Tag: Trump

Trump Blames Forest Management, Not Climate Change, for California Forest Fires

by Daanyal Raja

Within the past month, West Coast states have been dealing with one of the most dangerous wildfire seasons ever. An overwhelming majority of climate and environmental scientists attribute these fires to rising temperatures and warmer weather across the West Coast, making wildfires more common and damaging. However, President Trump, a fervent denier of man-made climate change and global warming, blames the issue on forest management.

President Trump recently visited California, one of the states that were greatly impacted by the fires, toured some of the wildfire damage, and sat down with local and state officials to discuss the matter. During one meeting, California National Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot told Trump, “We want to work with you to really recognize the changing climate, and what it means to our forests” before warning “If we ignore that science, and sort of put our head in the sand, and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed protecting Californians.” Trump responded to this by claiming that the climate “would start getting cooler,” to which Crowfoot replied, “I wish science agreed with you.” 

Trump has been more than vocal about his beliefs regarding forest management and the wildfires in the past. At one of his rallies in Pennsylvania, he said “I see again the forest fires are starting […] They’re starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up,” claiming that some trees and leaves can instantaneously combust. He also said, “Maybe we’re just going to have to make [California] pay for it because they don’t listen to us,” he added. This hasn’t been the first time Trump has blamed the predominantly Democratic state and threatened to withhold money from them; he did the same in 2018 and 2019 as wildfires ravaged the state. 

However, Trump’s threats have yet to be implemented in any way. In fact, last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a new “shared stewardship” that combines forces from the U.S. Forest Service and California to work towards managing forests to reduce fire risk. Newsom also said “Wildfires don’t stop at jurisdictional boundaries. As we respond to wildfires in real-time this summer, improving coordination between the major stewards of California’s forested land will help us protect communities and restore forest health across California.”

EU Claims 13% of deaths are due to climate change the same day POTUS claims he is the “No. 1 Environmental President”

by Kaushal Kumar

Earlier this week, the UN reported that 13% of all deaths in the European Union (EU), including England, are due to climate change and the rapid warming of the globe. This data was gathered from the 627,000 deaths that were reported in 2012 due to climate change, the latest year which this data is available for. The EEA claimed that many of these deaths were preventable and action to fight against climate change would have saved many and will continue to save others in the future.

The largest killer is air pollution, responsible for over 400,000 deaths a year in the EU. These deaths also leave citizens more susceptible to illness, especially those that affect the lungs or breathing of the patient. The current global pandemic is an example. Those with weaker bodies due to prolonged exposure to air pollution are more likely to have serious symptoms and are more likely to die if infected with COVID-19.

This news comes the same day as the United States President, Donald Trump, claims that he is the “#1 environmental president” at a campaign rally in Florida. He claimed that Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden would leave the environment “permanently injured” and that the Trump Administration has done an incredible job protecting America’s environment. Trump has claimed that “the left’s agenda isn’t about protecting the environment. It is about punishing America.”

These claims come with some backlash from opposers who were quick to highlight Trump’s past comments about the environment where he claimed climate change was a hoax. His administration has also repealed over 100 environmental protections to help benefit oil and gas companies.

Any way one puts it, it is clear that climate change is having a larger impact on society than ever before. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of people die a year due to climate change, and with the data being almost 10 years old it is almost sure to be larger now. Climate change will continue to be a battle that this world will continue to fight, it is just a matter of how long it takes to either win or lose.

Trump Administration Rolls Back Clean Water Regulation Tied With Coal Plants

by The Incentive

This past Monday, the Trump Administration finalized a plan to roll back coal plant pollution regulations that were initially created during the Obama administration to reduce pollution in wastewater. 

The decision to roll back these regulations comes as a consequence as utilities will now be loosely regulated in their compliance with pollution regulations in that they now have a longer period of time to respond to the regulations, allowing for pollution to continue on. Additionally, at the benefit of these utilities, they will be able to use cheaper technologies that are less environmentally appropriate which can lead to an uptick in pollution in the near future. 

These rollbacks were made by EPA chief Andrew Wheeler in a decision that was made in the interest of the economy to preserve industrial jobs as utilities would save an average of $140 million annually. Though a temporary bolstering of the economy is warranted, concerns are rising over the lack of concern over the current status of the environment. 

The regulation, which was instituted during the Obama administration was made in part to the statistic that 30% of toxic water pollution, which leads to ocean acidification, is in due part to coal pollution. The fine print of the new rule set in stone by the EPA gives utilities several more years, until 2025, or 2028 if the company takes voluntary steps to reduce their pollution, to become more environmentally friendly as per the EPA’s regulation that aims to reduce pollution by over 1 million pounds annually. However, the short term implications of giving utilities a grace period to help the industry save money, though in the economy’s best interest, will have a significant implication on the environment.

Environmental law firms will challenge the ruling at court, though it is clear that there seems to be controversy around regulations that have been moved or shifted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A loss of jobs and an unemployment rate which is still at large, though improving, is warranting some extreme measures at the cost of the environment.

In the short term, these decisions seem to be problematic for the environment as there will be an uptick in pollution as utilities will be allowed to use cheaper technologies in the name of saving money. However, in the long term, the consequences of these decisions, along with the others made during the pandemic, are yet to be seen.

EPA Weakens Obama Administration Methane Pollution Regulations

by Kaushal Kumar

Over the past year, the Trump Administration’s EPA has been working on a rule to weaken the current laws that place heavy regulations on the amount of methane that energy companies can release into the atmosphere while forcing them to make sure they repair faulty infrastructure and maintain low levels of pollution. These old regulations were put into place by the Obama Administration and were meant to combat climate change through regulation of the fossil fuel industry. However, the EPA claims that these rules are greatly “harmful to small and medium businesses”, as it is very expensive to maintain pipes, storage facilities, and wells to ensure that they are not leaking gas into the air. The newest ruling eliminates that federal requirement, allowing businesses to not have to monitor methane pollution that may be coming from their pipes or other buildings.

This is just one of the many rulings that the EPA has made in favor of the American fossil fuel industry. Earlier this summer, the EPA passed a ruling that is meant to speed up the process of building energy infrastructure by shortening the time needed to get all required permits to build. This choice was highly controversial and was opposed by many who claim, “the decision curtail the public’s right to have a say in the development of pipelines and other projects in their neighborhoods.”

Methane gas pollution is a major cause of global warming and its impact on the atmosphere is estimated to be around 84 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Methane is also the driving factor for approximately 25% of total global warming over the last few decades, with at least a third of that coming from the US energy industry. With the newest regulations brought in by the EPA, experts only expect this number to rise, drawing serious concerns about the world’s future battle against climate change.

Even though the rulings seem favorable to the fossil fuel industry, many large companies have spoken out against the rulings citing their own pledges to fight against climate change and reduce their methane pollution. Smaller companies are happier with the decision, claiming that the old regulations were too restrictive and are especially happy to see something go their way with the recent drop in oil and gas prices during the pandemic.

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 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 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.