By John LaForge
Spring Quarterly 2018
The first year of the Trump Administration has been devastating for environmental protection. As if pollution and graft made the country great, the Trump administration, Republican majorities and some key Democrats have been on a regulation-cancelling rampage, repealing rules on environmental protection, health care, financial services, and even internet accessibility. According the Dec. 15 New York Times, Trump’s military-industrial complex had revoked 67 rules, withdrawn 635 planned regulations, declared 244 rules “inactive,” and “delayed” 700 others. News reports in January indicated that Trump had bragged about repealing 22 regulations for every adopted new one adopted: 67 rules nullified against three new ones. Significantly, around Feb. 3rd, the Senate reversed the Stream Protection Rule that sought to protect surface water and drinking water sources from mining debris. A separate rule that required mining, gas and oil companies to report payments to foreign governments and aimed at punishing bribery, was also repealed.
On Jan. 15, nine of the 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board resigned, the Washington Post reported, in protest over Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s refusal to meet with them. On Dec. 18, 2017, Trump announced that the government will no longer regard climate change by name as a national security threat.
The move is an abrupt reversal of the Obama administration’s position, which in 2015 described climate change as “an urgent and growing threat to our national security,” given its effects on natural disasters, conflicts over food and water, and refugee crises.
Also in December, EPA officials removed dozens of online resources available to aid local and state governments confronting climate change. The deletions were called “very alarming” by Adam Parris of the Science and Resilience Institute in New York who said, “These are the kind of resources it has taken years to develop.”
By Dec. 23, 2017, more than 700 employees of the Environmental Protection Agency had left the agency, and of them, over 200 were scientists, and 96 are environmental protection specialists, the New York Times reported. Thomas Burke, a former EPA science advisor told the Times, “The mission of the agency is the protection of public health. Clearly there’s been a departure in the mission.”