A Budget That Scorches the Planet

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

President Trump opened a new front in his assault on our environment and health on Tuesday, releasing detailed budget proposals that amount to a scorched-earth campaign — literally and figuratively.

The budget calls for draconian cuts in programs that help clean up and protect our air, water, and lands from toxic pollution; support for energy efficient appliances that save families billions of dollars in energy costs each year; and the scientific research we depend on to grasp and confront emerging threats.

Generally, a president’s budget recommendations provide the starting point for debate in Congress, which has ultimate control over federal spending. This version falls short of that standard. Congress should ignore the president’s reckless recommendations and start from scratch with a budget that reflects our right to clean water and air and the long-standing American values around the need to leave our children a livable world.

Of every dollar the federal government spends, one-fifth of a penny goes to support the work of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — one-fifth of a penny to the agency charged with cleaning up our air and water and protecting us from dangerous pollution.

Trump wants to cut that by 31 percent, to reduce environmental protection resources next year by $2.6 billion — the same amount he wants taxpayers to spend to build a wall and otherwise buttress security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The cuts Trump has proposed would hobble the EPA so much that it would jeopardize the agency’s ability to do its job as required by law, exposing Americans to needless risk.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt calls this going “back to basics.” Going back — period — is more like it. The $5.7 billion Trump has proposed to fund the EPA next year would take the agency back to its lowest funding level since 1990. Adjusted for inflation, it’s the lowest level in 40 years, a period during which the U.S. economy has nearly tripled in size and the population has grown about 50 percent.

Our society has become larger and more complex, and so have the environmental hazards we face. We won’t build a more vibrant and prosperous nation by turning our back on those threats.


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Join us at the People’s Climate March

This Saturday in Washington and cities around the world many will be marching to demand climate action. NRDC Action Fund staff, donors and friends will be part of the NRDC presence at the People’s Climate March to send a clear message that we want a healthier world for future generations. Americans did not vote last November to empower coal, oil and gas lobbyists, and we will not be silent while they join the Trump administration and Congress to cripple the EPA and gut our nation’s environmental laws and safeguards.

Showing up is important, but not just at rallies and marches. Running for office is another way to protect the environment, so the NRDC Action Fund is partnering this weekend with other national 501c4 and political environmental groups and progressive organizations to hold a candidate training here in DC for marchers who might be interested in public service as elected officials.

While the Trump administration continues to weigh withdrawal from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, the president is issuing executive orders aimed at reversing decades of environmental progress and more recent Obama-era actions that have made America a leading force in the global effort to address climate change. Some of the president’s allies in Congress want to go even further. Just this week in the Senate legislation was introduced that would make it much harder to enforce federal laws that safeguard human health, protect clean air and keep our water safe. It’s called the Regulatory Accountability Act, and we’re going to fight hard to stop it.

We hope you can join us this weekend, but you can still make your presence felt and your voice heard even if you can’t march on Washington or run for office. Your calls, letters and emails to lawmakers continue to be incredibly important as we work together to resist the Big Polluter agenda on Capitol Hill and in state capitals around the country.

 

Trumpcare 2.0: President Launches Next Assault on Public Health

When Americans learned last month that President Trump’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act would result in 24 million people losing their health insurance, the overwhelming unpopularity of the measure helped to prevent it from even being brought to a vote in the House. But following Trumpcare’s collapse, the president moved quickly to unleash yet another attack on our health, this time with a reckless executive order that dismantles air pollution safeguards under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and leaves us exposed to the consequences of climate change.

Trump’s executive order, coupled with his shocking attacks on the EPA’s enforcement budget, means that all Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us, could suffer. But President Trump and the fossil fuel-obsessed Cabinet officials tasked with carrying out his dangerous and misguided order are fighting a losing battle—against the will of the American people.

Americans overwhelmingly favor the environmental safeguards and air pollution protections the Obama administration built on the shoulders of 40+ years of bipartisan environmental laws. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, two-thirds of voters believe Trump should not dismantle climate protections. And it’s easy to see why: his failure to implement the Clean Power Plan could cause up to 3,600 more premature deaths, 90,000 more asthma attacks and 300,000 more missed days of work and school each year.

For the 25 million Americans living with asthma, unchecked climate change means hotter days and more dangerous ozone concentrations that will increase the risk of an attack. A warmer climate also means more frequent and more powerful storms that destroy homes and businesses, upending lives and livelihoods in the process. Those already struggling to make ends meet—the 46 percent of Americans who cannot afford a $400 emergency—will continue to be hit hardest by ever-intensifying natural disasters.

Trump’s assault on public health can be found throughout his proposed budget for the EPA, too. With arbitrary and radical cuts, the Trump administration aims to sabotage the EPA’s ability to keep Americans safe and hold polluters accountable when they bring about harm. Over 40 percent of the EPA’s budget goes to state-run programs that ensure our air and water are safe, but under Trump’s budget, much of this vital work would be scaled back or even shut down. The EPA also helps ensure pesticides or household cleaners are safe, and it oversees cleanup of toxic waste sites that pose health risks to people living or working nearby. Under Trump’s budget, all of this work to protect American families could be axed.

Here’s the bottom line: Tough enforcement of environmental safeguards and sensible efforts to fight climate change will protect the health of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year while creating a safer life for our children and grandchildren. Instead, President Trump is inviting polluters and fossil fuel company executives to write his policies.

