All environmental protections appear to be at risk now as our new administration and majority zealously pursue a pro-business agenda. I am a business owner, but more importantly, I am a world citizen. I would never consider taking away from the environment; instead my moral compass is all about contributing to it. We recently invested in solar panels at our place of business. We are now meeting the bulk of our energy needs and at times adding renewable energy to the grid. I take great comfort in knowing we are simultaneously creating electricity as our air conditioner cranks away on a hot summer sunny day.
We are living in unprecedented times. As our population grows, environmental protections are especially critical as escalating pollution threatens our air, water, and soils. In such vitally important times, multiple anti-environmental executive orders are flowing and new agency appointees are all too willing to undermine the very missions their agency should be championing
Environmental Protection Agency – The EPA mission isn’t faring well, given the appointee, Scott Pruitt, sued the agency fourteen times while serving as the Oklahoma attorney general. With proposed budget cuts of 31%, 3200 jobs are at risk while scientists are already being fired and replaced with industry CEOs, clearly prioritizing business interests over public health and science, the EPAs basic core mission. Then again, they recently removed “science” from the mission statement. Future budget decisions aside, Pruitt is already quietly tearing this agency and many of our environmental protections apart.
Food and Drug Administration – Per executive order, requests are made to streamline processes, allowing less time for testing and safeguards. The approvals of more toxic pesticides are on the fast-track along with shorter drug reviews.
USDA – President Trump is trying to get Sam Clovis confirmed as “Chief Scientist” of the USDA, the agency responsible for our nation’s food safety, nutrition and agriculture. The USDA is also on the front lines of the climate crisis, as severe weather patterns (droughts and floods) impact our farmers and food supply in a major way. To be noted, Clovis isn’t a Scientist, he denies climate change and has no agricultural background.
Endangered Species Act – Attempts are being made to gut protections of our endangered species. Yes, the same tired argument is being made, those protections are hampering big business.
Oil Pipeline Escalation – Early in the year the Keystone XL was given the executive green light along with the Dakota Access Pipelines, halting all environmental studies. Fortunately a simple signature didn’t seal the deal. A Nebraska Judge is delaying the Keystone XL protecting the Ogallala Aquifer, our nation’s largest aquifer under Nebraska expanding into surrounding states. As for the Dakota pipeline, within weeks, it was quickly finished and is already transporting oil. Recently a federal judge ruled the interrupted environmental study puts our waterways (Missouri River included), tribal land and food source at risk but the oil flow continues, at least for now. Multiple suits are in motion attempting to stop both pipelines.
Attempts to Expand Off-Shore Drilling – Per executive order, now all bans on offshore oil and gas drilling are under review putting parts of the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at risk.
National Monuments – In an unprecedented move, attempts are being made to shrink or remove protective status of millions of acres set aside for our public to enjoy, undermining all designations made by past Presidents since 1996. As directed, “expedited” reviews were conducted and now our Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending we drastically shrink our national monuments – names yet to be revealed. Our Secretary is also proposing we withdraw the safety rules established by the Bureau of Land Management that protect our water supply from toxic fracking chemicals.
Paris Agreement – Our President withdrew from the world agreement, saying he could get a “better deal”. Such verbiage misses the whole point of the cooperative agreement made by 196 countries promising to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by adopting clean energy and phasing out fossil fuels. To be noted, the United States is the second highest emitters in the world, after China; together emitting about 45% of the world’s carbon dioxide. We join only two other countries who aren’t onboard, Nicaragua requesting more ambitious world goals, and Syria. Fortunately other Champions are coming forward, leading from the bottom up. Michael Bloomberg has pledge to fill the United States funding gap to help other countries implement the agreement, contributing fifteen million dollars! Many cities are now creating their own Climate Action Plans; onboard in Missouri are St. Louis, Kansas City, O’Fallon, University City and Columbia. More states and cities are embracing renewables saving their citizens energy and healthcare costs, all the while reducing their greenhouse emissions
Hiding information about Climate Change – All information about climate change was removed from the EPA website, once considered the most comprehensive educational site on the subject. Fortunately, several cities – Boston, Chicago and San Francisco – have published replicas of the previous EPA site to preserve decades of work and to insure information is readily available to the public.
Energy Pursuits – The executive branch is out of step with the world, relaxing environmental regulations promoting oil and coal at a time when all other countries are pursuing healthier, more lucrative renewable. It’s ironic as we hear all this rhetoric about regulations stifling our economy; our federal government isn’t promoting the most lucrative opportunity of our lifetime, clean tech jobs. Other countries are jumping at the opportunity to fill the gap and emerge as industry leaders. All the while we are creating more pollution build-up for our children’s generation to clean up.
Undermining Scientists – Scientists give us a better life by bring innovation and keeping us safe. Enjoy your refrigerator…your car…your air-conditioner…more efficient appliances…cleaner skies and waterways…better health…life saving drugs? When scientists share their expertise, those who have no qualms with exploiting our earth and health tell us our noble scientists have a hidden agenda. Fortunately, there is now a movement across academia to back-up key databases for fear it will be buried or deleted.
While agency appointments and executive orders are causing great harm, it’s more difficult to change our environmental laws. While the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act are both under review, it’ll require the same rule-making process to change the original rule. Repealing rules takes time and Congressional approval. Encouragingly, the US Senate narrowly rejected the request to lift methane emissions levels on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands. And when an executive order oversteps, complaints can be filed on the federal or state level and if the order is determined to be unconstitutional, it can be overturned.
Meanwhile, I will continue to give my representatives feedback requesting policies that prioritize clean water to drink, clean air to breathe and non-toxic soil to grow food, our very basic needs and rights. I hope you do the same!