While the United States has been battling Covid-19, a virus that attacks and damages lung function, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency—led by Andrew Wheeler—has been feverishly weakening regulations that protect us from air pollution.
With new research showing that breathing polluted air actually increases your risk of succumbing to the worst ravages of Covid-19, these regulatory rollbacks have never been so dangerous.
We are outraged by EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler’s actions. They’re terrible under any circumstance. But now, they are indecent. They defy norms of reasonable behavior. For that reason, we are demanding that EPA Administrator Wheeler Must Go. (Tweet this) He is making us sicker. Our legislators cannot sit by and let this happen.
Air pollution makes us sicker.
Air pollution is dangerous: tiny particles enter your lungs, cross their soft, spongy edges, irritating or damaging them, and easily get into the bloodstream. Blood carries that pollution into our hearts as well. Air pollution is linked to asthma attacks, deaths from stroke and lung disease, premature births and low birthweight, and even fetal brain damage.
Learn more: How Air Pollution Harms Your Body
Any EPA administrator who fights to cut protections from pollution is not doing their job and is putting us in harm’s way. As a Cabinet Secretary, Wheeler heard the same briefings everyone in the White House did, beginning in January. Yet even as the Covid-19 crisis was unfolding, and it was clear it targeted our respiratory and cardiovascular systems, Wheeler kept pushing through his dangerous rollbacks.
Here’s what Andrew Wheeler has been doing to make our lungs and hearts even weaker, during a global respiratory pandemic:
Deadly Rollback #1: Clean Car Standards
EPA Administrator Wheeler has gutted tailpipe pollution standards, requiring automakers to increase greenhouse gas efficiency by a mere 1.5% each year, well below the 2012 standards, which required annual increases of 5%. Between now and 2050, health-harming air pollution from this rollback will cause:
- 18,000 premature deaths
- 250,000 asthma attacks
By 2040, we will see an additional
- 5 billion metric tons of climate pollution, an amount equivalent to the total pollution from 68 coal plants operating for five years
- 142 billion gallons of gasoline used
- $244 billion paid by Americans at the gas pump
Learn more: Trump’s EPA Puts Polluters Over Families — Again
Deadly Rollback #2: Freedom to Pollute
Wheeler has granted a pollution waiver for industry, giving polluters a green light to pollute during the coronavirus pandemic. He is looking the other way to tell companies that they will not face enforcement if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws. All companies have to do is claim that failure to comply can be tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
Air pollution reduces our bodies’ ability to fight infection and causes the underlying heart and lung problems that make people more vulnerable to Covid-19. Our public health safety net is being unraveled by an EPA taking advantage of the pandemic.
Deadly Rollback #3: Particulate Pollution
Wheeler has proposed too-weak standards for fine particulate pollution, ignoring the considerable science linking even low levels of this type of pollution to lung infections, heart attacks, and early death.
He disbanded EPA’s independent particulate matter review panel. This panel, which was comprised of 20 leading experts in the field, was supposed to help EPA review the latest science on particulate pollution in order to inform air quality standards. Without this panel, EPA lacks the expertise needed to set health-protective standards.
Deadly Rollback #4: Censored Science
Wheeler has moved to censor the types of scientific research that EPA can consider when setting pollution standards. His “censored science” proposal would prevent relevant, peer-reviewed public health research from being considered when making decisions about the environment and human health in cases where the underlying data are not public.
EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Board—which was not consulted when the rule was being drafted—and leading scientific and public health organizations have spoken out against the proposal.
In March 2020, as our country braced for the impacts of the Covid-19, Wheeler’s EPA released a supplemental proposal that does nothing to fix the original proposal, but rather widens the restrictions on scientific studies that the agency will not be allowed to consider.
Learn more: Censoring Science Only Harms Families
Deadly Rollback #5: Mercury and Air Toxics Standards
Wheeler has continued his campaign to weaken protections from toxic mercury emissions, which come from coal-fired power plants and are particularly harmful to babies.
