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Trump's Strategy to Dismantle the EPA: Potentially Disastrous
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Trump’s Strategy to Dismantle the EPA: Potentially Disastrous

Donald Trump and his team have pledged to eliminate important environmental regulations and support the fossil fuel industry, which contributes to global warming.

The proposed plans involve systematically breaking down the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government agency with the most authority in addressing the climate crisis and promoting environmental justice, according to statements from various Trump advisors and allies. This potential outcome is alarming to experts.

“I believe it would have a severe impact,” stated Michael Gerrard, head of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School.

In his initial term at the White House, Trump effectively suggested reducing the EPA’s budget. This resulted in numerous scientists and specialists leaving the agency due to the administration’s disregard for scientific evidence and decrease in environmental regulations.

According to experts and those within the agency, if President Trump is re-elected, the criticism against the agency may intensify.

“According to Jeff Holmstead, who previously managed the EPA’s air office during the Bush administration, they will be more equipped to make a significant impact.”

Holmstead believes that Trump’s initial term was characterized by breaches of ethics and scandals due to his lack of experience. However, for his second term, Trump and his administration have devised more comprehensive strategies, such as a lengthy plan to weaken regulatory agencies. Gerrard warns that this could have far-reaching consequences.

According to him, there would be a decrease in the number of young individuals interested in working there, resulting in a “brain drain”. This would also result in a greater focus on activities related to fossil fuels. Furthermore, the possibility of a second Trump administration is causing anxiety among investors in clean energy.

During an interview with the Guardian, Mandy Gunasekara, the chief of staff for Trump’s EPA, expressed disapproval of the Biden administration’s actions. She believes that they have utilized the EPA to impede certain industries and technologies they disapprove of. She specifically referenced their aversion to fossil fuels as evidence of this.

The Heritage Foundation and other conservative organizations presented Project 2025, a presidential plan, which proposed methods for reducing the size of the agency and shifting its focus away from the climate crisis.

According to Gunasekara, a potential second term for the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency would prioritize relationships with the fossil fuel industry, despite warnings from scientists about the need to transition away from these sources to prevent catastrophic climate change. Additionally, programs focused on justice and outreach that do not align with the agency’s core function or mission may be reduced or eliminated.

This indicates the closure of the Environmental Justice and Civil Rights office, which was established by Biden in the previous year. Gunasekara referred to this office as a “political branch of the EPA” that does not provide concrete advantages. The offices of Public Engagement and Environmental Education, along with the International and Tribal Affairs, which she suggested could be substituted with the more specific Office of the American Indian, would also be among the initial cuts.

Maria Lopez-Nunez, the deputy director of Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, New Jersey, a grassroots environmental organization, stated that closing these offices would be considered “tyranny”. She also mentioned that those on the frontlines do not typically have the political influence to ensure that agencies do not forget about their needs.

According to her, the EPA’s offices that focus on public engagement and justice are crucial resources for local organizers striving to protect their communities from pollution.

The current administration under President Biden has taken significant steps towards advancing environmental equity, such as requiring that 40% of the benefits from specific investments are directed towards underprivileged communities.

“I had hoped for greater progress, but at least it shed light on the unequal distribution of pollution in frontline communities. Unfortunately, these communities do not receive a fair share of funding,” stated Lopez-Nunez. If Trump is re-elected, this program may be eliminated.

The Biden administration has designated significant sums of money for grants in the next few years through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to aid communities that have been heavily impacted by pollution and climate hazards.

If chosen, Gunasekara suggested that Trump collaborate with Congress to reverse those funding initiatives. She stated, “A large portion of the IRA simply involved allocating large amounts of money from taxpayers and giving them to the EPA with insufficient supervision.”

If President Trump is reelected, his administration plans to roll back EPA regulations. This would include revisiting a 2023 plan to strengthen carbon pollution standards for American coal and gas-powered plants, as well as a proposal from the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to raise fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles, also known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (Cafe) standards.

Trump has taken aim at the latter rule, which involves subsidies for electric cars under the Inflation Reduction Act. He has consistently criticized and promised to overturn Biden’s “insane electric vehicle mandate.”

According to Myron Ebell, who led the EPA transition team during Trump’s first term, while electric vehicles (EVs) have a role in the market, they will not completely replace traditional vehicles for many purposes. Ebell believes that the Trump administration should not only oppose Biden’s plan to strengthen Cafe standards, but also relax the current standard.

The current Supreme Court, which has already lessened the EPA’s authority in addressing water pollution and emissions from power plants, will also aid in combatting excessive regulations, according to Tom Pyle, the leader of Trump’s Department of Energy transition team for his first term.

“We still have work to do,” he stated. “The requirement for electric vehicles must be fully removed and the Cafe standards should be put on hold and reexamined. This administration is making swift changes that many are not yet comfortable with regarding this technology.”

Gunasekara suggested a new idea: shutting down the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and allowing individual program offices, like the air and water programs, to handle their own enforcement. This would address the strained relationship between the regulator and those being regulated, according to Gunasekara.

In reality, professionals suggest that this would result in a decrease in strict enforcement of measures to reduce pollution.

Lopez-Nunez expressed deep concern about the EPA’s relationship with industry, as it could potentially lead to a significant loss of life as a result.

Lopez-Nunez has consistently voiced disapproval towards the EPA under Biden’s administration for their lack of action in addressing the disproportionate effects of pollution and the climate crisis on affected communities.

“We have had the opportunity to engage in conversation with the EPA,” she stated. “However, under Trump’s administration, that is no longer possible.”

Source: theguardian.com