The Environmental Protection Agency has recently come under fire for -- well, not protecting the environment. Since the ushering in of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Administration, the agency has seen a dramatic turn in the handling of regulations and administering of public policy. Federal funding aimed at assisting research efforts for science and environmental programs have been largely cut and it is being revealed in harrowing fashion just how much of an impact these cuts will make.
Their website has all but erased many of the former initiatives and policies put into place in an effort to band together with foreign allies to fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions. The changes also forced many, including environmental advocate, Mustafa Santiago Ali, the former Assistant Associate Administrator within the EPA, to leave his position after more than two decades.
Scott Pruitt, current Administrator of the EPA is seen as a sounding voice for climate deniers, those who don’t believe climate change is caused by humans. With his high ranking position and the support of President Trump, it has been easy to scoot past what is plainly obvious. As we ponder the negating stance the EPA has taken, time has shown that it really is of the essence. Here’s a brief look at some of the roll backs of the EPA despite the exhaustive efforts of many groups and individuals to fight global warming.
The View Inside the EPA
Climate Change - Michael Jerrett, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California in Los Angeles notes for example, while air quality in the U.S. has improved slightly, the earth’s ozone layer is severely being compromised by our continued output of dirty energy to meet our most basic needs. These needs range from meat production to vehicle fuel transmission to household energy consumption -- all driven almost exclusively by fossil fuels. Such a serious threat has been grossly undermined by the EPA as climate change was dropped from the list of National Security Threats. This is of course despite the looming threats that we’ve already witnessed just this year alone.
Clean Power Plan - Solar jobs saw a major increase in 2015 -- 25 percent to be exact, and this contributed in a major way to clean energy investments and initiatives. These jobs mostly lie in the role of installer. However, 44 states saw a rise the following year in 2016. The solar industry currently has about 374,000 jobs compared to the fossil fuel sector sitting at just above 187,000. The sector had the full support of the Clean Power Plan, a national plan put into place under former President Barack Obama with the mission to reduce carbon emission in the energy sector. The goal was by 2030, carbon emissions would be cut by as much as 32 percent. This year, Administrator Pruitt plans to sign a proposal which would eliminate the Clean Power Plan. “The war on coal is over,” he exclaimed to an audience in Kentucky.
This is especially harmful to vulnerable communities living in areas close to power plants that emit carbon dioxide. Elena Kreiger, a researcher at the Physicians, Scientists, Engineers for Healthy Energy and at NextGen Climate noted, “...what we can say is that we know that high concentrations of particulate matter are associated with a whole range of health impacts leading up to premature death, particularly for vulnerable populations like the elderly and those with underlying diseases.”
Ozone Standards - The monitoring of the ozone layer has been worrisome to climate scientists as they come to understand the effects of carbon emissions and its reduction of the earth’s protective atmospheric layer. With new standards put into place a few years ago, the former administration tightened the reins making the new standard 70 parts per billion. It was recently noted that industries such as pharmaceuticals saw a major rise in production due to the industrial emissions of chemicals that are commonly seen in items like paints and other solvents. The chlorine atoms that get released into the atmosphere virtually dismantle ozone molecules that they come into contact with, thus hindering the ability of the layer. Such production is seen as a direct threat to the ozone’s protective covering. Though the findings were alarming, and clearly demonstrate the need for a tougher stance on ozone protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the EPA decided to delay efforts to mitigate the standards citing unanswered questions. Many see these delays as troublesome. Polar bears have become the unwitting poster child for direct victims of rising seas as a result of the ozone layer’s depleting protection as it hurts Antarctica the most.
In the last decade, the U.S. has experienced devastating storms, unusually high temperatures in areas known for its mild weather, and sustainability efforts by consumers alike. Although many of the moves recently made by the EPA can be considered questionable, it should go without saying that companies are taking their own stance, as witnessed with the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. The Environmental Protection Agency may be protecting their own interests, but many are still committed to protecting the environment.