Looking at the inability of the federal government to get its act together, I thought perhaps there was a silver lining. Perhaps the closure of the EPA would have the inadvertent benefit of putting on hold, if just for a little while, the systematic and thorough dismantling of the framework of environmental protections built since the 1970s. A total of 78 environmental rules have been put on the chopping block or have been withdrawn. The scope of the rescissions is breathtaking as standards and protections of land, air, water, public lands and animals have all been under assault. In an era where government has demonstrated an inability to perform many of its basic functions, this Administration has proven itself to be more than capable of executing its anti- environment and anti-public health agenda.
So, while hating the now record-setting government shutdown, I did take some comfort from the fact that it might slow down the relentless elimination of environmental protection. That comfort was misplaced. I learned over the weekend that, in spite of the shutdown, the Administration is proceeding with the opening of public lands to oil and gas exploration. Turning over public lands to the oil and gas industry is bad enough in and of itself but paired with the news that the clean-up of Superfund sites has been suspended reveals a contempt for the environment and public health that is without precedent in my lifetime. Think about it for a minute. The Trump Administration is saying that giving its oil and gas allies access to public lands is more important and a higher priority than protecting the health and welfare of those being poisoned by known hazardous waste sites.
At the core of the mission of any government is to protect the health and well-being of its residents. If the government cannot find a way to fund itself and must close, even if that means the cessation of cleanup activities, okay. But what I can’t get my mind around is the choice to continue oil and gas development at the expense of the cleanup of hazardous waste. If you harbored any uncertainty about who this Administration places first, it is industry and not you, me or anyone we know. The Trump Administration certainly does not seem to much care about the well-being of our children and grandchildren who will be left cleaning up this mess.
Over the next two years, it is up to all of us to pay attention and push back on the assault on the environment. We at APCC will do all we can to keep you informed of what is happening and will provide guidance on how to make your voice of opposition heard.