The Incredible Shrinking Environment

The Incredible Shrinking Environment
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Environmental protection is shrinking right before the American public’s very eyes, courtesy of President Donald J. Trump.

Our global leadership on climate change has been transformed into distressing solitary dissent on the world stage.

Regulation to prevent mountain streams from being polluted by coal mining waste has been wiped off the books with a stroke of Trump’s pen. So have regulations: banning offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans; requiring consideration of climate change in management of national parks; and instituting a freeze on new coal leases on public lands. Federal tracts previously set aside for conservation will be opened for drilling. More than a dozen other environmental regulations originating during President Obama’s reign have also disappeared into the political ether, courtesy of Trump.

Then there are the rules Trump is still laboring to revoke. They include: protection of much of the nation’s remaining wetlands; reduction of polluting greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants; and imposition of public land restrictions on fracking (i.e. natural gas extraction) to protect against water pollution.

This exercise in rolling back environmental regulations is nothing more than catering to the energy industry and other members of the business donor class chaffing at compliance costs.

In response to prodding from extractive industries, Trump is also contemplating reduction of the size of 10 national monuments and several federal marine sanctuaries. These lands and waters were set aside to preserve their precious natural assets, which would be jeopardized by commercial activity.

A saving grace is doubt that Trump has the legal authority to undo national monuments established by previous presidents. Accordingly, environmental community lawyers are primed to affirm monuments’ posterity.

Reflecting his denial of human-generated global warming, Trump is stripping the federal government of environmentally attuned scientific advisors, and suppressing information to the public on climate change. Environmentally-related governmental agencies are replacing high ranking employees dedicated to industrial pollution cleanup with individuals recruited from the corporate world they are supposed to regulate.

Some Trump nominees, such as Texan Kathleen Hartnett White, question established climate science that implicates human beings as culprits. She is on track to be head of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.

If Trump gets his way, the federal subsidies for solar energy and energy efficiency, two mainstays for a clean, sustainable energy future, will vanish. It does not seem to matter that these two mainstays have been building momentum that would be disrupted by a loss of government subsidies.

Trump’s proposed budget cuts would dismantle much of the government’s weather prediction apparatus, even as storms are becoming more violent due to rising global temperatures.

In drafting rules, the Environmental Protection Agency currently weighs the projected health benefits against the compliance costs. Trump would change all that by rejecting inclusion of the health benefits as too speculative. That would weaken fiscal justification of the aforementioned regulations, much to the delight of corporate America.

Trump repeatedly insists he is for clean air and pure water, but on his watch, they are shaping up to be harder to come by.

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