The first 170+ days of President Trump's term as President of the United States have been marked with controversy around a plethora of issues affecting the American public -not the least of which being the obvious and unjustifiable attacks on our environment, or the relentless assertion that climate change is a hoax. Since taking office in January, President Trump has wasted little time in waging his assault on our environment. Early in his term, Trump appointed former Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt as his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief; a man who sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the course of his career as Attorney General. It's a classic example of 'the fox watching the hen house."
The president's FY2018 budget proposal included a $2.6 billion (31%) cut to the EPA budget, reducing the agency to funding levels to it's lowest level in 40 years (adjusted for inflation). The proposal would eliminate more than 3,200 employees, severely diminishing the agency's ability to implement and enforce important environmental standards, review permit applications, and oversee superfund remediation sites and other environmental cleanup projects.
The president's budget also zeroes-out more than 50 geographic EPA programs, including the Long Island Sound, Great Lakes, and Hudson River Estuary programs. These critical programs monitor water quality and implement on-the-ground projects to restore habitat and improve water quality in our nation's most vital waters. Not only do these programs help support local economies by maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems, but they also play an important role in protecting public health.
In addition to his assault on the EPA, the president has already signed a slew of executive orders (EO's) aimed at limiting environmental protections. These include EO's to expedite the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, abandon the Clean Power Plan that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning power plants, eliminate protections for vital waterways under the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, ease restrictions on off-shore drilling including in the Arctic, allow disposal of coal sludge in rivers and streams, and several others.
By taking such aggressive action to eliminate environmental protections (without congressional approval), Trump is sending a clear message that the interests of business and industry are a priority over public health and our environment. Nothing embodies this dynamic better than the Trump administration's war on climate science.
Recently, EPA Director Pruitt has announced the establishment of a new task force to review and challenge climate change data at the EPA. The task force would review inconsistencies or "vulnerabilities" in existing climate data and determine how the agency should vet and apply climate change research moving forward. This completely undermines the peer reviewed, science-based standard that is traditionally used to weigh and verify scientific research, and it could limit the agency's ability to ensure sound scientific approaches to important environmental policy matters.
Trump ran on a platform of eliminating the EPA and removing what he deems are "unnecessary" regulatory burdens to business and industry, and so far, it seems he intends to deliver. Unfortunately, the news media has been so focused on the controversy regarding the president's use of Twitter and swirling allegations of collusion with the Russians, that the president's actual policy agenda is sailing past voters without them even knowing it. During times like these, it's critical that members of the public remain vigilant, they remain informed, and most importantly, they must remain active. Now more than ever, our environment is under attack, and it's up to you to defend it.