How Can We Reverse the Tide of Trump’s Plan to Eliminate the U.S. EPA? – Part Two

by Hugh Johnson

Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Director of New York State’s Region II, spoke at the SPB dinner in June; Part One of her speech was published in the Aug/Sept newsletter; here is Part Two:

ALBANY. NY: On Day 68, Trump actually traveled to the EPA Headquarters to announce a reduction in the EPA Clear Acts. Coal miners were invited to attend. Judith stated, “If Trump had any real interest in coal miner’s careers, he would advocate for their safety, since it is one of the most hazardous occupations in the world.”

The President then signed an Executive Order to roll back EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the first federal regulation to require the reduction of carbon pollution from all fossil fuel power plants. During that event, he was surrounded by coal miners. Judith asserted, “Rather than photo ops, what coal miners really need is job retraining.” According to Fortune Magazine, there are twice as many solar workers as coal miners in our nation today. The New York Times reported recently that there are more than 2 jobs in solar for every 1 job in coal. Coal miners also need comprehensive health insurance so they get good health care to deal with black lung disease and other respiratory illnesses related to working in coal mines.

The following day, Day 69, EPA Administrator Pruitt rejected years of work by EPA scientists, and blocked the federal ban on using one of the most widely used pesticides, chlorpyrifos. This pesticide was banned for used in most household settings in 2000 but is still used on about 40,000 farms growing 50 crops, including apples and almonds. It is a neurotoxin and has been shown to harm children and farmworkers. The New York Attorney General’s office has done some great work on this issue. Chlorpyrifos is manufactured by Dow. Pruitt reversed this former ban.

On Day 81, Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as the latest member of the Supreme Court.

Day 95, the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met with the National Mining Association, urging them to weigh in with the White House to pull out of the international Paris Climate Change accord. The next day the Mining Association did just that.

Just three days later, the President signed an Executive Order encouraging oil drilling in the Arctic and in the southeastern Atlantic. What got less attention, is that Executive Order also opens up some federally protected marine sanctuaries to oil drilling and commercial fishing. It also rolls back rules that were put in place after the BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that aimed to make offshore oil drilling safer.

On Day 106. EPA Administrator Pruitt was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Republican Party fundraising dinner. The invitation stated: “You don’t want to miss Pruitt at this year’s Oklahoma GOP gala as he discusses his plan to slash regulations, bring back jobs to Oklahoma and decrease the size of the EPA.” Mr. Pruitt is a former state Attorney General. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island filed a complaint that Mr. Pruitt would be violating the Hatch Act. The next day Mr. Pruitt backed out of the Republican fundraising event.

On day 140, Trump went to the Rose Garden and announced that the USA would pull out of the Paris Accord. That meant we were one of THREE countries not involved in it, the other two being Nicaragua and Syria. The US is the country with the second biggest carbon footprint, second only to China. In the Paris Accord, we had committed to reducing our carbon emissions by 26 to 28% over the next TEN years. The US now stands with Syria – rejecting this essential international agreement. A recent poll indicated only about 18% of Americans agree that Trump pulling out of Paris will help the economy.

On Day 143, Pruitt was on “Meet the Press” and FOX News stating that since Trump became President, 50,000 new coal mining positions had been created when only about 400 new positions were! Meanwhile Judith stated that in 2016, there were about 374,000 positions in the new and growing solar energy industry while only 160,000 ones in the coal industry.

While the Trump Administration claims their number one priority is job creation, they ignore the fact that energy efficiency and renewable energy will provide the most new jobs.

It was the 160th day of the Trump presidency when Judith spoke. She clearly stated “Things will probably get worse.” So far, of the 559 White House positions that require Senate nominations, only 117 had been filled. This she stated, “Was a good thing” in that more harm could and would likely be done once POTUS-45 fills more of the vacant the positions.

Here is a positive development: In May, Congress voted on a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running until September 30. The Trump Administration had targeted EPA for a $247 million budget cut, but Congress only went along with a $81 million cut. The Congress said no staff reductions at EPA and modestly bumped up funding for science and clean energy. Equally important, Congress did not allow 70 anti-environmental policy riders and provided a 3 percent increase for National Parks. Congress pushed back because they heard from their constituents.

