The Trump Administration labels environmentalists with the same type of derogatory terms that Trump uses for all of his “enemies”–i.e., almost everybody in the country that isn’t loyal to the bully-in chief because they recognize his shallow, egotistical, narcissistic lack of knowledge and caring about the well-being of the country or its citizens–even while he claims with his typical bravado and fluff that his administration makes “the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet” a top priority. Meanwhile, Trump is busy rolling back as many environmental protections as possible. See, e.g., Emma Newburger, Trump is rolling back over 80 environmental regulations. Here are five big changes you might have missed in 2019, CNBC (Dec 24, 2019) (rollbacks including fewer protections for endangered species). Trump and other people of wealth think they can live in a cocoon of luxury that doesn’t suffer damage when the earth’s species die out from pesticides and pollution, when the earth’s climate changes to create fires and storms hostile to life, when the earth’s waters are no longer clear and drinkable by plants, animals (and humans), when the earth’s land is destroyed by overlumbering, fracking, the rapacious thirst of oil drillers, and the careless destruction of mountains of surface mining. They are wrong, but they may not recognize it until too late. Trump’s stupidity is thinking that he who doesn’t read, hasn’t studied, and doesn’t care about science or life generally is suited to make decisions about wilderness or any of the myriad environmental issues facing us. He leads rallies where people become mesmerized by being part of a raving crowd, with little recognition themselves of the way the ultra rich are taking advantage of them in their daily lives. He knows nothing, and cares even less about what he doesn’t know. Yet his administration continues to move to change environmental policy to favor big corporate interests and disfavor local decisionmaking. He appoints industry hacks as Interior Secretary–there was Ryan Zinke, and then extraction industry lobbyist David Bernhardt. See, e.g., Michael Greshko et al,A running list of how Trump is changing environmental policy, National Geographic, May 3, 2019 (pipeline order, David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary, safety regulations rolled back, oil and gas access to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Keystone XL pipeline approval, etc.). Preservation of pristine natural areas such as the Arctic Wildlife Refuge or the Big Bear Monument are eroded with no concern, so long as corporate grandees are satisfied. Trump’s final budget plan, released Feb. 10, 2020, is yet another example: steep cuts to the agencies and programs that protect our climate, air, water and wildlife. See, e.g., Trump’s final budget enshrines climate denial, war and cruelty into conservative manifesto, Friends of the Earth, Feb. 10, 2020.
This Trump no-holds-barred war on the environment is devastating for most Americans. The Flint water crisis, where local and state administrators made stupid decisions about switching to cheaper water without protections against lead poisoning are just an early example of what awaits the entire country under this approach. It is, as Friends of the Earth policy analyst Lukas Ross notes, “an immense moral disgrace” that is hardest on “our society’s most vulnerable”. Id. Communities of color, unsurprisingly given the GOP’s empty rhetoric about caring about equality and justice, are the most harmed by these policies. See, e.g., Amy Patronella & Saharra Griffin, Communities of Color Bear the Brunt of Trump’s Anti-Environmental Agenda, Center for American Progress, Feb. 27, 2020. That piece notes that systemic racism and segregation (including redlining of residential districts) have resulted in low-income communities and people of color being “disproportionately vulnerable” to climage change impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. The column lists key examples of Trump administration anti-environmental actions, including the following:
- removing protections for one-third of U.S. drinking water sources “by weakening the Clean Water Act, finalizing a so-called dirty water rule, and delaying action to protect against toxic chemicals in drinking water;
- easing regulations surrounding disposal of coal ash to prevent its leaking into groundwater sources, which tends to affect communities of color disproportionately with cancer, low birth-weight babies, and premature deaths;
- proposing a roll-back of standards established in 2011 to protect against mercury and other toxic chemicals, including mercury emissions from coal and oil fired power polants, with a particularly negative impact on those living in close proximity, which tend to be African Americans;
- gutting the Clean Power Plan designed to reduce climate-change inducing pollution and improve public health;
- lowering the standards for nitrogen oxide emissions from coal plans, affecting again people of color who tend to make up a large percentage of those living within 3 miles of such plants;
- deregulating oil refineries by changing two Obama-era rules that were expected to lower cancer risks for 1.4 million people;
- requiring air quality standard reviews to consider economic and other costs rather than the health impacts required under the Clean Air Act (and thus favoring polluters, since any improvement from the status quo always comes with an economic cost);
- limiting the role of public comment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) enacted 50 years ago, in order to keep communities from having a voice in projects that affect them and handing that voice instead to corporate polluters who profit from pollution;
- proposing slashing funding for Superfund site cleanup, when such sites tend to be located in nonwhite communities (note that Andrew Wheeler as head of EPA is now overseeing sites his clients created when he was a lobbyist for the chemical industry);
- refusing to ban toxic pesticides that are linked to brain damage in children after EPA scientists studied and recommended the ban;
- Reducing EPA’s budget by more than 25% to decrease its ability to regulate industry polluters;
- continually rolling back regulations and working against climate change remediation, resulting in increases in greenhouse gas emissions and extreme weather damage ($45 billion in 2019 in the U.S. alone);
- diverting FEMA funding to immigration enforcement (which has included dragging children away from parents seeking asylum).
As the article concludes:
In the midst of this systemic elimination of federal protections and willful inaction on climate, the science is resoundingly clear: We must move to a 100 percent clean energy future with equity at the forefront. The Equitable and Just National Climate Platform, co-authored by the Center for American Progress, 12 environmental justice groups, and seven national environmental organizations, recognizes the importance of justice and equity as “central components of our climate agenda.” Additionally, it calls for “healthy climate and air quality for all” as well as “[s]afe, healthy communities and infrastructure.” All communities, particularly communities of color, can no longer afford the Trump administration’s attacks on public health and the environment.
So what does this have to do with tax policy? My friends, our tax money is currently supporting the Trump administration industrial lobbyists in their efforts to undo environmental and natural area protections across the country. This is class warfare at its heart–the lobbyists and corporate managers of the most polluting firms colluding to ensure that they can freely pollute our world without facing any liability for doing so. Our tax revenues are making it possible for Trump to fly to his own resort in Florida for which the US government pays millions in secret service guest quarters so Trump can spend most of every weekend golfing. Instead, our tax revenues should be supporting good government programs that protect our land, water and air, as well as endangered species, so that our children can enjoy a healthy life and appreciate the natural beauty of this country. Ultimately, taxes and spending are intricately entwined. Bad government–like the corrupt Trump adminsitration–means both are working to the detriment of the American people.