I’m not going to sugarcoat it: It’s a tough season. On my daily walk, I think about the sadness of a Thanksgiving without my parents; about the difficulty my kids are having trying to learn online and on-screen; and about a President-elect barred from official COVID-19 information, even as infection rates break all records.
But I’m also committed to a simple, bracing practice: Paying attention. By that I mean paying attention to what the Trump Administration is trying to push through during its last months. I know what’s waiting in the wings from Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s EPA, where several dangerous proposals are poised to be finalized. Wheeler is dead set on pushing them through in a midnight rush, before President-elect Biden takes office in January.
Moms are familiar with this strategy. Last spring, Wheeler launched his own perverse Operation Warp Speed, pushing through a series of damaging proposals even as the public was reeling from a global pandemic the likes of which we hadn’t seen in a century. Not one to be concerned by a lack of adequate public input on life-and-death regulations, Wheeler now plans to ram these rules through in his final weeks as EPA Administrator. His radical deregulatory agenda is breaking records.
Here’s the damage we expect to see before Inauguration Day—we hope it will make you angry enough to sign our petition to Congress, pick up the phone and call your elected officials, and write them your own letter. They need to know they, too, are on the line.
EPA is poised to finalize its proposal to restrict the public health studies that the agency can consider when setting public health protections. The rule would prevent EPA staff from using studies based on private health data, blocking the agency from considering landmark epidemiological research if it relies on confidential, and often sensitive, health information. Finalizing this rule would hamstring clean air regulations, forcing the agency to pretend some pollution is safe, even when it’s not.
EPA has refused to strengthen the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particle pollution, which results in tens of thousands of deaths per year. This defies clear scientific evidence, and ignores the advice of agency scientists. Particle pollution is a potent marker of inequity: Black people face disproportionate exposure to this deadly pollutant. Breathing particle pollution also increases the risk of COVID infection and death, according to new research.
Next week, Moms Clean Air Force is meeting with the Office of Management and Budget, where the proposal is awaiting final approval, to make our case yet again for strengthening these standards.
EPA has refused to strengthen the National Ambient Air Quality standards for ground-level ozone, or smog, despite clear evidence that more stringent standards are necessary to protect Americans from asthma, lung problems, and other health issues. Smog is linked to premature deaths, thousands of emergency room visits, and tens of thousands of asthma attacks every year. Wheeler made his decision with a sharply curtailed public comment period; he doesn’t care what people want.
Andrew Wheeler wants to impose arbitrary and deceptive requirements for cost-benefit assessments of major Clean Air Act protections. His cost-benefit proposal, currently under White House review, would emphasize the costs of clean air protections, while downplaying the benefits—especially to public health. This attempt to cook the books is a gift to industrial polluters, inviting them to line their pockets while our families pay for their pollution.
Moms are keeping the spotlight on these insidious efforts to undermine our children’s health before the Trump administration leaves office. And we are building a groundswell of support so that when President-elect Biden takes office, we can rally behind health-protective solutions that fix these actions.
Do everything you can to fight. And then take a deep breath, set this aside, and turn and pay attention to all that you love.
We wish you and your family a healthy and safe Thanksgiving.