WHITE HOUSE SAYS IT GETS AN A+ ON EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL IS­SUES

The Gulf Today - Business - - SPECIAL REPORT -

Los An­ge­les: You may not have known this is Na­tional Lead Poi­son­ing Pre­ven­tion Week, but the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion did. It marked the oc­ca­sion with a “call to ac­tion” aimed at pro­tect­ing “cur­rent and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions from ex­po­sures to lead-con­tain­ing paint and dust.”

I can only as­sume the White House is punk­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple af­ter months of un­der­min­ing and throw­ing out en­vi­ron­men­tal rules and reg­u­la­tions.

“No pres­i­dent has ever cut so many reg­u­la­tions in their en­tire term, OK, as we have cut in less than a year,” Pres­i­dent Trump proudly de­clared in Fe­bru­ary.

An­a­lysts say that’s not true. But the dozens of reg­u­la­tions he has cut, or in­tends to cut, are pri­mar­ily rules that pre­vent busi­nesses from harm­ing peo­ple and the environment. Trump’s so-called Af­ford­able Clean En­ergy pro­posal, for ex­am­ple, would re­lax emis­sions stan­dards for coal-fired power plants.

A re­cent es­say in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal Assn. by Har­vard Univer­sity re­searchers con­cluded that Trump’s en­vi­ron­men­tal agenda “is likely to cost the lives of over 80,000 U.S. res­i­dents per decade and lead to res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems for many more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple.”

Yet the heads of Trump’s Task Force on En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Risks and Safety Risks to Chil­dren char­ac­ter­ized the ad­min­is­tra­tion this week as be­ing sin­gu­larly fo­cused on keep­ing Amer­i­cans, and par­tic­u­larly kids, safe from dan­ger­ous in­dus­trial prac­tices.

COAL-IN­DUS­TRY

The task force’s ac­tiv­i­ties are “a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to pre­vent­ing fu­ture gen­er­a­tions from be­ing af­fected by lead ex­po­sure,” said Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar, cit­ing “great progress” in safe­guard­ing pub­lic safety. An­drew Wheeler, a for­mer coal-in­dus­try lob­by­ist who now serves as the act­ing head of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, said re­duc­ing ex­po­sure to toxic lead “is a top pri­or­ity for EPA.”

Not re­ally. Not if you de­fine “re­duc­ing ex­po­sure to toxic lead” as re­duc­ing ex­po­sure to toxic lead.

“Like meat bees on baloney, the pol­lu­tion lobby has swarmed the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from its in­cep­tion,” said Ken Cook, pres­i­dent of En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group, an ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“No num­ber of press re­leases and state­ments by Mr. Wheeler or oth­ers claim­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal and pub­lic health pro­tec­tion is a ‘top pri­or­ity’ for this ad­min­is­tra­tion can change that in­dis­putable fact,” he told me.

In De­cem­ber, a fed­eral ap­peals court gave the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion 90 days to pro­pose tougher stan­dards for lev­els of lead in paint and dust. Trump had wanted six years to deal with the mat­ter.

Although lead-based paint was banned in this coun­try in 1978, it wasn’t un­til 2001 that the EPA set stan­dards for lead con­tam­i­na­tion — the point at which lead lev­els in paint and dust re­quire cleanup. In 2009, health and safety ad­vo­cates pe­ti­tioned the agency to tighten those stan­dards to “more ad­e­quately pro­tect” kids.

Pres­i­dent Obama backed the move, but the EPA dragged its feet. So the ap­peals court was asked in 2016 to get things mov­ing.

Trump’s at­tempt to stall for an­other six years was re­jected by the U.S. 9th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals. “The chil­dren ex­posed to lead poi­son­ing due to the fail­ure of EPA to act are se­verely prej­u­diced by EPA’S de­lay,” it ruled.

The agency, af­ter re­ceiv­ing an ex­ten­sion on the court or­der in March, pro­posed stricter reg­u­la­tions in July. It has un­til next sum­mer to fi­nal­ize the rule change.

Sci­en­tists say even small amounts of lead can cause per­ma­nent harm to kids, in­clud­ing lower IQS, as well as learn­ing and de­vel­op­men­tal prob­lems.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion says “at least 4 mil­lion house­holds have chil­dren liv­ing in them that are be­ing ex­posed to high lev­els of lead.”

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court de­clined to re­view low­er­court rul­ings re­quir­ing the lead paint in­dus­try to pay more than $400 mil­lion to clean thou­sands of Cal­i­for­nia homes built be­fore 1951. The high court’s re­buff ended an 18-year le­gal bat­tle and means the re­me­di­a­tion pro­gram will pro­ceed.

All ev­i­dence to the con­trary notwith­stand­ing, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants Amer­i­cans to be­lieve it takes en­vi­ron­men­tal dan­gers such as lead poi­son­ing very se­ri­ously.

It said this week it is “launch­ing a new Healthy Homes-youth app that teaches chil­dren about health haz­ards within the home.”

The Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment also has cooked up a Part­ner In­for­ma­tion Kit to help state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments stage their own Na­tional Lead Poi­son­ing Pre­ven­tion Week ac­tiv­i­ties. (Step one, which I’m not mak­ing up, is “form a task force.”)

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion de­pict­ing it­self as a cham­pion of the environment is as lu­di­crous as its re­cent at­tempts to por­tray it­self as a de­fender of pro­tec­tions for peo­ple with pre­ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions.

“This rhetoric from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is just paint­ing over its re­fusal to keep our kids safe, not just from lead poi­son­ing, but from toxic air and wa­ter pol­lu­tion,” said Melinda Pierce, leg­isla­tive di­rec­tor of the Sierra Club.

“Pro­pa­ganda won’t dis­guise the re­al­ity that Trump is re­spon­si­ble for the most se­ri­ous at­tacks on clean air and wa­ter by any ad­min­is­tra­tion ever,” she said.

Trump fol­lowed up on this week’s we-love-kids news re­lease with a tweet claim­ing the United States “has the best air in the world BY FAR!”

It fea­tured a map pur­port­ing to show that the en­tire coun­try is safe from air-pol­lu­tion lev­els deemed haz­ardous by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion. In fact, the map was from 2016, so it re­flected Obama’s en­vi­ron­men­tal ste­ward­ship, not Trump’s. And it was for a sin­gle pol­lu­tant — fine par­ti­cles — not over­all air qual­ity.

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