I wasn’t a big Nixon fan. But, as millions of other Americans did, I applauded when he and a bipartisan congress created the EPA in 1970 to respond to major environmental problems in communities, rivers and wilderness areas.
As Nixon said at the time, “We will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disaster later. Clean air, clean water, open spaces—these should once again be the birthright of every American.”
What do you think? Take a short poll at the end of this article.
Now, under Donald Trump and a one-party congress, we are witnessing the horrific dismantling of “the birthright of every American.” Events of the first month of his reign showed how easily Trump and congress can sweep aside progress:
On Feb. 17, congress approved Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. He represented the oil industry in lawsuits against the agency and will be Trump’s attack dog which tears apart the agency. Like Trump, Pruitt does not believe in science that shows we’re already feeling global warming.
On Feb. 21, Pruitt laid out a vision for the EPA which undercuts the agency’s mission to protect “human health and the environment—air, water, and land.” In his introductory talk to the EPA staff, he focused on protecting jobs, industry and the marketplace but gave little nod to environmental protection. The word “climate” was not included among his words, a sign that indicates such issues as climate change and global warming will plunge to the wayside in his administration.
On Feb. 16, Trump signed a bill that repealed a federal measure restricting mining companies from dumping waste into streams. The measure was a protection for 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests.
Trump said he repealed the measure as a way to jump-start a return to coal mining. He forgets to mention how outdated and environmentally dangerous the use of coal is. Coal miners, however, voted for Trump and their votes are more important to him than the environment.
How will the assault on the EPA impact states? Read this insightful article about impacts in Colorado.
On Feb. 14, Trump repealed a rule that required oil, natural gas, coal, and mineral companies to disclose royalties and other payments made to foreign governments. The rule was an effort to fight corruption. Now American energy companies can bribe their way into other countries.
On Feb. 3, four Republican House of Representative members introduced H.R. 861 which calls for an end to the Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 31, 2018.
Supporters argue the EPA isn’t needed because states and cities can regulate their own pollution. However, their argument doesn’t take into account the realities that most communities and states do not have the wherewithal, or political bravery, to monitor and regulate pollution. Nor do polluted air and rivers respect city or state boundaries—a fact that necessitates the presence of a federal agency like the EPA.
What do Americans think? A national poll released Feb. 8 found voters believe 2-to-1 that Trump should not cut regulations which combat climate change; 59 percent think more should be done to address climate change.
On Jan. 24, 120 Republican representatives introduced H.R. 637 to curtail the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. They believe the EPA does too much regulation of polluting companies.
Shortly after he was inaugurated, Trump ordered the EPA to freeze all grants and contracts. The move affects local efforts to improve air and water quality, curtails climate research projects, and halts environmental projects that help poor communities.
Almost before the glitter was swept up from the floors of the inaugural balls, a bill was introduced in congress to sell 3.3 million acres of public land. The legislation prompted a loud outcry from residents of states, particularly Montana, that would lose those lands to private developers. The bill was withdrawn in early February due to public opposition.
Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled congress has set its sights on opening part of Alaska’s fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. This is in a pristine wilderness where no roads, campgrounds or trails exist. It is a nursery for polar bears, musk oxen and Porcupine Caribou. Migratory birds from every U.S. state nest there.
As a nation, we now face danger to our water sources, air quality, renewable energy efforts, environmental research, water and wastewater management, superfund cleanups, regulation of vehicular emissions, and global warming.
Be ready for the rest of the tsunami. It’s coming. And it’s going to get worse, a lot worse.
I believe most Americans are wise enough to value a clean environment. The question is, what are we going to do about it?
Here are important steps to take:
- Become active in the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, and other organizations concerned about the environment.
- Learn more. Here are articles to start with: Time; Esquire; and Scientific American.
- Speak out. Visit, call and write your U.S. representatives and senators, and encourage your friends to do the same. The Environmental Defense Fund’s advocacy partner, EDF Action, Earthjustice and other organizations have websites where help is available for making phone calls and writing letters.