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Reversing Trump’s Horrific Environmental Legacy

His administration’s actions within the Environmental Protection Agency alone threaten human health, the climate and the environment. When I consider executive actions taken in other Trump administration bodies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Interior and the Council on Environmental Quality, the blunt force of it all leaves me staggering — dizzy with disbelief, traumatized.

Just this week the EPA tossed another forest into the fire, announcing the completion of the “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule. Among other things, the rule prevents the EPA from maintaining the privacy of people involved with EPA public health studies. The effect could lead to dramatically diminished use of public health science in policy decision-making. The former head of the EPA’s science advisory board, Chris Zarba, said in a statement that the rule could undermine not only future public health protections, but “force the agency to revoke decades of clean air protections.”

Environmental regulations for things like logging are vital.
The Trump administration worked hard to make logging easier for multinational conglomerates eyeing public lands across the United States.

This wasn’t an administration, like that of George W. Bush, toiling to thread the environmental policy needle for oil and mining companies, for logging conglomerates and developers and Big Ag. No, this was a sinister criminal syndicate, grinning and cackling with every environmentally devastating hand-out to its monied co-conspirators. Instead of threading the needle and hoping not too many people would notice, the Trump thugs just smashed the needle, laughed about it and then brayed about the whole spectacle of malice. I’m sure it’s all become myriad “own the libs” memes on Parler.

Environmental Policy Rollbacks Demand Swift Action

The Biden administration confronts a bewildering thicket of Trump-spawned disasters, none of them more pressing than COVID-19 and its destructive economic wake. Count protecting the environment among one of the most urgent priorities. 

I recently came across an outstanding resource published by the University of California-Berkeley law school’s Center for Law, Energy, & the Environment. Reading through the guide to reverse Trump-era environmental policy rule-making compelled me to sometimes close one eye and squint through the other — it was like witnessing a slow-motion pile-up on a busy highway. But at least now I know where the vehicles are strewn, which ones require immediate attention, and how to begin cleaning up the epic mess.

The “Reversing Environmental Rollbacks” guide examines every rollback conducted at each agency, as well as Congress. For each of them, Berkeley’s enviro-law whizzes gauge the rollback’s harm to the environment, climate and health, determine how difficult it will be to reverse it, and lay out the steps required to make the change.

Environmental regulations for things like tailpipe emissions are vital.
California made progress on limiting tailpipe emissions. Then the Trump administration worked to make sure the state could not mitigate pollution within its own borders.

Consider “The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part One.” This rule revoked California’s authority to establish more strict tailpipe emissions standards than the federal government. Berkeley’s guide rated this law’s overall damage to the environment as 4, the highest — or worst — designation. Reversing it will be “difficult.” It offers a legal path forward, and also tracks the status of litigation surrounding this horrendous rule.

Here’s a relatively minor rollback, in terms of environmental damage. But I find it summarizes in a rather tidy way the administration’s contempt for public lands, the environment and the people who care about them.

Trump Parks Motto: Let’s Trash the Place

The guide addresses the Department of Interior’s “Reversal of Rule Restricting the Sale of Plastic Water Bottles.” The Trump administration reversed restrictions on the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks. The restrictions were designed to mitigate clutter and keep plastic out of the waterways and ecosystems in national parks. A Park Service report concluded that the effort worked; as #plasticfree advocates, we championed the easy, sensible regulation. But then Trump took over, and out it went.

Given the sociopathic nature of the Trump administration towards the environment and human health, the catalogue of woe chronicled in the guide is rather long. It also serves as an extremely valuable series of signposts — cairns! — that can at least help lead us out of the Trump administration’s toxic swamp, if not deliver us to a butterfly-spangled meadow.

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