By: Alexis Cope
With only weeks before he leaves the White House, Trump, and his administration at large, are beginning a series of massive rollbacks on significant environmental agencies, as well as drafting new legislation for a variety of environmental issues.
These changes directly benefit the oil, gas, and other non-renewable energy industries, allowing Arctic drilling to expand and loosening laws which hold these companies accountable for the wildlife affected by them.
Proposals include selling land in the Arctic Wildlife refuge to expand the range of drilling in the region, lowering emission standards for certain toxins, and opening land currently under national park jurisdiction in New Mexico for drilling as well.
One of the most significant deregulations the Trump administration has taken thus far was that of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, which protects over 1,000 migratory bird species (most importantly, birds of prey) by holding industries accountable for the preventable deaths of protected birds. In the event of an oil spill, electrocution from power lines, or construction which hurts a population, the federal government can prosecute the company responsible. The proposed changes will change the Act so that companies will face no consequences when their actions kill protected species, actions which could easily have been prevented.
Last Thursday, the Department of the Interior released its analysis on proposed changes for the mitigation of laws regarding mining and drilling over millions of acres of land in several Western states.
This isn’t the first time Trump has made huge cuts to environmental funding. In February of this year, he cut the EPA’s budget by 26%, eliminating 50 programs which carried out essential tasks, such as cleaning up hazardous waste, fighting pollution, and helping secure safe drinking water for cities. The EPA’s research budget was also halved, crippling its ability for innovation in a number of fields. Trump additionally proposed severe funding cuts in budgets for the protection and preservation of natural wetlands in several states, such as New York and Washington. He’s also tried to change environmental legislation, such as the Clean Air Act, and attempted to minimize the sizes of several national parks.
Many of these recent, and previous, actions seem to have been taken against the Democratic party, for which environmental reform is a major issue. States affected by the cuts on wetland protection were largely blue states, and the changes the Trump administration is making now are in direct conflict with the environmental agenda president-elect Joe Biden is planning to follow. Already facing around a year’s worth of work to reinstate a pre-Trump environmental budget, these new cuts will only add to the time Biden will have to spend on the issue before making any progress on this front.
These budget cuts and legislation proposals still have to be approved by Congress, and it’s a relative toss up there.
Either way, the Trump administration is working as hard as it can to make the legal battles last as long as possible, which will only end up harming the people and animals who rely on clean water and safe skies to fly through.