“In California, where over a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown, farm workers are being sickened by a pesticide that the Obama administration tried to ban.”
So starts the just-released New York Times investigative report on President Donald Trump’s environmental record so far. The new report details specific communities, like California, that are being impacted by the Trump administration’s environmental policies and “reminds us that the Trump soap opera has dire real-world consequences.”
As the Times points out, Trump has made it is his mission since he took office to neutralize Obama-era restrictions, nearly 80 of which have been blocked, delayed or targeted for repeal. Trump’s efforts have blocked progress in cleaning up our air and the water we drink and have opened up thousands of acres of land to the oil and gas industries.
In Kern County, California, the president’s “distrust of expert studies and advice has put farmworkers at risk.” A pesticide that the Obama administration had moved to ban is still in widespread use. Had Trump not been elected President, millions of pounds of chlorpyrifos most likely wouldn’t have been sprayed over the past 21 months in California. Instead, hundreds of farms workers have been ill because of the pesticide being sprayed.
Yet even the Environmental Protection Agency’s own studies suggest that chlorpyrifos could cause long-term health problems. But DowDuPont, the leading maker of the pesticide, donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. So instead of taking final action on the ban, Trump appointed Scott Pruitt to head the EPA and to put a stop to the ban.
“A coal-burning power plant in the suburban sprawl of Houston, one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises, is getting a free pass to continue spewing harmful levels of sulfur dioxide into the air.”
In Texas, the EPA reversed a rule that would have improved air quality in the state. Over the past few years, Texas has gradually been shifting to natural gas, wind and solar energy, and with these changes has come progress in cleaning up the air. Due to the Obama Administration’s efforts, three coal=burning plants have closed this year alone, with a fourth scheduled to close at the end of this month.
Now the Trump administration is stopping a mandate that would have ensured continued improvement in air quality, calling the Obama administration’s efforts a “war on coal.” The mandate would have forced a group of coal-burning plants to install expensive scrubbers to cut sulfur dioxide discharges. One of Scott Pruitt’s last actions, before he left the EPA, was to notify the group of power plants that the EPA was no longer demanding this.
“In the heart of West Virginia’s coal country, the state’s largest inland waterway is still being contaminated with hundreds of pounds of selenium, a pollutant that can wipe out aquatic life, as well as smaller amounts of arsenic and mercury.”
Restrictions from the Obama era that were helping water quality in West Virginia are now being blocked, delayed, or killed.
The Kanawha River in the state is lined with many chemical facilities. Starting in the 1960s both Republican and Democratic administrations have made progress to restore such polluted rivers in the country. But more recent environmental crackdowns by the Obama Administration has caused resistance from the chemical and coal industries. In response the Trump administration has blocked, delayed, or killed most rigorous Obama-era restrictions, thus allowing the chemical and coal plants around the Kanawha river to bypass many cleanup and protection efforts.
“Far to the north, on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, booming energy production has brought greater prosperity, but pollutants from the burning and venting of methane are threatening health problems.”
In North Dakota, the natural gas boom has fouled the air from improperly burned methane from oil wells. The Trump administration’s decision to reverse a rule curbing leaks and flaring of methane, both of which pose many dangers are common in the state on both federal and Indian lands, have created many risks.
As Walter DeVille, who lives on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, stated, “This is our reality now.”