Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Trump Guts ESA as Part of his Ongoing War with Nature

The Trump administration is behind a steady barrage of environmental insults but his most recent is one of the most devastating to date. There are so many assaults on environmental protections that it is hard to keep track--and that is precisely the point. Trump also uses sensational news stories as cover for his attacks on nature. On Monday August 12 Trump quietly gutted the Endangered Species Act knowing the story would get buried under the racist headlines he was generating.

Few things are certain, but one thing we know for sure is that this administration will go down in history for its climate denial. However, it is the abandonment of at least 80 regulations that will make Trump infamous. Trump's blatant disdain for the natural world is clearly evident in his budgets which have sought cuts to environmental oversight.

While this administration has a track record of decisions that harm wildlife, the most recent move is the most destructive. The crowning achievement of Trump's war on wildlife is the weakening of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This move is all the more egregious in light of a recent report which indicates that one million species are on the brink of extinction around the world.  Another recent report shows that marine life is being killed by warming seas.

Changes to the ESA mean more species are sure to go extinct in the U.S.  It is now easier to remove species from the protected list and remove protections for those listed as threatened. Provisions protecting habitat have also been weakened.  ESA has saved countless species in the 46 years since its passage including grizzly bears, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, manatees and humpback whales. Changes to the ESA could end many species including some of America's most iconic animals.

The Trump Administration made another move against the Bears Ears National Monument. In 2017 Trump shrunk the monument by 85 percent and in August the Bureau of Land Management released a new plan to eliminate all protections for the remaining 15 percent.

Trump's drilling leases in Bears Ears and elsewhere generate more greenhouse gas emissions than the EU does in a year. Since becoming president more than 375 million acres (150 million hectares) of public lands and waters have been opened for fossil fuel extraction. According to the Wilderness Society these leases will generate between 854m and 4.7bn metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The contempt with which Trump views nature is not only evident in his policy decisions. His reelection campaign has sold more than 140,000 plastic "Trump straws," that mock plastic-straw bans. Straws are widely understood to be both a leading source of plastic pollution and a risk to wildlife.

Even when Trump's lackeys have been forced to resign their successors are just as bad or worse. This is true at the Department of Interior it is also true at the EPA which has been the headquarters of Trump's environmental deregulation efforts. The Trump administration has staffed government departments and agencies with fossil fuel advocates this includes the former EPA chief Scott Pruitt and his replacement Andrew Wheeler. 

The EPA continues to make reckless decisions like the one it made in July to forego a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos. They made this ruling even though there is evidence to suggest it causes cognitive problems in children. This is yet another blatant example of putting corporate profits ahead of public well-being.

In July the Trump administration gave the fossil fuel industry, factory farms and other industrial polluters the right to contaminate waterways. The same waterways that Americans use for swimming and fishing, the same water that they drink each day. This is a flagrant contravention of the Clean Water Act. If the EPA has their way the Clean Water Act will go the way of the ESA.

To add insult to injury this is a delusional president who tries to tout his green record when the data clearly shows that in addition to ramping up greenhouse gas emissions, overall air quality has declined during his presidency.

It is not just the Trump administration's failure to act to protect the environment, it is also the things that this government is actively doing to increase climate pollution.

This man can be expected to exercise his power to destroy the natural world for as long as he is allowed to rule.

We must appreciate the self interested malevolence and corrupt intent of this president. Trump will not be satisfied until he has extracted ever last penny out of the Earth regardless of the impacts on plants, animals or people.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that protesting Trump and voting him out of office in 2020 is essential to the survival of life on this planet.

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