugopal

On Thursday morning, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a decision to waive a regulation for a contaminant in clean water that harms babies’ brains and can reduce their IQ severely at a young age. The chemical, perchlorate, had been recognized as harmful for years and had been ordered by the court to introduce a new regulation by this month. However, the EPA did not introduce a new regulation, instead waiving the current existing regulation out of reason that perchlorate was not present enough in water to the point where regulations would need to be implemented.

In rolling back the regulation, the Trump Administration hopes to remove a burden to business in the United States. However, this regulation sets federal limits for perchlorate, a chemical compound that has detrimental effects on humans. According to the EPA, “Perchlorate is commonly used in solid rocket propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches, and signal flares. Perchlorate may occur naturally, particularly in arid regions such as the southwestern United States and is found as an impurity in hypochlorite solutions used for drinking water treatment and nitrate salts used to produce nitrate fertilizers, explosives, and other products.” Rolling back the regulation allows for greater perchlorate levels in drinking water, increasing the risk of developing illnesses like hypothyroidism.

In 2018, the court demanded the EPA introduce a regulation that would prevent the outstanding quantities of perchlorate in the water. However, the EPA has now gone against this rule and instead has waived the regulation, causing many to be in shock.

The public is reasonably infuriated by the EPA’s lack of action to regulate a chemical as toxic as perchlorate. On top of its contamination, the chemical causes brain damage in babies and is especially damaging to the health of animals as well. Since the chemical is present in something the world needs, drinking water, the public is angry at the lack of effort to protect the health of the country’s citizens.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the EPA has revoked, altered, or waived several Obama-era regulations, citing the health of the economy or necessity out of reason. The Trump Administration has revoked two other clean water regulations on top of revoking mercury and fuel emission regulations.

The decision to revoke yet another clean water regulation is one that has many people confused and furious. Although the EPA cites reasons for removing these regulations, only time will tell what effect it will have on the environment and the health of citizens.

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 Administration Fails to Update Flaring Requirements Linked With Respiratory Disease

by Arun and Nakul

Fossil fuel combustion has been an omnipresent, integral aspect of the energy industry. As the health hazards and perilous impacts on the environment caused by the burning of these fuels continue to be exposed, public outcry to re-assess environmental rules and requirements has likewise increased: this past Thursday, numerous environmental organizations took legal action against the federal organization, Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), due to its inaction in updating over 30-year-old regulations regarding an industrial process known as flaring.

What Exactly Is Flaring?

As the EPA defines it, flaring is a “high-temperature oxidation process used to burn combustible components, mostly hydrocarbons, of waste gases from industrial operations”. To boil it down, flaring is performed with the intention of destroying toxic components of various greenhouse gases, in order to abate the dangerous effects they would have on the environment and communities alike. While flaring itself is a well-intentioned practice, activists have been left fuming with the EPA’s lack of recent action to improve flaring regulations. The EPA itself admitted in a 2012 report that when flares have been improperly monitored and used, consequences included lower combustion efficiency – but much more concerning – “potentially significant quantities of excess emissions of volatile organic chemicals, sometimes including various hazardous pollutants”. The last time the EPA updated its rules for the flaring process was in 1986 – the fact that they themselves recently admitted that improper practice of flaring has deadly health impacts, yet have still not changed their regulations whatsoever, is definitely an issue. Attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project (one of the suing organizations), Adam Kron, explained, “At this time when people are more vulnerable to pneumonia from COVID-19 when they are exposed to air pollution, it is unconscionable that the Trump EPA has not done its job and updated these weak and antiquated standards”. He also corroborated the idea that misuse of flares has leads to increased exposure to pollutants, and therefore, respiratory issues.

The EPA has not officially released a response to the potential lawsuit, claiming that it does not respond to intents to sue. However, it can be inferred that the agency does not want to enact any restrictions upon the energy industry amid the massive economic contraction during the pandemic. Why the EPA has not altered flaring regulations for several decades – despite reason to do so – remains a mystery. 

The public is reasonably infuriated by the EPA’s lack of action in regard to flaring regulations as the rule hasn’t been touched in over 34 years. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, whose deadliness comes as a result of causing bronchitis and related respiratory illnesses, the public is outraged at the lack of response to mitigate pollution emissions that could cause damage. The Trump Administration has only lifted regulations or eased them during the pandemic, a decision which is proving to be deadly as the months progress.

