A fourth, who pondered Trump’s dozen of attacks on core environmental protection, put it differently: “[I’m] Really damn pissed off – and that’s nice. ”
The former environmental officials, two Republicans and two Democrats, shared their frustrations on a campaign call from Joe Biden and in a separate conversation with reporters over the past few weeks. They are: Bill Reilly of the George HW Bush Administration; Christine Todd Whitman of the Bill Clinton Administration; Carol Browner of the George W. Bush administration and Gina McCarthy of the Barack Obama administration.
You have more than enough evidence to quote them – Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reversed rules designed to purify the air, protect waterways from industrial pollution, and fight climate change.
Trump has brought the agency to an all-time low, argue his critics. According to a report by the Environmental Protection Network of more than 500 former agency officials, the rollbacks had “serious and measurable consequences, especially for already overburdened low-income and color communities.”
The effects include “more respiratory and heart disease,” which will shorten life. “Decreased water quality” for drinking water, fishing and recreation; “Reduced Superfund Cleanup”; and “devastating consequences” of uncontrolled climate change, the group said.
However, the EPA’s problems began long before Trump was elected in 2016.
Fifty years after its inception under the Nixon administration, the EPA has outdone itself by the industry. The agency’s budget and staffing have declined over the past generation – while industry has got a tighter grip on the political system and established new sectors with minimal control.
Amid a scientific revolution in understanding how humans and the environment react to pollution, regulators have been unable to translate many of these findings into more stringent protective measures.
These concerns are detailed by 76 current and former EPO staff members who have been interviewed in peer-reviewed research over the past few years. Trump has “accelerated a longer-term decline in EPA resources, expertise and authority,” according to researchers from the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative.
An EPO official said, “People noticed that the environment was a mess in the 1970s and we had to clean it up. Well, we cleaned it up … the air is generally safe … and we don’t have the blood level problems we used to have.
“It’s not much appreciated how much work it takes to keep this up.”
In response to questions about the agency’s record under Trump, spokesman James Hewitt criticized former EPA administrators for handling air pollution around Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Flint drinking water crisis.
Hewitt said air quality improved 7% under Trump, despite an Associated Press report found that air quality improvements have stagnated after years of progress.
He said the Trump administration delisted as many toxic Superfund locations in four years as Obama did in eight years, but the Huffington Post reported that the number of priority locations had increased and the number of unfunded locations had increased.
The spokesman added that the EPA is about to update a rule on lead and copper that has not been revised in 30 years. However, critics say the changes won’t go far enough.
The numbers show the EPA has come under pressure:
- According to a separate report from EDGI, the agency employs 14,172 people, about one for every 23,161 U.S. residents.
- In comparison, the transportation department has almost four times as many employees and the agriculture department has roughly six times as many employees as the EPA, according to the Human Resources Bureau, which uses slightly different numbers.
- The EPA workforce peaked in 1999, declining 21.7% by 2019 to about the same number as it was under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
- The agency’s budget hasn’t gone much better. In 1999 it was $ 7.6 billion. Adjusted for inflation, it should be $ 11.7 billion today. But it’s not, it’s $ 9.1 billion.
Many of the employees interviewed in the study blamed the politicization of the environment. In the past few decades, Republicans have become more sensitive to polluting industries and opposed to regulation, which is known as government interference in the free market.
The most controversial issue is climate change. Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans support the environment, but they also find that Republicans are far less concerned than Democrats about how people force higher temperatures and cause more extreme weather.
“This agency is currently giving up protecting people. At least the leadership is much more interested in protecting the regulated community, ”said Christopher Sellers, senior researcher and professor of environmental history at Stonybrook University.
“I wouldn’t trust this agency.”
The sellers’ conclusion is supported by further analysis by researchers in the American Journal of Public Health, who warned in 2018 that the agency was on the verge of “regulatory coverage.” Journalists have consistently reported that senior Trump officials did exactly what companies asked for while refusing to meet with environmental officials.
For example, a coal manager who was raising funds for Trump saw his plan almost carried out on the letter. A shipping company donated $ 225,000 to a congressional candidate and received approval for their large-scale, environmentally friendly facilities. After intensive lobbying, the EPA has scaled back the risk identification of hazardous chemicals.
Trump’s EPA did not respond to requests for research and reporting showing the strong influence of the industry, but provided a list of environmental groups it allegedly met with over the past year. Some of these groups told the Guardian that their interactions with the EPA were severely limited compared to previous administrations.
Perhaps the EPA’s weakest point has been protecting the most vulnerable Americans – those who live near polluting facilities and are often low-income and black people. The agency has no formal means of measuring the full impact of living near multiple threats. For example, it doesn’t know what happens to a person who breathes dirty air from a highway and a power plant, and also drinks contaminated water.
“Most environmental laws … focus on point sources for point sources, facilities for facilities and do not consider the cumulative impact,” let alone the race or income of those who carry those impacts, said one interviewee.
Six former EPO administrators joined other former officials in an open letter in August asking them to reset course at the agency.
In a project by the Environmental Protection Network, they recommended changes to curb vehicle pollution, protect water, make greater use of science and increase environmental justice.
Stan Meiburg, deputy regional administrator for the EPA’s Atlanta office, said states also don’t have the resources to keep people safe.
“When there is a crisis, state and local authorities and the EPA can respond. What worries me more, however, is that they can anticipate things in order to avoid problems instead of just waiting for a disaster to occur, ”said Meiburg.
“When you think of the EPA after Trump, it’s not just about rebuilding what was, it’s about doing something to meet the challenges of the future.”
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