The travesty of a budget proposal that was recently unleashed by the Trump administration is an assault on the welfare of Americans. Among the more devastating cuts is a reduction of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding by 31 percent in the next year.
Unsurprisingly – especially in the wake of Trump’s Paris Accords decision – many of the programs set for the chopping block focus on environmental pollution, and creating public health regulations. Some of these programs are slated to be cut by over an astounding 40 percent.
The EPA Offers Public Opportunity to Respond to Budget Cuts
The EPA allowed for a brief public commenting period regarding changes to environmental regulations. That period ended May 15, but during a handful of days, over 55,100 comments were posted to the regulations.gov website. The administration had made its objectives clear, asking which rules could be revised or eliminated on the grounds they hurt economic growth.
But with a resounding voice, those who left feedback rejected the idea of cutting regulations, peppering their responses with capital letters and exclamation points. Many also argued that our country and world will face higher social and economic costs in the coming decades if these rules are not upheld, maintained, and strengthened.
Well, They Asked for It...
While the Trump administration slanted their questions toward cutting the EPA, the comments section flexed its collective outrage and intelligence on reasons why these rules are crucial to protecting the environment. Comments covered a wide range of social, scientific, and economic justifications, and included one respondent who voiced their opinion by filling the dialogue box with the word “no” repeated over and over.
There was no small amount of disparaging remarks directed to the current administration and the policies they are promoting. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was also taken to task for skeptical stance on climate studies.
In one comment, the anonymous author expressed outrage and raised a dire warning:
“The thought that leaders who are actually informed on matters of environmentalism and basic scientific understanding would pull back regulations on protections afforded to not only the planet but EVERY SINGLE living organism on them for the sake of a paycheck is mindboggling....The poor will suffer the consequences, but we can see that those of small means tend to rise up and overthrow when pushed too far. Good luck.”
Another writer voiced her worry over sacrificing the future of our children to pad profits:
“As a mother and a scientist, I am extremely concerned about this administration and its greed. It is clear to me that the new EPA director and the President of this country only care about lining their pockets at the expense of our water and air.”
Still others focused their feedback on remembering the so-called “bad old days,” when many current EPA regulations had not yet been created. These comments make it clear how easy it would be to send public health back into a tailspin:
“Growing up and living in a steel town and also being close to coal mines, our air and water quality was some of the worst in the nation from the start of the industrial revolution into 1980's. With the rules and regulations of the EPA, we can now see the sun during the day and our water doesn't have to be boiled first for it to be drinkable.”
Many writers highlighted the larger stakes for the environment, our country, and our world. They rightly argued that these regulations will affect people for generations to come:
“There is no Planet B. We must protect what we have -- clean air, clean water, healthy animals and insects as well as people.”
“To wage war on our environment, our health, safety, well-being, our future, and that of generations to come is to wage war on America and Americans.”
A Chorus of Voices, but Are They Being Heard?
In recent weeks the EPA has been criticized for scheduling “public” meetings to discuss regulations, but giving little notice about when those meetings will happen or how to participate.
During one public “conference call” in late April, many industry executives gave input on how regulations that promote clean air are economically stifling. At the same time, representatives from environmental groups and a few citizens were able to voice their opinions. Some criticized the EPA for the lack of opportunity individuals have had to comment on proposed reductions in regulations. They further critiqued the brief window for written comments.
In blatant disregard of current public sentiment, Trump has already undone several environmental rules established during Obama's time in office. These include regulations that promote better fuel efficiency for vehicles, and require companies extracting oil and gas to provide data on total methane emissions.
So will the Trump administration and Pruitt-headed EPA officials read the collected public comments, or is this simply another episode of going through the motions? Clearly many Americans are skeptical whether the message will be heeded, as the administration continues to demonstrate their complete lack of regard for the 99 percent.
Asbestos Is Perfectly Safe?
This year the EPA is also set to review its regulations regarding asbestos, a known carcinogen which has been proven to cause mesothelioma, among other diseases. Notably, in his 1997 book, Trump claimed asbestos was safe.
Further, during the Senate hearings for his confirmation, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt suggested that asbestos should be considered for further study. Currently the U.S. does not have an outright ban on asbestos, and these sentiments put such a ban in clear jeopardy. Trump's proposed cuts to the EPA budget would also cut the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which is used to analyze the risk posed by exposure to a range of chemicals.
It is obvious that whether or not the drastic cuts to the EPA are passed in the next year's budget, workers' lives will be put at risk due to the policies of the Trump administration.
Our Voices Do NOT Go Unnoticed
Brief as it was, the EPA’s open call for public responses to the proposed budget cuts has made international news and American voices have been heard.
The feedback was as clear as could be: No one wants the EPA – which plays such a vital role in protecting the American public from health risks such as asbestos –to take steps backward. For, what will happen, the American public wonders, when the over 85,000 unmonitored chemicals used pervasively in American industry doubles to over 170,000?
Just as with the Paris Climate Agreement, which Trump pledged to pull out of this past week, the world is watching and listening to us, and the world is reeling as most Americans do. The over 190 countries that have signed off on the Paris Accords are just as shocked as the majority of the American public.
Perhaps this is not much, but maybe we can find some solace in the fact that the world hears our cries even if our own president and his industry-led administration do not.