I’ve commented on this before. Readers can click on “EPA” to read prior blogs.
Republicans and Democrats drink the same water and breath the same air. Contaminants in air come from many sources, including car emissions and chemical plants. Pollutants discharged into water bodies or the air can travel long distances and do not know geographic boundaries. This is the physical reality, requiring the federal environmentalists to be involved in preserving the environment beyond our borders. We are one planet, and environmentalists in Kansas recognize they are affected by decisions in Beijing. The rising water temperature, aided by increased Chinese carbon emissions and deforestation in Brazil, is a factor in the extreme weather variations as occurring in the northeast of the US now, and the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas last year.
I read a recent letter from a former EPA scientist, who made me so sad. He had lung disease, and needed to live where the air quality was excellent. Yet, the high standards which he was involved in, were likely not being enforced by the EPA.
I’ve commented on Scott Pruitt before as the worst EPA Administrator it was created in 1970. Both Republicans and Democrats have contributed to building the EPA before Pruitt began to destroy it. One of the best Administrators, was William Rucklehaus, the first and fifth administrators of the EPA. He was a Republican, and first nominated to the post by Richard Nixon, and later became the Deputy Attorney General. He was fired by Nixon, for refusing to firing the Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, but rehired by Reagan to head the EPA again. Rucklehaus was able to transfer the approval of all regulations of pesticides to the EPA. Doug Costle ran the EPA under President Carter, and followed a similar path as Rucklehaus. President Reagan campaigned against the EPA as an unnecessary government. He brought in Anne Gorsuch Buford to downsize the EPA. Buford was held in contempt of Congress when she refused to turn over documents on Superfund expenditures.
Environmental problems are big in the US because every industry has waste that they want to dispose of, at the lowest cost, and still be within the law. Only regulatory groups can evaluate the risk potential, using worse case scenarios. Love Canal disaster should be taught in schools, as a modern lesson of how dumping of chemicals in the 1950’s underground, can resurface decades later, and be contributing factors to leukemia. The chemicals were dump in 1953, and Hooker Chemical thought by donating the land to a school, they could get rid of the mess. Homes were built close to the school. Parents noticed their children were betting burns on their feet when playing barefoot. The impenetrable clay layer seal was likely fractured by the filtration of water, which expanded as it froze in the winter. Making American great again, is a fantasy, because when it comes to environmental action, we are not great. Not in the 1950’s, not 1970’s and not today.
I’ll leave out most of this history, but you can check the links below, on Love Canal, and Superfund sites.
The number one threat to our environment is at present is climate change. The US should be the leader in curbing carbon emissions, but this was before Trump and Pruitt. Pulling out of the Paris Accords on Climate Change Mitigation was a giant step backwards. Transportation accounts for 27% of the greenhouse gases emitted (EPA estimate, 2015) of which 90% are petroleum based. We emit around 6,800 million metric tons (mtn) of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases, down from a peak of 7,300 mtn in 2007. According to the EPA (current website, not the Obama archived one)
This decrease was largely driven by a decrease in emissions from fossil fuel combustion, which was a result of multiple factors including substitution from coal to natural gas consumption in the electric power sector; warmer winter conditions that reduced demand for heating fuel in the residential and commercial sectors; and a slight decrease in electricity demand.
The progress, however slight, is an unmistakable downward trend in greenhouse gases, which perhaps will not last much longer. The lead story in the New York Times on March 30, 2018, reads:
The Trump administration is expected to kick off an effort in coming days to weaken greenhouse gases and fuel economy standards for automobiles, handing a victory to car manufacturers and giving them ammunition potentially to rollback industry standards worldwide.
Car manufacturers and oil companies will be pleased. It is putting American first only in terms of corporate profits, not its citizens. California is likely to fight these changes, with 12 other states expected to follow. It might end up with 2 sets of standards, one for most of the country, and the second for the California and the allied states.
Regulatory freedom, the right of Americans to choose the gas-guzzlers of their choice, unimpeded by big government will be EPA’s selling points. Pruitt is expected to make the announcement at a Virginia dealership on Tuesday. Obama had made auto emissions as strict as California, so auto manufacturers did not have to have two sets of standards for car emissions.
The states allied with California include New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and together account for a third of all car sales, according to the New York Times. California can legally require high fuel efficiency and lower emission standards based on a waiver granted by the federal government. Trump can take California to court, to attempt to void the waiver. He will likely let the car industry know there will be no renewal for the waivers in 2015.
To some extent, fuel efficiency is likely to improve as gas prices go up because of consumer demand. Despite all the talk from Washington, finding new oil is still increasingly more expensive and the rig count has been increasing. However, the consumer is not likely to care about tailpipe emissions, well until they have respiratory problems. Then they are very interested in everyone’s emission. So, a newly converted Democrat, is one with breathing problems.
Thus, a very chaotic situation is about to unfold. California may win, at least in the short term, as auto manufacturers are not about to produce two sets of cars. A court battle is inevitable.
It is all about the Trump administration being weak, and caving in to the big auto manufacturers.
“Environmental preservation is our test. If we pass it, we get to save the planet.” (ok, I’ve taken a line from Marjory Stoneman Douglas on preserving the Everglades) We can’t expect China, India and the EU to regulate their emissions when we can’t. It will take a long time to repair Trump’s damage to our standing in the world.
I wanted write more on Pruitt’s new rules on scientific evidence, which rely solely on public information as a way of further weakening the agency. I’ll leave this for a separate blog.