Hurricane Harvey’s wrath and destruction will remain with us for years to come. How we as a country rebuild after the storm – what regulations and safeguards we put in place to protect people, homes and business from the next epic storm can and should serve as guidelines as we live with climate change. Yet, if the Trump Administration’s environmental, energy and climate guidelines to date are any indication, we are heading in a dangerous direction.
We are pleased to share with you an original post by Morgan Statt, the Health & Safety Advocate at ConsumerSafety.org. Morgan’s post walks us through some of the environmental deregulations we have seen so far from the Trump Administration, and why these deregulation proposals lead not only to false hopes but potentially dangerous environmental and health impacts.
TRUMPS COAL PRIORITIES SKEWED AGAINST YOUR HEALTH
by Morgan Statt
Prior to Election Day 2017, Donald Trump assured America that he would work towards strengthening and growing the middle class through job creation and lower taxes. Now successfully in the Oval Office, the Trump Administration has proposed substantial deregulation efforts across many sections of the US economy, including in support of “rebuilding” the coal industry.
During Obama’s years in office, many industry regulations were instated with the rational that these were needed to protect both American’s health and the environment. If Trump’s proposed deregulations and focus on bringing back the coal mining industry indicate one thing, it’s that a crack has appeared in the Obama Administration’s foundation, built to ensure these protections. And it’s a crack that has the power to bring the [White] house down.
This foundational fracture was first made apparent with Trump’s assault on the environment and our health through a rollback of regulations to control and reduce carbon emissions. In March 2017, EPA Administrator Pruitt sent a letter to states, instructing them that they did not need to comply with the Clean Power Plan (CPP). This decision, according to Trump, is intended in large part to “stop the war on coal” and bring back jobs for the industry. This is a false hope, as the coal industry has failed to see positive job growth in many, many years. Mechanization and alternative energy sources have resulted in wide spread job reduction in coal country.
Closely linked with power plant emissions is that coal itself is a huge environmental and health issue. In February 2017, Trump signed a measure to eliminate the Stream Protection Act, which is intended to prohibit surface mining from within 100 feet of streams and other bodies of water. Now the proposed resurgence of the coal industry may initiate the possibility of environmental damage been done to thousands of acres of streams and forest. This loss of regulation is a direct attack on the environment as it opens a window for coal debris to sneak into water sources that we both swim in and drink from.
On August 11th, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced that he plans to revise an Obama-era regulation that limits the amount of waste disposed into bodies of water by coal-fired power plants. If implemented, the Obama era rule would reduce waste pollution into bodies of water by 1.4 billion pounds per year. Pruitt cites cost and burden as reasons for the rule’s potential revision. An increase in pollution isn’t the only likely side effect. The waste from power plants that is dumped into our rivers and lakes often contains toxic levels of mercury and lead, metals that have been strongly linked with the development of cancer and childhood defects. Yet again, the Trump Administration seems to ignore the possibility of severe health and safety ramifications.
And what about the impact of extraction and mining industries, on the health of industry workers? Individuals working in mining, quarrying, and oil extraction industries are 4 times more likely to die on the job than the average American worker.
The production of coal also contributes to air pollution, which is the “world’s largest single environmental health risk” according to the World Health Organization. In the United States alone, 52,000 people suffer an early death each year because of power plant emissions. These emissions also contribute to heart disease, the US’s leading cause of death.
It’s easy to get blinded by the promise of job creation and the belief that you will keep more of your paycheck at the end of the day. But science and history remind us daily that there’s much more at stake, and we need to keep the blinders off. The land we live on, the air we breath and our family’s well-being are all threatened and all will pay a serious price.
The good news is that people are paying attention. Citizens and public officials across the US are fighting back, and demanding that our health and safety remain a strong priority and focus of our government, at all levels. On August 31, 2017, a group of 14 attorneys general and local officials sent a letter urging the EPA to retract a “legally incorrect” letter sent to states in March that said they do not have to comply with the Clean Power Plan. State officials called the instruction from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “unsolicited legal advice.” The officials write that the Clean Power Plan “remains the law of the land” despite a Supreme Court hold on the rule, and it asks that the EPA to retract the letters from Pruitt.
Morgan Statt has a background in strategic communication and is the Health & Safety Advocate at ConsumerSafety.org. When she isn’t writing about a variety of health topics, you can find her planning her next travel adventure or taking pictures of her food.