The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 20

Hundreds of safeguards that protect Americans are now in jeopardy and a court allows the EPA to continue putting kids at risk from a toxic pesticide.
Credit: iStock

Hundreds of safeguards that protect Americans are now in jeopardy and a court allows the EPA to continue putting kids at risk from a toxic pesticide.

Having failed to take away health insurance for 32 million Americans with his Obamacare repeal, President Trump pivoted this week to bragging about taking away health, safety, and environmental protections for 300 million Americans.

Trump didn’t put it that way, of course. But that would be the impact of his crusade to stop and roll back hundreds, if not thousands, of national safeguards, many of them advanced in the Obama era.

These include canceling the Clean Power Plan, which would clean up dirty power plants that are making Americans sick and hastening climate change. And ending Clean Water Rule protections for rivers and streams that more than 100 million Americans rely on for drinking water.

Also targeted for elimination: rules guarding against water pollution from power plants, limits on methane pollution in landfills, curbs on methane from oil and gas drilling on public lands, and much more.

“Make no mistake, Trump’s antiregulatory crusade is designed to provide Wall Street, fossil fuel companies, industrial polluters, and others with new tools to grind the wheels of public protections to a halt,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh. “The administration is making it harder for individuals to hold corporations to account.”

The Trump administration and the congressional Republican assault on our health and environment continued in other ways as well.

Trump Vision: A World (Bank) of Fossil Fuels

As part of its fossils-forever agenda, the Trump administration recently moved to reverse Obama-era restrictions that discourage big development banks such as the World Bank from funding coal-fired power plants.

First, the U.S. Department of Treasury revoked a guidance from 2013 curbing funding from these development banks for coal projects. Next it advanced “Treasury Guidance for U.S. Positions on Multilateral Development Banks Engaging on Energy Projects and Policies.” This directs the U.S. representative for each of these banks to “help countries access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently.” Translation: Build more coal plants abroad.

Pretending the world needs more fossil fuel power while climate change is putting billions of people’s health and livelihood at risk doesn’t make any sense, said Jake Schmidt, NRDC’s International program director.

Trump’s Next Brilliant Idea: Use Climate-Protection Money to Build More Coal Plants

In 2010, countries around the world set up a Green Climate Fund to help developing countries move away from fossil fuels by promoting a shift to low-emissions and climate-resilient development. Now Trump has put forward a baffling idea: Use the money to build more coal-fired power plants.

The United States has already donated $1 billion to the fund, giving it leverage, one White House official said, to advance Trump’s American-energy goals worldwide, including so-called “clean coal” technology. But there’s no such thing as clean coal, as NRDC and others have shown.

As one observer put it, using money meant to aid countries hit hard by climate change to instead fund more coal plants is like “taking the fire department’s budget and using it to pour gasoline on the blaze.”

House Moves on “Polluting in America” Bill

At the White House, this was “Made in America” week. House GOP Appropriations Committee members made it their own as they approved a spending bill on July 19 deeply cutting funds for the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"House Republicans couldn’t be clearer,” said Scott Slesinger, NRDC’s legislative director. “Their ‘Polluting in America’ spending bill would make our air dirtier, our water unsafe, and our treasured public lands open to harmful oil and gas drilling. And that’s not the direction our country should go.”

House Moves to Expand Dangerous Drilling in Alaska and Public Lands

The House budget framework bill contains a backdoor way to open the door for more oil and gas drilling and fracking on public lands and in public waters, including the long-shielded Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“This land belongs to you and me,” said NRDC president Suh. “We won’t let Trump, or anyone else, turn our natural heritage into an industrial wasteland for the sake of oil and gas profits.”

NRDC oil and gas drilling expert Franz Matzner said the House Republicans’ goal is to turn the Arctic wildlife refuge into “a moonscape of drill rigs and crisscrossing pipelines and expose our unspoiled coasts to the oil spills and pollution that are part and parcel of offshore drilling.”

Court Lets EPA Continue to Put Kids at Risk from Pesticide

In a disappointing move, a federal court issued an order—based on a narrow procedural point—that allows the EPA to continue jeopardizing the health of children across America by delaying a decision on a proposed ban of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to learning disabilities. NRDC and partners, including seven states, have filed an appeal with the agency challenging the EPA's delay; that appeal is still pending.

“This dangerous chemical has no place in our communities or on the food we feed our families. The EPA’s own science shows there are unsafe residues of the pesticide on common fruits and vegetables—including kid favorites like apples and oranges,” said Erik Olson, director of NRDC’s Health program, who vowed to continue the fight against this toxic chemical.

That’s this week’s Real Lowdown. NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we’re vigilantly reporting on the administration’s assault on the environment through Trump Watch.