U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has made it clear that his administration is going to be hostile towards his predecessor’s environmental policies, going as far as to promise a massive roll back of current environmental protections.
This is all under the guise of reducing bureaucratic red tape that is supposedly hindering energy development. While there are plenty of studies available that refute the “excessive regulations hurt businesses” talking points, those studies haven’t seemed to penetrate the climate denial shield that some politicians have surrounded themselves in, so a different approach is called for.
In the case of the incoming Trump administration’s desire to repeal environmental safeguards, perhaps the best way to frame the impact this will have on the United States is in terms of dollars and cents.
For example, if Trump follows through on his promise to get rid of the Clean Power Rules, it would result in a net economic loss for the United States. As the rules stand right now, they would save both states and citizens on their utility bills, in addition to creating an estimated 74,000 to 243,000 new jobs in the United States.
The economic multiplier effect tells us that every job created will have a ripple effect through the economy, resulting in more and more jobs being created due to increased spending by citizens and increased demand for goods. If the Clean Power Rules are eliminated, these jobs will never manifest, resulting in untold economic losses.
As for Trump’s disdain for the Environmental Protection Agency and his appointment of anti-EPA crusader Scott Pruitt to head the agency, that could create a disaster that ultimately could cost the United States billions of dollars in lost economic activity. Both Trump and Pruitt have expressed interest in cutting back on the EPA’s current safety standards, and doing so will have a significant drain on the economy.
The Hill points out the economic benefits of the EPA’s current regulations:
One study by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget found that the annual benefits of major federal rules over a decade ranged between $193 billion to $800 billion, with costs of only $57 billion to $84 billion. EPA air regulations were the greatest source of these benefits.
An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute also found that for each major EPA rule enacted by the Obama administration, annual benefits exceeded costs by $10 billion to $95 billion per rule and generated more new jobs than were lost. One example was the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which had estimated costs (approximately $8 billion) that were dwarfed by the $28 billion to $77 billion in annual benefits.
Likewise, a study by the EPA‘s Office of Air and Radiation estimated the costs of implementing the Clean Air Act at approximately $65 billion, while its estimated benefit was expected to reach $2 trillion for the decades between 1990 and 2020.
The economic impacts of rolling back environmental protections are scary, but the human toll that a repeal will have is terrifying.
According to an analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO), environmental destruction and pollution is now responsible for a staggering 12.6 million deaths each year around the globe, which means that 23% of all global deaths are related to the environment, including 26% of deaths of children under the age of 5. More people are killed each year by climate change than by terrorism.
The EPA estimates that as many as 131 million American citizens already live in areas with higher-than-allowable levels of ozone, and air pollution is now the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the United States. New York University is predicting that as many as 70,000 Americans could die each year from environmental pollution and climate change by the year 2100.
The question that the Trump administration must ask itself is whether the economic and mortality risks are worth repealing decades of environmental safeguards. Unfortunately, they appear to have already answered those questions and have sided with fossil fuel industry interests.
But the American public is not powerless, and those who want clean air, clean water, a sound economy, and the right to live, will continue to fight back against every anti-environmental policy that could come out of Washington, D.C. in the next four years.