Environmental policy in the current administration

Science Senator. It’s called science.

You owe it to yourself to come up to speed about the rollback of environmental protections over the first 6 months of the new administration. Focus on the protection of the water supply, then contact your elected officials about the problem. Water is a great way to find common ground with folks. It’s more important than ever to support the role of local and state government in regulating air and water pollution.

Here’s a list of changes in policy from Mother Jones:

Timeline of the rollbacks

14 February Trump signs a bill repealing an anti-corruption rule that required energy companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. The regulation was scrapped under the Congressional Review Act.

16 February The stream protection rule, which prevented mining companies dumping their waste into streams, is axed under the Congressional Review Act. Trump calls it a “terrible job-killing rule.”

28 February Trump instructs the EPA to rewrite the ‘waters of the United States’ rule, which expanded the definition of the Clean Water Act to protect the water supply for around 117 million Americans. Many farmers, real estate developers and golf course owners opposed the rule.

2 March On 1 March, governors and attorneys general from several Republican-led states write to Scott Pruitt to request the EPA stop collecting methane emissions data from around 15,000 oil and gas operations. A day later, Pruitt says he has decided to oblige “after hearing from industry.”

15 March Trump announces a review of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that are designed to push down greenhouse gases and other pollutants. More than a dozen car company chief executives asked the president to revisit an Obama-era decision to mandate improved fuel economy by 2025. Pruitt calls the standards “costly for automakers and the American people.”

28 March A sweeping executive order penned by Trump orders a rewrite of the EPA’s clean power plan, which was Obama’s centerpiece climate policy, an end to the moratorium on coal mining on public land and the removal of climate change as a consideration when approving federal projects.

29 March Pruitt denies a bid to halt the use of chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide. The chemical has been linked to damage to the nervous system and last year EPA scientists said a ban was warranted. Household use of the chemical was phased out a decade ago but it is still used in farms across the US.

11 April A court grants an EPA request to delay the implementation of ozone pollution standards that were made stricter in 2015. The EPA intends to review the rules around ozone, which is created when sunlight reacts with pollutants from vehicles exhausts and other sources. Ozone can create smogs and can trigger a raft of health ailments, especially among children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems.

13 April The EPA pauses a regulation that curbs the dumping of toxic metals such as arsenic and mercury by power plants into public waterways. The Obama-era rule, set to commence in 2018, would’ve destroyed jobs, according to Pruitt.

27 April The EPA successfully convinces a US appeals court to halt a challenge by states and industry groups to an Obama administration rule aimed at reducing toxic emissions from power stations. Pruitt, in his previous role as attorney general of Oklahoma, had sued the EPA to stop the rule, which is known as MATS.

23 May A three-month pause is put on landfill methane rules so they EPA can “reconsider certain aspects” of the regulation. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and is emitted from rotting garbage in landfills, as well as other sources such as agriculture.

13 June The EPA announces plans for a two-year pause on regulations that would reduce emissions leaks from oil and gas operators. The regulator acknowledges that pollution from the leaks results in “disproportionate” harm to children but proposes to go ahead with the suspension of the rule anyway.

27 June The EPA, along with the US army, proposes to scrap the clean water rule. This would reverse an Obama-era move that expanded federal government protections to the drinking water of around a third of all Americans. Pruitt said the rollback will provide “regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.” The announcement didn’t reference public health.

Collaboration in times of #drought to bolster the food supply and support the environment

From the Environmental Defense Fund (Ann Hayden):

During times of water scarcity, like California’s recent drought, it’s tempting to take on a binary view of the world. This was definitely the case with agriculture, which appeared to be at odds with everyone: farms vs. fish, farm vs. cities, farms vs. regulators. As a dominant water user in the state, they were easy targets.

But when one digs deeper, it’s obvious that many in the agricultural community want to move beyond this debate and do things differently. Yes growing food and fiber takes water, but there are plenty of farmers laser-focused on improving efficiency, maximizing multi-benefit solutions and striking a balance between growing crops and preserving the environment.

California Central Valley graphic credit USGS.

I recently visited with Cannon Michael, president of Bowles Farming Company, which oversees an 11,000-acre farm near Los Banos in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He is the great, great, great grandson of Henry Miller, “the Cattle King of California,” so farming is in his blood. He has senior water rights, and while he still had to make difficult management decisions during the drought, he ended up with more water than many of his neighbors and found ways to share it, a tremendous display of collaboration in the farming community…

It’s important to remember that there are intelligent and motivated people on both sides. The environmental community brings a lot of information and expertise on habitat and riparian restoration. Farmers know how to get projects done, and they know the local context. So there’s a really great synergy happening between the two groups. At the end of the day, we all want a vibrant and healthy environment in California and a reliable and safe food supply.