Land­mark US en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions be­ing rolled back

Iran Daily - - Cultural Heritage & Environment -

farm­ers, builders and oth­ers who’ve fought for decades against en­vi­ron­men­tal rules they see aimed at stalling or stop­ping projects un­til de­vel­op­ers give up.

“This is what’s be­ing done in the coun­try to sti­fle...progress. Pres­i­dent Trump is very aware of this,” said My­ron Ebell, a director at the Wash­ing­ton-based Con­ser­va­tive En­ter­prise In­sti­tute who led Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s en­vi­ron­men­tal tran­si­tion team.

Maybe cru­cially, this month’s com­plex over­hauls of ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal rules are as­so­ci­ated mainly not with the high-pro­file po­lit­i­cal fig­ures that Trump ap­pointed as cab­i­net heads for In­te­rior and En­vi­ron­ment, but with both men’s deputies, who are Wash­ing­ton vet­er­ans and tech­nocrats.

At EPA, now act­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tor An­drew Wheeler was named to suc­ceed Scott Pruitt, whose own, more hastily an­nounced en­vi­ron­men­tal roll­backs have been mired in le­gal chal­lenges since scan­dals over spend­ing helped drive Pruitt from of­fice in July.

At In­te­rior, Deputy Ad­min­is­tra­tion David Bern­hardt had worked on eas­ing the sage grouse pro­tec­tions hin­der­ing oil and gas drilling, and as a lob­by­ist for oil and gas pre­vi­ously. His boss, Ryan Zinke, re­mains in of­fice but is bat­tling to re­gain Trump’s fa­vor amid ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Ebell, the for­mer Trump tran­si­tion team fig­ure, said the ad­min­is­tra­tion could be rolling back en­vi­ron­men­tal rules even more quickly if it had moved faster to fill lead­er­ship teams in fed­eral agen­cies.

“Dys­func­tion in the White House per­son­nel process has re­ally slowed them up, but they are start­ing to make some progress now,” he said.

A set of White House talk­ing points for the pro­posed new water rule ob­tained by the As­so­ci­ated Press says the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would re­move fed­eral pro­tec­tions for wa­ter­ways in­clud­ing iso­lated wet­lands and ponds and creeks that run only after rain or snowmelt, among oth­ers.

Up to 60 per­cent of the stream miles in the con­ti­nen­tal US, not count­ing Alaska, and more than half of the wet­lands ap­pear to po­ten­tially be af­fected, Gold­man-carter, with the Na­tional Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion, said.

The over­haul, com­manded by Trump in a 2017 ex­ec­u­tive or­der, deals with what kinds of wa­ter­ways fall un­der pro­tec­tion of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and the US Army Corps of En­gi­neers.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups say more than a half-cen­tury of fed­eral preser­va­tion of even re­mote, unloved and at times bone-dry creeks and wet­lands has helped pro­tect ma­jor down­stream lakes and rivers from up­stream pol­lu­tants, fer­til­izer runoffs and oil spills, helped clean up big water bod­ies in­clud­ing the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, and helped buf­fer hu­mans against droughts, floods and hur­ri­canes.

Many farm­ers, min­ers, builders and oth­ers loathe the fed­eral pro­tec­tions for re­mote creeks and sea­son­ally dry frog ponds, see­ing the water pro­tec­tions as un­jus­ti­fied fed­eral bar­ri­cades to plow­ing or build­ing on their own pri­vate prop­erty.

“The pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s 2015 rule wasn’t about water qual­ity,” the White House’s talk­ing points say, mak­ing an ar­gu­ment that the EPA’S Wheeler has echoed in meet­ings around the coun­try on the pend­ing water pro­posal.

“It was about power – power in the hands of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment over farm­ers, de­vel­op­ers, and landown­ers,” the un­re­leased ad­min­is­tra­tion state­ment said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion is act­ing to grant other prayers of busi­ness­peo­ple who think US en­vi­ron­men­tal laws go too far.

On Thurs­day, the ad­min­is­tra­tion moved to fur­ther open up for oil and gas drilling nine mil­lion Western acres that con­ser­va­tion­ists are vi­tal for na­tive species, in­clud­ing an im­per­iled bird.

Other roll­backs late this sum­mer tar­geted what had been legacy Obama ef­forts to com­bat cli­mate change by re­duc­ing coal, oil and gas emis­sions from the na­tion’s elec­tri­cal grid and pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles.

Many of the roll­backs put in mo­tion aim to prop up the de­clin­ing US coal in­dus­try. That in­cludes one Wheeler an­nounced Thurs­day for new coal plants.

Farm­ers, util­ity ex­ec­u­tives and a host of oth­ers will wait to see if Trump wins a sec­ond term to make the roll­backs take hold, Ebell said.

Democrats tak­ing con­trol of the US House next month hope to try to stop the loss of ground, and even gain some.

Rep. Frank Pal­lone, a New Jersey Demo­crat ex­pected to chair the En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee un­der Demo­cratic con­trol, said in an in­ter­view he will in­clude cli­mate-change projects in big in­fra­struc­ture bills he hopes can gain Repub­li­can sup­port.

“We want ag­gres­sive ac­tion” on it, he said.

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