Candidate Trump promised to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency in terms of its rules and its staff. He is well on his way to pulling that off.
In the first 18 months of the administration, 1600 workers have left the EPA while fewer than 400 have been hired. At least 260 scientists, 185 “environmental protection specialists” and 106 engineers, are gone. Some of the offices most affected by this decrease in personnel are the Office and Enforcement and Compliance (down 15.7%) and the Office of Research and Development (down 10%). [WP, 9/9/18]
A government proposal this year could stop the use of human health studies in rule making at EPA. Study of disease trends in specific groups of people, e.g. farm workers, is a branch of medicine known as epidemiology. [NYT, 8/26/18]
The Trump administration proposed a major environmental rollback, announcing that, starting in 2020, it will no longer require cars and trucks to become more fuel efficient every year.
Under the new proposal, automakers would only have to produce cars that achieve a real-world average of about 29 miles per gallon from 2021 to 2025. This is a major change. The Obama administration had once required that new cars average approximately 43 miles a gallon by 2025.
The administration moved to end California’s power to enforce its own rules, setting off a legal fight that could create a schism among red and blue states over the pollution regulations for new cars and pickups. [Politico, 8/2/18]
Nationally, the EPA says that 350 to 1,500 more people will die each year under the Trump administration’s proposed rollback on regulation of harmful emissions from the nation’s coal power plants. The northern two-thirds of West Virginia and part of Pennsylvania will be the hardest hit, according to the EPA.
The EPA has also released dozens of oil refineries from their legal obligations to blend increasing volumes of renewable fuels with gasoline and diesel fuel. [Real Clear Energy, 8/23/18]
The EPA also plans to make public a proposal to weaken Obama-era requirements that companies monitor and repair methane leaks. In a related effort the Interior Department is proposing a rule that repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and “flaring” or burning, of methane from drilling operations. [NYT, 9/1/18]
US Department of Agriculture announced that it is opening up to mining some 234,000 acres of land in the Superior National Forest. The area happens to be next to the Boundary Waters Canoe area. Previously, Agriculture Secretary Purdue had committed to a two-year environmental review prior to taking any action. The USDA says it completed a 15-month review. The U.S. Forest Service had requested that mining be restricted in the area. Opening up more land to resource extraction has been a priority of the Trump administration. [Bloomberg]
The Trump Administration issued new insurance rules to encourage more Americans to buy inexpensive skimpy health plans designed for short term use. The plans do not have to cover pre-existing conditions and certain kinds of health care that the ACA requires. [WP, 8/2]
The administration is canceling all funding for a UN aid program for Palestinian refugees. The administration is planning to cut the number of Palestinians classified as refugees from 5 million to less than 500,000. Experts have told the Washington Post that this will worsen an already disastrous humanitarian situation. [FiveThirtyEight-Significant Digits, 8/31/18]
The consumer protection official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is resigning his position in protest over what he claims is the CFPB’s siding with predatory lenders over consumers. 44,000,000 Americans are saddled with more than $1.5 trillion in student debt. [WP & Popular Information, 8/28/18]