Reading the news last week and learning that in just one day the president had proudly publicized three anti-environment initiatives, I was reminded of the closing scene of the original Terminator movie (the original great one, not the lousy sequels that followed Terminator 2). In that scene the Terminator, crushed and mangled, relentlessly pursues Sarah Connor to try to complete his search and destroy mission. That is how I see this administration’s single-minded pursuit to dismantle environmental protections that have been in place for decades.

The specific rollbacks are not remarkable by the standards set by this administration and are just the latest in a dizzying array of over 100 such actions taken over the last three and a half years. These, like many that preceded them, are done either without legal authorization or, even worse yet, in direct contradiction to the long-settled law of the land. Specifically, the president:

  • Eliminated protections in the Canyonlands National Monument off of Cape Cod despite the law providing no such powers to remove legal protections to National Monuments.
  • Exempted infrastructure projects from environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. As an additional poke in the eye, the president cynically used the Covid-19 emergency as a pretense to implement a measure that he was on record wanting to undertake long before the pandemic.
  • Prevented agencies from taking into account the co-benefits of an environmental rule when assessing the costs and benefits. In plain English, EPA will no longer be allowed to give weight to or value the economic gains that come as a result of the application of a new rule. Simply put, the new rule prohibits EPA from considering the savings to society in the form of lower health care costs, fewer asthma cases, increased productivity and income associated with the elimination premature deaths, to name a few, associated with a rule that limits the amount of particulates emitted from industrial smokestacks. The change will make the costs of implementing the rule seem higher compared to the benefits of the protections provided by clean air, land and water by preventing the consideration of their value of broad-based benefits to the country. Talk about putting your thumb on the scale to the benefit of industry over the average American.

All of this was done during a week when the country was literally on fire with social unrest and still struggling to overcome the impacts of the pandemic on the economy and millions of citizens whose lives have been disrupted. Rather than focusing on either of these crises, the administration has instead chosen to spend its time imposing additional harm to our environment and making it easier for pollution to continue and for public resources to be exploited for the benefit of few rather than preserved for the benefit of all.

Words spoken and actions taken during times of crisis reveal an individual for who they really are. I have heard and seen enough.