Most Americans, especially parents, are watching in horror as the Trump administration’s EPA does everything it can to go retrograde. This includes destroying public lands for economic gains, promoting fossil fuels (domestically and abroad), and stripping out existing regulations which have protected the country and our children for decades.
Senator Ed Markey challenges Pruitt:
Senator Markey previously sent letters to Pruitt about his “attacks on science, his secrecy, his policy decisions and whether he may have violated the terms of his ethics agreement.” He also met with former officials from the EPA who maintain that Pruitt is “sabotaging the agency.”
The latest disaster is the reversal of a policy referred to as the “once-in-always-in” ruling, put into play in 1995 under the Clean Air Act.
What Does This Mean?
The original initiative required facilities classified as “major” emitters of toxic air pollutants to remain within that categorization — even after they had reached a goal of lowered emissions in compliance with MACT (maximum achievable control technology) standards. This covered the working life of a facility. MACT regs were shown to reduce pollution by as much as 95 percent.
EPA regulations qualify a major source as “emitting 10 tons or more of an individual pollutant annually, or 25 tons or more of a combination of pollutants annually.”
With the revision, major facilities will be recategorized as an area source, once they have hit prescribed standards. In effect, this discourages industries from continuing with robust pollution fighting efforts, and just maintaining the requisite limits.
This is a blow to public health and a break for polluting industries — specifically makers of chemicals, paper, and steel.
Since Pruitt was installed at the EPA, there has been an ongoing reference to “regulatory burdens.” This has been the rationale for creating a new road map for polluters, which comes with plenty of loopholes.
New rules only call for the minimum compliance, whereas prior regulations had more actions baked into the formula. Greater emissions of lead, mercury, and dioxins will now enter the air. These toxins cause infertility, cancer, and developmental delays.
The previous guidelines had the potential to lower pollution from almost two hundred types of pollutants by 95 percent.
Who is driving this change?
The two senators who called for this change, via a letter to Pruitt, are from top coal production states. They are Sen. Shelly M. Capito (R –WV) and Sen. John Barrasso (R- Wyo).
Barrasso, is the chairman of the EPW Senate Committee. He made a point of lavishing praise on Pruitt’s performance at the EPA, when Pruitt appeared in front of the committee.
Conversely, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del), issued a strongly worded statement on January 26 in response to the rule reversal. He wrote:
“Administrator Pruitt upended a 23-year-old air pollution interpretation of the law that was effectively protecting Americans from some of the most harmful toxic air pollutants like mercury, lead and arsenic after a single letter of support from our Chairman. To call this a ‘restoration of process’ would be laughable except for the fact that the EPA moving backward on clean air protections for some of our nation’s largest polluters is no laughing matter. While citing no analysis of the public health impacts of this decision, Administrator Pruitt’s EPA has proactively allowed polluters to increase output of toxic air pollution. Americans didn’t vote for more toxics in the air they breathe and the water they drink, but, unfortunately, that is what they are getting with President Trump’s EPA.”
While Congress continues to destroy environmental safeguards along partisan lines, keep your eye on Arthur Elkins, who serves as the Inspector General of the EPA. This is an “independent office within the EPA that helps the agency “protect the environment in a more efficient and cost effective manner.”
Elkins expressed concern about the upcoming fiscal 2019 budget. It would impact his office’s ability to conduct “oversight.” Elkins requested a budget of $62 million; the EPA suggested that $41 million would do the job.
Whistleblowers are not enough! The country needs an army of citizen-activists to be vigilant about the actions of Pruitt as he works to dismantle the EPA.
Parents who want to protect future generations are perfect for this mission.