Ten by Earth Day 2021: Reverse the Trump administration’s environmental rules rollbacks
October 6, 2020
The legacy of the first Earth Day in 1970 is rooted in the sweeping environmental laws and regulations that followed as a result. Much of this legislation is now under threat today. In honor of the 50th anniversary, and now with less than 30 days until the November election, EARTHDAY.ORG is rolling out the policy initiatives we want to see within the first 100 days of the next administration, by Earth Day 2021.
This blog is the ninth in our series and focuses on environmental rules that are under attack by the current administration and the urgent and profound implications that this has.
During the Trump administration, 68 environmental policies have been reversed, revoked or rolled back while more than 30 additional rollbacks are currently in progress.
Propping up fossil fuel companies and other industrial polluters, these rollbacks loosen important protections around emissions and air pollution, natural resource protection, infrastructure and planning, biodiversity and wildlife, water pollution, toxic chemicals and other areas.
As one such example, this past July, the current administration made fundamental changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). While it originally required an environmental assessment for all major federal actions, the administration announced that it would cut back on its application, thereby limiting the important public review process.
In short, your taxpayer dollars would be used for potentially damaging federal projects, yet the public will have less input on the process and their environmental concerns. As many of these projects target communities of color for construction, this decision would silence Black and Brown voices and dramatically impact the health of these communities.
Furthermore, the EPA has cut the amount of streams and wetlands that receive protection under the Clean Water Act. This rule specifies ephemeral bodies of water (or those that appear only part of the year), waste treatment systems, groundwater, prior converted cropland and farm watering ponds as those no longer protected by federal standards.
Compared to President Obama’s executive action which expanded the definition of waterways to apply to 60% of those in the US, this rollback poses substantial threats to clean water in this country, and once again endangers the health and well-being of our citizens and ecosystems.
In April, the administration also weakened a rule that forced coal plants to cut mercury emissions. While the Obama administration justified cutting mercury outputs because savings on public health costs would be greater than compliance costs, the current administration withdrew this justification because it had included benefits of reducing other emissions in addition to mercury. In addition, while this rule would still keep the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards in place, it would also make these standards more vulnerable to lawsuits.
Just like the NEPA and Clean Water Act changes, this would disproportionately affect already vulnerable communities. Coal plants are disproportionately located near low-income communities and communities of color, and exposure to even small amounts of mercury may have serious effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, among other threats.
These are just a few of many devastating rollbacks that are putting our country, and planet, in a dire situation. They may not only set us back decades in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation, but may also have lasting negative effects for generations to come.
EARTHDAY.ORG calls on the next administration to reinstate the vast number of vital protections we’ve lost under the current administration, and to broadly commit to a foundational environmental lens, addressing climate change, an end to environmental injustice, the rapid creation of green jobs and the restoration of the natural world to ensure a healthy, just and sustainable future for all.
Make your voice heard this November. Vote Earth.