As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues a report outlining the remarkable achievements of the 49-year-old Clean Air Act, the Trump administration is taking steps to relax federal requirements that have contributed to those environmental improvements over the years.
Trump says those weaker regulations are necessary to help polluting companies generate more profits, so in the future if our air and water become more polluted -- dirtier -- those enhanced profits could only be described as "dirty money."
The EPA report says that six key pollutants -- ground-level ozone (smog), particulate matter (soot or smoke), carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide -- declined 73 percent since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970.
"This progress occurred while the U.S. economy continued to grow, Americans drove more miles and population and energy use increased," the EPA report says, adding that "Today Americans breath cleaner air and face lower risks of adverse health effects" as a result of the Clean Air Act.
"These are remarkable achievements that should be recognized, celebrated, and replicated around the around the world," said acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on a conference call with reporters. "A 73% reduction in any other social ill, such as crime, disease, or drug addition would lead the evening news."
Yes, that certainly is great news and worthy of celebration. Then why, on God's green earth, would the Trump administration seek to undercut the very reasons for those remarkable gains?
Here's a quick summary from USA Today of what they are up to:
In December, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a memo reducing the chances an energy plant will have to abide by stricter air quality standards if it initially miscalculates its future pollutant emissions.
In January, Pruitt issued a memo repealing a Clinton-era policy known as “once in, always in." The change means industrial facilities deemed "major" sources of air pollution can once again be reclassified as "minor" polluters and, therefor, escape tough clean air regulations.
In April, President Trump issued a directive, instructing the EPA to work with states that have metro areas which fail to attain clean air standards by giving them additional "flexibility" to meet them. The president's primary aim, the directive states, is "promoting domestic manufacturing and job creation."
And within days, the administration is expected to formally lay out a plan revisiting strict fuel-economy standards for American light trucks and cars that had been set in motion under President Barack Obama. Environmentalists believe the plan will call at the very least for a lowering of the standard, which calls for yearly increases in fuel efficiency until it hits 54.5 mpg by the end of 2025.
Today, a coalition of 22 states and nine cities sued to block the Trump administration's plans to ease restrictions on coal-burning power plants. Remember how Trump promised to bring back "clean coal?" Guess this is part of that plan.
The lawsuit contends that the EPA had no basis for weakening a regulation established under President Obama (now we know the real reason, right?) that established national limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants.
Called the Clean Power Plan, that rule required states to reduce CO2 emissions by 2022, close heavily-polluting plants and replace those energy sources with natural gas or renewable energy. CO2 emissions are a major contributor to global warming, but then that's just a hoax, right. Those nasty gases don't really trap the sun's heat, despite what science says. Nope. That's just the figment of a bunch of wacky liberals' imagination.
As a result, we may see yet another result of Trump's effort to pack the Supreme Court with conservative justices. As this legal fight could end up being decided in those hallowed chambers, an adverse result could permanently weaken the nation's ability to combat factors that contribute to global warming -- to say nothing of our ability to keep the air and water free from harmful pollutants.
Maybe you don't care about this. But your children and grandchildren should because that is the environment they will inherit.