The lack of response, however, is only the latest of many controversial decisions. In the past few months, the EPA has revoked clean water regulations, mercury regulations, clean air regulations, and fuel efficiency standards. Their decisions seem to revolve around supporting large corporations and the economy over public health and the planet.

The lack of action from the EPA to reduce pollution, a request that it seemingly reasonably, is one that has people wondering where the priorities of the EPA are at. With all the regulations the EPA has removed during the pandemic, only time will tell what the repercussions of their rulings will be.

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.

Trump Baselessly Labels 75 Year Old Climate and BLM Activist as ‘Antifa Provocateur’

by Nakul

Last Thursday, a 75-year-old retired computer engineer, Martin Gugino, was participating in a protest in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, following the indisputably unjust and horrific murder of George Floyd. Officers of the Buffalo Emergency Response Unit appeared with the intention of clearing the area in order to fulfill the newly imposed local curfew — a passionate Gugino rushed to the large group of officers, confronting them and waving his phone around — in a video that has now garnered millions of views, several of the officers clearly pushed Gugino to the ground and continued walking, leaving him completely unconscious. However, a Buffalo policeman revealed in a statement on June 4th that Gugino actually “tripped and fell,” a blatant lie that was exposed by the video footage. While the incident itself is abysmal, what may be even more lamentable was the president’s dismissive reply and latest conspiracy theory, in an attempt to delegitimize Gugino and obviate public outcries.

After the video involving Gugimo went viral, citizens continued to unite and demand for improved law enforcement practices and training. However,  President Donald Trump’s reaction to the incident was in sharp contrast: this past Tuesday, in response to the video, he tweeted the following:

Essentially, Trump has created the conspiracy theory that Gugino intended to be pushed all along, and was simply trying to elicit a passionate public response as a part of a scheme for Antifa. However, there lies one major problem: there is no evidence at all to support his farfetched claim. Gugino’s friends explained that he has constantly been a part of many protests and demonstrations, including those against “military drones, climate change, nuclear weapons and police brutality.” Gugino’s attorney, Kelly Zarcone, responded: “Martin is out of ICU but still hospitalized and truly needs to rest. Martin has always been a peaceful protestor because he cares about today’s society.  He is also a typical Western New Yorker who loves his family.  No one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise so we are at a loss to understand why the President of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed, stating, “How reckless, how irresponsible, how mean, how crude. I mean, if there was ever a reprehensible dumb comment from the President of the United States,” Cuomo said. “At this moment of anguish and anger, what does he do? He pours gasoline on the fire.” 

As President of the United States, it is vital for Trump to be able to maintain a professional attitude and refrain from spreading purely speculative ideas, especially in the current state of distress. His tweet was unintelligent and harshly accused an innocent protester.

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.

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 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’s Dangerous Suggestion to Combat Coronavirus Shut Down By Health Officials

By Saarang Kashyap

As coronavirus cases accumulate in the U.S., President Donald Trump has advocated for the use of disinfectants as a potential treatment for this deadly disease. This proposal was made shortly after Bill Bryan, a senior official at the US Department of Homeland Security, stated that studies demonstrate bleach’s ability to kill coronavirus in around 5 minutes. Trump subsequently commented in a White House briefing, “Then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets on the lungs and does a tremendous number on the lungs.” Trump has since claimed that his remarks were mentioned in a sarcastic manner, but the message itself resonated with many Americans.

While this solution may seem beneficial on the surface, many scientists and health officials have strongly warned against the use of disinfectants to treat the novel coronavirus. “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible, and it’s dangerous,” said Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert who is an NBC News and MSNBC contributor. Among the voices warning strongly against ingesting disinfectant is the Environmental Protection Agency, part of Trump’s own administration. NPR states that in guidance issued Thursday, the EPA outlined what constitutes safe and effective use of disinfectants to combat the spread of the virus, along with this firm reminder: “Never apply the product to yourself or others. Do not ingest disinfectant products.”

In addition to disinfectant use, the possibility of using UV Light to combat coronavirus was also hinted at the White House Briefing. In response, the World Health Organization communicates that UV light lamps “should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin”.

So why are the ingestion of disinfectants and the exposure to UV light harmful?

Many disinfectants, such as household bleach, can cause severe internal organ damage and lung failure due to toxic vapors. UV light is known to be damaging to the skin and plays a key role in many skin cancers. To inform the public on the dangers of using these “treatments”, organizations such as the USDA, CDC, and the EPA have issued warnings and information regarding certain disinfectants/chemicals. They all communicate the same message: UV Light and disinfectants are great on surfaces, but dangerous if ingested.