• Ed Flattau

Not-So-Grand Illusion

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

President Trump’s claim that the nation has benefitted from the “cleanest air and water” during his tenure is akin to a blatant shell game. Air pollution has actually increased during his reign and water pollution is headed in that direction.

Trump’s smoke and mirrors is graphically on display in his “Affordable Clean Energy Rule” which is a misnomer if ever there were one. The Rule was introduced by Trump’s Congressional surrogates to replace President Obama’s “Clean Power” legislation as a supposedly superior alternative. But it’s all an illusion. A cursory glance is sufficient to penetrate the thin façade and discover that Trump is hollowing out existing law. Carbon emissions would be reduced by just 2.7 percent of the Obama Rule’s total effect.

The Trump Administration pays lip service to preservation of endangered species in its draft revision of the original Act. But it in fact would erode the law’s enforcement powers. Trump would require economics to be taken into account in the designation of endangered species. Currently, costs are factored into the implementation of the law, but not the actual listing of endangered species. Under the Trump proposal, an individual owner of land where an endangered species resides could stymy its protection unless paid-off by the government, transforming the conservation process from an ecological decision to an economic one.

Endowing an individual the fiscal power to thwart the preservation of society’s ecological legacy is putting a price on a phenomenon that is priceless. Trump has a difficult time in calculating value other than through a dollars-and-cents lens.

The Trump Administration touts the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as a potential treasure trove of oil and gas deposits. Only 2,000 out of the 1.5 million-acre ANWR coastal plain would be occupied by drilling equipment, the Trump people say, leaving the remainder of this unique wilderness ecosystem intact.

What the Trump Administration and its allies fail to mention are the 200 miles of new roads and the hundreds of miles of pipelines that would crisscross the coastal plain. It is an area that also happens to be a major caribou calving ground, which has earned it the title of “the American Serengeti”. Nor was note made of the 11 production facilities and two ports that would have to be constructed to support the drilling operations. So much for the president’s environmental commitment!

Trump is also going through the motions of regulating toxic arsenic and mercury. In a bow to industry, he proposed a regulatory revision that emasculates public protection. Cleanup requirements are relaxed and states are given autonomy to regulate as they see fit even if bordering foolhardy. Health benefits are excluded in setting standards for mercury, thus lowering the level of protection to the general public while still maintaining a pretense of administrative responsibility.

It all boils down to the president having a regulatory stable filled with environmental Trojan horses bred to placate the business community.


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