Upcoming Battles in the War on our Health and Environment

As President-elect Trump prepares to take office on January 20th, and the Republican-led Congress gins up its legislative agenda, Americans face critical attacks on our health and environment—perhaps the most damaging in history. President-elect Trump promises to undo a host of health standards put forward during the last few years. And he has nominated a slew of individuals who oppose the missions of the very agencies they are supposed to run, Meanwhile, extremists in Congress with long-pent up ambitions, are ready to roll back health and environmental protections. Even worse, they want to destroy the foundational laws all Americans depend on.  At risk is the water we drink, the air we breathe, our public oceans, coasts and lands—and the very approach this country has taken for generations to protect our health and our common inheritance.

NRDC President Rhea Suh posted a comprehensive list of the expected attacks on our health and the environment in a recent post.

That’s a lot to digest at once, so I’m going to provide occasional updates to share the threats we at NRDC think are most likely to emerge over the next few weeks.

Here are the battles we’re expecting later this week and month:

1. Nominations. Trump has assembled quite a cabinet of polluters—apologists for industry who don’t even pretend to want to protect Americans. NRDC opposes these nominees.

But the nominee to run the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is absolutely unacceptable. He appears to oppose the agency’s mission and there’s not a shred of evidence of positive environmental accomplishments he can point to. Working together with fossil fuel interests and polluters, he has sued the EPA again and again and again and again and again to overturn safeguards that would reduce more air and water pollution than Pruitt and industry want reduced. The New York Times published an excellent front-page story detailing Pruitt's consistent work on behalf of polluter interests over the weekend. And Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington just posted a letter raising concerns about Pruitt's ethics agreement. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on Pruitt's nomination tomorrow, January 18th and votes may happen within a week or two. 

2. Fundamental Safety and Health Standards. The House has passed a series of anti-regulatory measures in the last two weeks that Republican leaders are packaging as “reform.”  These bills are actually aimed at destroying federal agencies’ ability to protect Americans from a host a industry harms. The Senate is expected to begin work next month on a version of the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), a benign-sounding name for a bill that would effectively make it impossible to protect health through federal safety standards. The RAA would amend numerous laws and effectively give industry control over the regulatory system. It’s about eliminating accountability not creating it.

More info: NRDC fact sheet on the RAA, and a letter from national health organizations urging the Senate to reject this dangerous bill.

3. Climate change from methane pollution. The House is also expected to hold a Congressional Review Act (CRA) vote to repeal the methane rule for BLM lands.  The methane rule would require companies with natural gas pipelines to hire plumbers and other workers to fix their leaks so that methane, a cancer-causing chemical, does not leak out of their facilities. Here's a fact sheet about this important standard.

4. Stream Protections. The House is expected to hold a CRA vote to repeal the stream protection rule, which is intended to protect the thousands of rivers that have been legally inundated by fill from mountain top removal in the mining process. More info is here.

5. Sweeping important health and environmental protections away. Trump has repeatedly promised to use his new executive authority his first day in office to sweep away health and safety policies put in place by President Obama. That could include reversing course on Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines and allowing those projects to move ahead, various measures related to climate pollution, from funding international efforts to executive orders on how the federal agencies reduce and report carbon pollution, attempting to reverse policies that preserve and protect our national parks, monuments, and other public lands and oceans from oil and coal mining, and more. Stay tuned!   

There’s a lot more going on, and a lot more headed our way.

We’ll work to keep posting the most imminent threats to public health and safety. 

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