EPA budget & water rule in Trump’s sights as denial rules the Hill

Intro

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been in Trump’s sights this week, after he signed an Executive Order dismantling Obama’s “water rule” and reports confirm he plans to cut the agency’s budget by as much as one fifth, laying off thousands of workers. However, he faces a battle from Republicans, some of whom are shocked at the prospect of such deep cuts. The cuts would help fund the increased military spending announced in this week’s speech to congress – but Trump may not be aware that the military is continuing to invest heavily in renewable energy. Republicans are targeting another Obama rule  – the Social Cost of Carbon – and a hearing on the matter yesterday quickly morphed into a discussion around whether climate change was real. The climate denial coming from Republicans is a key question from youth in the Our Children’s Trust case against the US Government, as they issued a notice to the American Petroleum Institute requesting information on how much the API knew about climate change, when, its role in fossil fuel industry climate lobby groups, and communications with the GW Bush White House.

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Key Points

  • President Trump’s Executive Order on the “Water Rule” (WOTUS) is aimed at dismantling a 2015 ruling clarifying which bodies of water fall under Federal clean water protection, a rule that is still under legal challenge. However, it cannot be rolled back simply by the Order – the EPA has to go through the federal rulemaking process to replace it. The rule has been opposed by farming, mining and fossil fuel companies, and oil pipeline companies who have had to go through EPA hurdles if a pipeline crosses a protected piece of water. In the wake of the EO, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt told farmers “help is on the way.”
  • It’s these type of rules that the EPA will be even less able to police, critics argue, if President Trump manages to cut its budget by 24 percent, as outlined in documents seen by the Washington Post. The proposed cuts have been greeted with dismay across the board, with Republicans questioning the extent of the proposed cuts, that could see up to 3,000 people lose their jobs and dozens of programs cut, including climate change initiatives, cleanup of toxic sites, and Alaskan villages. It eliminates the budget altogether for the EPA’s contribution to the US Global Change Research Program. President Trump is expected to sign another Executive Order next week to dismantle Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
  • The Social Cost of Carbon, long targeted by Republicans, was the focus of a hearing on the Hill this week, brought the denial in the party to the fore, as the discussions switched from the social cost of carbon to whether climate change is actually real. The Social Cost of Carbon – an estimate of the hidden costs of carbon dioxide – has long been the target of deniers and fossil fuel interests.  This climate denial also forms the centre of a production note issued to the American Petroleum Institute by Our Children’s Trust, seeking information on the oil industry’s role in undermining climate action over the last 50 years, as part of their case against the U.S. Government, with another hearing set for next week.

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KEY QUOTES

  • “This [EPA] budget is a fantasy if the administration believes it will preserve EPA’s mission to protect public health.  It ignores the need to invest in science and to implement the law. It ignores the lessons of history that led to EPA’s creation 46 years ago. And it ignores the American people calling for its continued support.” Obama EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy.
  • “The executive order has no legal significance at all. It’s like the president calling Scott Pruitt and telling him to start the legal proceedings. It does the same thing as a phone call or a tweet. It just signals that the president wants it to happen.” Professor of environmental law at New York University, Richard L. Revesz.
  • “I look forward to reading these documents, which will expose API’s deliberate suppression of climate science.  The API’s secrets will tell the shocking story of an industry bent on destabilizing the planet’s climate system, hand-in-hand with corrupt government officials.” Our Childrens Trust plaintiff and Columbia University undergrad​ Alex Loznak, aged 20.

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