Mercury is one of the most toxic poisons known to science. Ingesting even small amounts of it can cause a long list of serious health threats. In adults, high-level mercury exposure can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system. But it’s a much bigger danger to babies and children. Mercury exposure can cause brain damage in infants. Mercury can affect children’s ability to walk, talk, read, and learn.
In 2005, it was estimated that more than 400,000 American babies were born each year having been exposed to unsafe levels of mercury while in the womb. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, issued in December 2011, put the first-ever national limits on hazardous air pollutants from power plants. Those pollutants include mercury, lead, arsenic, dioxin, and acid gases.
According to EPA, the current standards save up to 11,000 lives a year and prevent up to 120,000 asthma attacks. Yet despite massive health and economic benefits, Wheeler’s EPA is attacking the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.Wheeler has more than proved he is unfit to lead EPA, especially during a global crisis. His actions are making Americans even more vulnerable to disease, at a time when our nation’s health is on the line. Moms are outraged. (Tweet this)
Wheeler must go. Now.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION MOVES UNDER COVER OF COVID
While COVID-19 spreads across the United States, EPA Chief Wheeler and President Trump push a radical pro-polluter agenda.
U.S. confirms first case of COVID-19.
World Health Organization declares Global Health Emergency.
Washington state reports the first COVID-19 related death in U.S.
President Trump declares a national emergency.
U.S. Covid-19 deaths reach 100.
Wheeler publishes the Censored Science Supplemental Proposal, expanding his dangerous effort to restrict the agency’s use of science when setting public health protections. This would allow EPA to cast aside many widely accepted studies that demonstrate the harm of toxic chemicals and pollution as well as vital coronavirus research.
U.S. leads the world in number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Days after the American Petroleum Institute asked Wheeler to relax requirements, EPA claims “enforcement discretion” to allow polluters to violate certain environmental and health protections during the pandemic.
U.S. becomes the first country to exceed 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Wheeler finalizes Clean Cars Rollback, subjecting Americans to an estimated 18,500 more premature deaths; 250,000 athma attacks; 350,000 respiratory ailments by 2050; and 1.5 billion tons of climate pollution and $244 billion more in fuel costs by 2040.
Harvard releases new research showing the possible link between air pollution and higher death rates from COVID-19.
U.S. COVID-19 deaths reach 20,000, the highest of any country in the world.
Wheeler proposes not to strengthen standards for particulate matter, which is responsible for an estimated 85,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.
Wheeler announces final action undermining the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards — safeguards implemented and in effect today that prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 asthma attacks among children each year.
U.S. COVID-19 deaths have risen to 60,407, with over 1,000,000 documented cases in the country.
President Trump formalizes Wheeler’s “enforcement discretion” policy with an executive order instructing government agencies to rescind, modify, waive, or provide exemptions from regulations that may “inhibit economic recovery.”
The United States surpasses 100,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
EPA asks for expedited review of its proposal to eliminate regulation of methane pollution from oil and gas operations.
President Trump signs an executive order allowing agencies to waive application of environmental laws—including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act—to expedite federal approvals of infrastructure such as pipelines and highways.
Wheeler proposes to retain the current standards for ground level ozone, or smog, ignoring the evidence that the standards are too weak to adequately protect people from asthma attacks and other health harms.
The United States surpasses 4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.
EPA finalizes its rule to eliminate regulation of methane pollution from oil and gas operations. This major rollback will allow the oil and gas industry to release millions of tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and other harmful pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – making the climate crisis worse and threatening the health of families living near oil and gas operations.
The death toll from COVID-19 in the US surpasses 200,000.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US surpass 7 million.
U.S. deaths from COVID-19 reach 250,000.
EPA finalizes national standards for deadly particulate matter, or soot, that ignore science and are too weak to protect public health. The standards were fast-tracked through the public comment process as the global pandemic worsened, and do not take into account new evidence linking exposure to particulate matter with COVID illness and death.
EPA finalizes new, manipulative cost-benefit analysis procedures that falsely inflate the costs of complying with pollution standards while underestimating the health benefits of pollution protections.