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Even as Covid-19 & Protests Rage, Trump Continues His Assault on the Environment

I taught an environmental law and policy class in the Spring and, unfortunately, one of the consistent themes was Donald Trump's efforts to roll-back environmental protections, both domestically and internationally. There has never been a presidential administration so intent on gutting green regulations at the behest of polluters.

As much of the world is ramping up efforts to battle micro-plastics in our oceans, climate change, species extinction, toxic chemicals in our air and water, deforestation, and so many other challenges, Trump's Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] looks for new ways to undermine America's environmental laws.

So, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the Trump administration is issuing anti-environmental edicts while the nation's attention is focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the George Floyd demonstrations. Here's what they have been up to.

1. The administration is opening the large Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine "monument" off the coast of New England to commercial fishing. Trump administration officials say it will help commercial fishermen during the economic downturn, but it doesn't address their real problem: finding buyers for what they already catch. Increasing supply while demand is low is generally not a good economic model.

The Guardian: “This rollback essentially sells off the future of the ocean and the future of the ecosystem for almost no present economic benefit,” said Miriam Goldstein, the ocean policy director at the Center for American Progress (Cap). “[That’s] why it’s so puzzling to do it at all and even more puzzling that the president is doing it now, in the middle of the pandemic and with police riots going on around the country.” ...
...“Even fishing done well still has an impact, so for that reason it’s important to have special areas of the ocean set aside. And this has been shown through a lot of science, that it is beneficial to ocean ecosystems, to biodiversity, to threatened and endangered species – and beneficial to those fisheries themselves,” Goldstein said."

2. Last Thursday Trump issued an executive order to waive parts of the National Environmental Policy Act to allow the construction of highways, pipelines and other large infrastructure projects with minimal environmental oversight. Usually, large projects like these require approval under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of the project on the environment, human health, and endangered species. "Many industries and developers cheered. But environmentalists pounced on the new order. “Instead of trying to ease the pain of a nation in crisis, President Trump is focused on easing the pain of polluters,” said Gina McCarthy, a former EPA administrator who now heads the Natural Resources Defense Council. She characterized this move as “utterly senseless” and an abuse of emergency powers." “These reviews are required by law to protect people from industries that can harm our health and our communities,” McCarthy said. “Getting rid of them will hit those who live closest to polluting facilities and highways the hardest—in many of the same communities already suffering the most from the national emergencies at hand.”

3. The EPA, which is now directed by former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, announced plans to change the way the agency uses cost-benefit analyses to create Clean Air Act regulations. The change would weaken the agency's ability to regulate air pollution because it would discount some of the health benefits the regulations provide.

New York Times: “These economic cost-benefit analyses have been an important driver of Clean Air Act regulations for 40 years,” said Richard Morgenstern, a former E.P.A. official who served from the Reagan to the Clinton administrations. “What this rule is doing is altering the math in such a way to potentially downplay the economic benefit to public health, so they are justified in writing weaker rules in the future.”

Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University, captured the Trump administration's efforts quite well yesterday, saying “When it comes to trying to unravel this nations’ environmental protection laws, this administration never sleeps,”

#Trump #environment #news

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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