Trump denies climate change is a threat, ignoring the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community and the opinion of most Americans. Why? Because sowing doubt leaves room for weaker protections, and weak pollution standards enable powerful polluters to grow their profits—at the expense of the health of the American people. It is a powerful lie with powerful consequences for millions of Americans. To sustain it, Trump knows he needs to convince people to question or dismiss the danger of climate change, if not its very existence.

But Americans are already experiencing the costly and dangerous impacts of climate change. We understand the urgent need for stronger pollution protections to save future generations from the worst impacts of a warming planet. Americans know that by dismantling the Clean Power Plan and safeguards like it, Donald Trump is hijacking the health of our families to prop up his powerful friends in the fossil fuel industry.

President Trump’s assault on the environment, embodied by his executive order on climate change and starvation budget for the EPA, is Trumpcare’s ugly cousin. It is an outright attack on our health, and it must be defeated. We will help bring it down in court, in the court of public opinion, in the halls of Congress and in the White House.

Kevin Curtis is executive director of the NRDC Action Fund.

Fight Washington’s Attack on Environmental Enforcement

On the morning of January 9, 2014, residents near Charleston, West Virginia contacted local officials with reports of an unusual sweet smell in the air, the source of which would soon upend their daily lives. Some 7,500 gallons of a chemical foaming agent used in coal production had leaked from a faulty storage tank into the Elk River, contaminating the main source of drinking water for thousands of area families. Soon authorities warned residents not to drink, cook with or even bathe in water from their taps.

Officials collect a water sample near Charleston, West Virginia after a chemical spill contaminated the water supply.

The devastating and expensive contamination of the Elk River isn’t an isolated case. Non-existent, weak or unenforced safeguards at the state and federal level threaten the health and safety of families across America. But now, just three years later, the Trump White House and Republican Congress are teaming up to pass legislation that would weaken the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies to write and enforce rules that are based on sound science and designed to protect all Americans.

A series of bills already passed in the House and now being considered in the Senate would undermine the whole enforcement system and tip the balance of power away from independent scientists and toward politicians. These bills make it easier for members of Congress to block or void regulations that would protect public health, public safety and the environment. Congress has also begun to permanently erase common-sense environmental safeguards issued in the last year of the Obama administration, including a rule that protects waterways from the polluting impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. Other rules on the chopping block include cost-saving energy efficiency standards for home appliances and protections for fragile public lands and ecologically sensitive areas from coal mining and oil drilling.

President Trump supports these rollbacks. What’s more, Mr. Trump recently signed an executive order declaring that any new regulations, even ones aimed at fighting pollution, must be accompanied by the elimination of at least two others, an arbitrary and absurd sop to corporate interests that ignores the vast economic upside of protecting American families from costly health problems caused by dirty air and water.

Mr. Trump has also vowed to block the Obama administration’s landmark efforts to fight climate change. He has promised to initiate a repeal of the Clean Power Plan’s carbon pollution limits and cancel popular cost-saving fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, undermining our nation’s most important contributions to the historic Paris Agreement that finally set the world on a path to reduce the emissions that are the chief cause of our rapidly warming planet.

Mr. Trump and the GOP are peddling the false narrative that lax enforcement of our environmental laws will help businesses, but the record shows we can have both a clean environment and a vibrant economy. US economic growth over the last 50 years has been the envy of the world, and that success came while we also built up a strong national environmental protection framework, including regulations that helped clear our cities and waterways of choking smog, dangerous pollutants and even raw sewage. Without the EPA’s enforcement of groundbreaking environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, American cities today might look more like Beijing or New Delhi, where residents often have to stay indoors to avoid eye-watering and asthma-inducing air pollution.

Today, younger Americans are growing up in a much cleaner and safer country than did their parents and grandparents. They support environmental protections that are now in place, and they won’t stand for weakening the enforcement of those laws and threatening the standard of living for them and their children.

Americans did not vote for contaminated water or polluted air last November. We will not allow polluters and their friends on Capitol Hill to weaken the standards that keep our families safe, and we will hold this Congress and this White House accountable if they fail to enforce our laws and protect the common-sense environmental safeguards all American families depend on.

Our common sense regulatory system has made us a stronger, healthier and more prosperous nation. The Senate must reject any legislation that damages it.

Polluting Pruitt, After Record Opposition, Takes Over EPA

By Pete Altman

Today, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a “longtime adversary of the EPA,” as the Washington Post put it, takes over the US Environmental Protection Agency. But he takes it over under the shadow of unprecedented opposition from US Senators, EPA employees and public interest groups.

Forty-six senators voted against his confirmation, a significantly higher number of “no” votes than any other EPA Administrator has received (many of whom have been approved with unanimous consent.) That’s a big statement of concern about a president’s nominee to head an agency that does more than any other to protect Americans from pollution.

The opposition was bi-partisan – Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine voted against Pruitt, saying that Pruitt’s “…actions leave me with considerable doubts about whether his vision for the EPA is consistent with the agency’s critical mission to protect human health and the environment.”

Democrats also showed a remarkable unity in opposing Pruitt, with just Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) voting to approve Pruitt’s confirmation. Considering how many Democrats are in states that voted for Trump, the cohesiveness is strong testament to how deeply runs the sense that he is unfit for the job.

That said, the record opposition, its bi-partisan nature and the Democratic unity isn’t that surprising– because he’s by far the worst ever pick to lead EPA.


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