The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Health and Environment, Vol. 8

The Republican-controlled Congress was on spring break, but that hardly deterred President Trump and EPA AdministratorScott Pruitt from pressing full speed ahead with their assault on public health and the environment.
Oil rig in Wyoming
Credit: BLM Wyoming/Flickr

The Republican-controlled Congress was on spring break, but that hardly deterred President Trump and Scott Pruitt, his Environmental Protection Agency administrator, from pressing full speed ahead with their assault on public health and the environment.

The president and the EPA head stumped for smog and dirty fuels that imperil our communities and country. They killed off a climate office and put thousands of EPA employees on notice, again, that their jobs may follow. And they promoted upcoming public hearings that essentially will ask Americans to identify which public health safeguards they’d like to do away with.

“Back” is right―back to dirty energy of our past

On April 13, Pruitt headed to Pennsylvania coal country to launch a “Back to Basics Agenda.” That’s certainly truth in advertising. He talked about going back to dirty fuels of our past and bringing back coal jobs—those that mechanization and market forces have reduced. No mention of our country’s clean energy sector, which is busier than ever producing jobs: three million and counting, according to new government data.

Senators to Pruitt: How will you cut climate pollution?

While in Pennsylvania, Pruitt told coal miners that the “regulatory assault” on their industry is over—apparently referring to the executive order Trump signed on March 28 that could end the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.

That executive order troubled 23 Senate Democrats enough to send Pruitt a letter April 7 asserting that the EPA has an obligation under law to address carbon pollution. “We also want to know how the agency intends to meet its legal obligations to address carbon pollution emissions if the Clean Power Plan is rescinded,” they wrote.

Hazy skies, but clearly protecting polluters

Pruitt’s EPA moved to roll back defending the rule limiting ground-level ozone—a by-product of fossil fuel pollution that produces smog and is linked to respiratory and heart ailments. On April 7, the agency asked a federal court to delay oral arguments in the lawsuit, claiming it needs “adequate time to fully review” the Obama-era standard limiting the air pollutant that forms smog.

Pruitt shutters climate office

Also on April 7, the EPA said it was shutting down its office that helps states and local governments adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather and sea level rise—at a time when both are increasing. It’s not wise to stick your head in the sand when the waters all around you are rising.

Trump to EPA: “You’re fired.”

On April 11, the White House issued a 14-page memorandum ordering federal agency heads to make deep personnel cuts in the next year. The biggest impact could be at EPA, slated for a 31 percent cut under Trump’s proposed budget, reducing staff by one-fifth from 15,000 to 12,000—if Congress goes along. That, fortunately, is a big if that we’ll see play out in the coming budget debate.

BLM backs Jurassic fuels

Meanwhile, a new priority for the Bureau of Land Management will be to push for more extraction of Jurassic fuels from our public lands, according to leaked documents. David Doniger, director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air program, says we’ve now entered the Trumpocene era—which will be known for climate denial, propping up declining energy, and putting our health and welfare at risk.

Public hearings on eliminating public safeguards

Looking ahead, the EPA formally opened a docket to public comment to identify regulations to be repealed, replaced, or modified. Public comments will be accepted through May 15. Memo to Pruitt: Expect the public to pepper you with demands to keep, not kill, regulations that provide clean air, safe water, healthy lands, and climate action.

Pruitt afraid of his staff and environmental advocates

News broke on April 11 that a draft of the EPA budget calls for doubling the security detail assigned to Pruitt, while slashing programs to protect public health. Why does the administrator, on the job only since February 17, need around-the-clock bodyguards? To protect him from EPA staff and environmental activists, according to Myron Ebell, a former adviser to Trump on environmental issues.

Maybe if protected polluters less and the public health more, in keeping with his agency’s mission, he wouldn’t have so much to fear.

In this era where our health and environment are under assault by Trump and congressional Republicans, NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we will be vigilantly monitoring and reporting on the administration’s assault on the environment through Trump Watch.