Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Trump protecting US corporate profits not the environment

The Trump administration is already well along in its aggressive campaign to rollback federal environmental regulations even though Trump is just getting started.

Trump has made it easier for coal mines to dump waste in West Virginia rivers. He has also ordered the repeal of the Clean Water Act that is meant to protect large areas of wetlands. He has also proposed large job cuts in the Environmental Protection Agecny (EPA) and will reduce its budget to help pay for increases in defense spending. He is preparing to revoke the Obama administration's most ambitious regulations governing climate change. As noted in a recent Digital Journal article, Trump plans an executive order to do away with the moratorium on new coal leases and revoke Obama's clean power plan.
Trump is also considering automakers' lobbying to not increase fuel-efficiency standards. Obama's pledge to send billions to UN climate change programs is also likely to not be carried out and the "savings" used to offset defense spending increases. Trump has not even ruled out US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Withdrawing from the 200 nation agreement would sabotage the international effort to help stop global warming.
The US Senate confirmed, Scott Pruitt, former Oklahoma Attorney General, as head of the EPA on February 17th. Pruitt sued the EPA in order to undo a key Obama regulation meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from coal-fired power plants. Trump's actions are in line with his campaign promises that he would get rid of the EPA in almost every form. Conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation applauds these moves as the group wants more control to go to the states and weaken the federal government in the environmental and other areas. Trump will cut the EPA budget by a humungous 25 percent.
The proposal would eventually eliminate about 1 in 5 jobs of EPA workers. Currently the EPA budget is $8.1 billion but it would be cut back to $6.1 billion. This is just $2 billion towards the $54 billion in increased defense expenditure. One source claimed that the Trump administration intended to reduce the EPA workforce from 15,000 now to 12,000.
Trump had a meeting with Al Gore at which he made greener statements. His daughter Ivanka has views that are quite opposite to that of her father who said once that climate change was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. She apparently wants to use her position in the spotlight to counter her father's views. Perhaps, she can become the "environment czar". However, her position is complicated by her relations to her business enterprises. Ivanka is used to being at the liberal margins of the Republican Party. At the Republican Convention last July she championed pay equity and parental leave not exactly policies pushed by Republicans. It will be interesting to see if a family feud develops over the issue.
Christine Whitman, who was George W. Bush's first EPA administrator warned that weakening the enforcement of environmental rules could be bad for public health. She said: “I haven’t ever really seen anything quite like this. A lot of that enforcement is protecting people.” President of the Environmental Defense Fund, Fred Krupp, said in an interview: “The very bedrock protections that have led to dramatically cleaner air and a healthy environment through both Democratic and Republican administrations are under attack.”
Nick Loris an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank defended the Trump policy: “In a lot of ways the federal government has bitten off more than they can chew. The Trump administration is undoing a lot of the regulations that the Obama administration put forth that would increase the cost of energy and would really be devoid of any environmental benefit.” On the other hand Carl Pope who formerly led the Sierra Club said: “Trump proclaims it in prime time. He's not just trying to change policy. He's trying to eliminate a key phrase in the Constitution: ‘promote the general welfare,’ by changing our public culture.”
The Trump administration must feel that the environmentalists are not a significant enough political power to outweigh the advantage that many in the business community feel arises from substantially weakening protection of the environment and consumers through effective regulation. It is politically safe to have profits trump protection.

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