Friday, June 21, 2019

Trump's Deregulation and the Death of the Clean Power Plan

The Trump administration has eradicated dozens of environmental protections and this long list includes the clean power plan. Trump's regulatory hit list targets protections that hamper energy production. In addition to making it easier for fossil fuel companies and harder for wildlife, this administration has weakened pollution standards designed to protect public health.

As reviewed in the June 7, New York Times article by Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Kendra Pierre Louis, the Trump administration has rolled back or is in the process of rolling back at least 83 environmental rules. Their analysis is based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School, Brookings Institution, and government sources. Thus far the administration has killed 49 environmental regulations and another 34 are pending.

These regulatory actions take the form of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamation. They also implicate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and 6 departments (Interior, Agriculture, Energy, Transportation, Labor and Justice). Environmental rules were also jettisoned at the National Parks Service, the FCC, and NOAA. 

Trump's orgy of deregulation has moved forward despite procedural improprieties that include failure to provide public notification and circumventing calls for comment.  Here is a brief summary of some of the major rule changes in six areas.

1. Energy efficiency

The Trump administration has enacted a policy of inefficiency that includes withdrawing rules for vehicle mileage standards and energy efficient light bulbs. They are also seeking to withdraw efficiency standards for residential furnaces and commercial water heaters.

2. Water pollution

Although water is a critical resource, this administration has eliminated or is working on eliminating 7 water pollution rules (4 have already been removed and 3 are pending). This includes rescinding a regulation that prevented coal companies and power plants from dumping mining debris and toxic discharge like mercury into public waterways. This move makes it legal for companies to contaminate rivers and streams as we saw when Duke energy repeatedly dumped coal ash into the Dan River and other waterways.

Thanks to the Trump administration groundwater is no longer protected from contamination by uranium mines and protections for tributaries and wetlands are gone. They rescinded water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands and they are trying to diminish marine protected areas.

3. Air pollution 


The administration regulatory assaults have focused on air pollution and emissions. So far there have been 22 rules (10 are completed and 12 are pending).  These are rules that are designed to protect people and they include regulations on vehicular mileage standards, tailpipe emissions and air quality in national parks and wilderness areas.  According to a recent Time article, US air quality has begun to decline after decades of getting better.

4. Pollution from fossil fuels

Air pollution is deadly and it will only get worse now that Trump has succeeded in repealing the Clean Power Plan. This plan would have set limits on emissions from coal power plants. In addition to reducing climate change causing emissions the health benefits of the clean power plan have been widely documented. By the EPA's own reckoning the plan would have saved 3,600 lives a year, 1,700 heart attacks and 90,000 asthma attacks. These health impacts also include cognitive impacts. The Clean Power Plan was replaced with The Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE), which effectively allows states to do whatever they please.  This is the crowning jewel of Trump's insane energy agenda.

Trump's former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was at the forefront of deregulation and he has left behind a murderous legacy.  Before he was forced to resign in disgrace loosened greenhouse gas (GHG) and mercury standards for power plants and he removed the requirement that oil and gas companies report methane emissions. Now the industry does not monitor and repair methane leaks, or provide financial guarantees. Oil companies no longer need to prove that they are capable of removing oil rigs once they are no longer productive and mining companies are no longer required to prove they can afford to clean up the pollution they cause.

The Trump administration has facilitated new coal leases and limited the review process to fast-track infrastructure projects, pipelines and drilling operations even in national parks. They have also removed restrictions on the disposal and storage of coal ash waste. Although Trump says he loves coal it does not appear that these sentiments extend to coal miners. He has softened coal dust protections in mines which does not bode well for the heath of the miners

While this administration does everything it can to support dirty energy they actively undermine clean energy.  They are even making transporting oil by rail less safe by removing provisions mandating braking system upgrades for trains hauling flammable liquids.

In total the Trump administration has eradicated 9 regulations that restricted drilling and extraction and they are working on ending 9 more.  They have removed environmental safety requirements for offshore drilling and they are expanding resource extraction in America's coastal waters while opening nine million acres of Western land to oil and gas drilling. They continue to options for resource extraction in the fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

5. War on Wildlife

This administration has eliminated a raft of animal protections as part of what can only be called a war on wildlife. So far the administration has eliminated 8 such protections and there are two more pending.

They are seeking to extend commercial fishing and weaken habitat protections for many species. Several restrictions for hunters have been eradicated including protections for birds, fish and predators. The Alaskan wildlife refuges are among the areas that have seen a weakening of environmental protections. It is now lawful to kill hibernating bears in their dens. Trump even overturned a ban on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle.

6. More toxins

This administration has removed 5 rules related to the use of toxic substances. The administration removed prohibitions against other toxic chemicals, like dry-cleaning solvents and paint strippers. They rejected a ban on the neurotoxin chlorpyrifos and loosened regulations limiting toxic emissions from industry.  They repealed rules that govern leak-repair, maintenance and reporting of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are one of the most potent GHGs and they are prohibited under the Montreal Protocol. Many of the remaining rules are not being enforced including restrictions on the use of HFCs.

There is more


As part of the Trump administration's war on science, they have restricted the use of scientific reports at the EPA and they are even trying to gerrymander the way cost-benefit analyses are conducted under the Clean Air Act. Thanks to Trump, the federal government no longer needs to limit the emissions they generate, nor do they need to try to minimize impacts on water, wildlife, land and other natural resources.

They even repealed climate resilience and adaptation efforts. So not only are they making climate change worse they are preventing efforts to prepare for it.

In a final coup de grace, that highlights this administration's contempt for the environment, the Justice Department has prohibited funding environmental and community development projects through corporate settlements of federal lawsuits.

Protesting Trump is Essential to the Survival of Life on the Planet
The Trump Administration's Recent Failures on Plastic, the Arctic and Efficiency
Trump's Bottomless Presidency

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