At Risk: The Air We Breathe, Water We Drink, and Food We Eat
This article was first published by the Huffington Post on December 15, 2016.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus has provided President-Elect Trump a “recommended list of regulations to remove.” Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), chair of the all-Republican Freedom Caucus, identified 228 federal rules they hope Trump will help eliminate.
Thirty-two of the proposals would roll back safety, health and environmental standards that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and our nation’s infrastructure (from pipelines to airports). By rolling back these regulations, the plan would essentially prevent the agencies responsible for protecting us from doing their job.
Another 43 proposals are aimed at undermining America’s progress on clean energy and climate change, pushing us away from energy efficiency and renewable energy sources toward more reliance on fossil fuels. This includes eliminating two dozen Department of Energy energy efficiency standards that save families money on energy bills, reduce energy waste, and prevent pollution.
Environmental Defense Fund has posted a copy of the Freedom Caucus document online (first obtained by the Washington Post) and added highlights to show the 75 health, safety, environment, and energy rollbacks.
The leading targets for these attacks are the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, but other agencies targeted include the Federal Aviation Administration, the State Department, the Department of Interior and others.
Trump’s Pick to Lead EPA Is An Added Threat The danger of this regulatory ‘kill list’ is compounded by Donald Trump’s picks for key cabinet positions that would traditionally be the first to defend their agencies from political interference. Many of the recommendations are favorites of the fossil fuel lobby, which will have unprecedented power in Trump’s cabinet.
Trump’s decision to entrust Scott Pruitt with running the Environmental Protection Agency is especially dangerous. EPA is responsible for protecting our families from air and water pollution as well as toxic chemicals. Pruitt, however, has repeatedly and systematically teamed up with fossil fuel companies to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent EPA action on regulating toxic mercury, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In a 2014 investigative report, the New York Times exposed Pruitt’s “secretive alliance” with oil and gas companies while Attorney General of Oklahoma.
Breaking Down the Regulations at Risk Here is a summary of some of the most alarming Freedom Caucus proposals that Pruitt and others in Trump’s cabinet will be looking over. The Freedom Caucus list has inaccuracies, and it seems to be based on the premise that Trump can erase rules with a stroke of the pen in the first 100 days. For most of these, he cannot, because the agencies have responsibilities to implement laws and are subject to oversight by the courts. But that does not mean that these regulations are safe from diversion of funds, lack of enforcement, legislative attacks, and other efforts to weaken them.
In the following list, the numbers in parentheses match the numbers in the House Freedom Caucus plan.
Eliminate air pollution standards for smog-forming ozone (174), lung-damaging soot (fine particles, 178), and rules to reduce air pollution from tailpipes (175, 181) and smokestacks (182, 183)
Reverse course on climate change, including: erasing carbon pollution regulations for power plants (173, 182, 183), tailpipes (175, 181), and airplanes (194); cancelling the Paris agreement (161); and eliminating the Green Climate Fund (172).
Roll back Clean Water standards that protect the Great Lakes (186), Chesapeake Bay (185), and to prevent pollution of wetlands (13) and rivers (199) across the nation.
Block regulations to prevent dangerous chemical accidents that release toxic chemicals into surrounding communities (189).
Jeopardize Worker safety, including repealing standards to prevent lung cancer among workers exposed to silica dust (135).
Repeal two dozen energy efficiency standards for appliances and industrial equipment (28-53).
Repeal natural gas pipeline safety standards passed in response to gas pipeline disasters, including the 2010 San Bruno disaster in California (153).
Repeal fuel economy and tailpipe standards for cars that are saving consumers money at the pump, reducing our dependency on oil, and reducing air pollution (175, 181).
Eliminate food safety regulations, including fish inspections (3).
Strip FDA’s authority to regulate the tobacco industry (55).
Repeal an FDA rule to safeguard our food supply against tampering by terrorists (83).
Eliminate the State Department agencies responsible for environmental science, protecting our oceans, and addressing climate change (162, 170, 171).
Block FAA regulations aimed at improving the safety of air traffic management at airports (156).