Here’s another interesting twist. The day before the President pulled the US out of the Paris Accord, 62 percent of Exxon Mobil shareholders voted in favor of a proposal to require Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company to disclose the impact of its business on climate change. Last year a similar proposal got 38% of the shareholders vote and this year 62%. Judith thanked to State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli for helping to lead the charge on this. It was a great accomplishment and now sets the stage for him to take a very hard look at divestment. Judith went on to question if NY State workers would want their pensions invested in fossil fuel, given their bleak financial future.

She stated, “On the climate change issue, this is a very serious moment in our nation’s history.”

A recent analysis quantified the effect of these new policies on US greenhouse gas emissions and finds that emissions would have begun to flatten or increase by 2020 if these policies were actually put in place. The Trump policies could lead to an extra half a billion tons of greenhouse gases in the environment by 2025. That number is equal to the annual electricity emissions of 60 percent of US homes. Judith stated, “This, at a time, when we have to be rapidly driving down carbon emissions.“

She asked, “Can the states and the private sector take care of this?” Then she indicated Governor Cuomo has laid out some good climate change goals and Judith looks forward to seeing his state report on how to shift to 100% renewable energy. “If New York can put that in place, that would be real leadership.” However, she believes that the federal government is strongly needed to oversee cleaning the environment. Also, she does NOT support supplying 8 billion dollars to old nuclear power plants.

Acid rain, which has been cut by 70% largely thanks to strong science and enforcement of the Clean Air Act, may return thanks to tall smokestacks in Ohio and Indiana. Higher concentrations of carbon in our environment will lead to more sea level rise which is not really an issue states can handle on their own. EPA also has a vital oversight role to play in New York. Remember, Congress has not repealed or replaced one environmental law.

So far, we still have the Safe Drinking Water Act, FIFRA, CERCLA, RCRA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act although Congress does seem to be gunning for the Endangered Species Act.

Judith then offered four distinct ways we the public can help turn to the tide on Trump’s desire to eliminate the EPA.

1) Turn to the courts. “Save the Pine Bush” is good at doing that. We have the law on our side. Environmental organizations like Earthjustice and Natural Resources Defense Council are filing lawsuits as quickly as they can. But local and statewide groups need to do the same, because the national groups cannot sustain the work and wont’ be able to take on regional and local issues. This is going to be a very long battle. Reversing the damage that has already been done in just the first few months of the Trump Administration is going to be hard and time consuming.

2) Support your Local Media and keep up on timely and accurate information provided by them. We have access to lots of news on the internet. However, Judith insists on subscribing to your local papers and tell them you want to see more environmental coverage. Support NPR and PBS, they do some great environmental reporting and like EPA, they are on the chopping block.

3) Focus on the specific EPA budget and tell both Senator Schummer, and Gellibrand you will NOT tolerate Trump planning to slash the EPA. Talk to your local representatives as well. A 31% budget cut, as the Trump Administration has proposed for EPA would be a body blow. We need Congress to reject the Trump environmental budget. However, Congress is busy with so many other issues. Judith worries that while Congress is working to block cuts to medicare and Medicaid, immigration, and cuts to education — and so much more — environmental budget cuts won’t be top tier issues. She wants us all to put the phone number of your congress member in your phone and call her or him, A LOT. This fight is not going to be won in Washington, It can be won Congressional district by Congressional district. Judith wants us to spend most of the time, working in key House districts where we have to persuade the members to pledge not to cut the EPA budget and don’t forget to thank our allies.

4) Mobilize – Judith wants us to participate in local and larger demonstrations. Voice your resistance to slashing the EPA by writing articles to local newspapers “Letters to the Editor,” donating money, using Twitter and Facebook.

Judith Enck ended her talk by inviting folks to reach out to Trump supporters and ask them if clean drinking water is important to them and their kids. If so, then how can they justify reducing the EPA so drinking water can no longer be monitored?

She encouraged everyone to donate money to good causes like “Save the Pine Bush,” reduce their carbon footprints by carpooling, biking locally, recycling, composting , etc. She concluded “The fight to save the EPA will be a long battle.”


Published in October/November 2017 Newsletter
Save the Pine Bush Newsletter