Sohn: Forget Stormy, watch Trump's environmental policy

Sohn: Forget Stormy, watch Trump's environmental policy

March 27th, 2018 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

FILE - In this June 3, 2017, file photo, the coal-fired Plant Scherer in Juliette, Ga. The Trump administration is doing away with a decades-old air emissions policy opposed by fossil fuel companies. (AP Photo/Branden Camp, File)

Photo by Branden Camp

It's hard not to take our eyes away from all of the Trump shiny objects — from the Russia probe, to the erosion of staff, to Stormy Daniels.

But we must because while we watch the Trump train wreck, other aspects of our country and world and lives are at risk.

President Trump seems poised to relax rules affecting tailpipe emissions in millions of U.S. cars, yet another move to eliminate pollution standards that have made our country — and Chattanooga, in particular — breathable again.

The Trump administration has decided to loosen Obama-era limits on exhaust from cars made from 2022 to 2025, according to Climate Wire, a news organization that focuses on energy and the environment. A draft declaration is under review at the Office of Management and Budget and must be made official by the end of the week. Obama's ambitious target of 36 mpg by 2025 is expected to be trashed.

It's in keeping with previous Trump moves against the environment. Over the past 13 months, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has taken at least 15 major actions on air pollution — all to delay, weaken or repeal protections, and all opposed by the American Lung Association and other health groups.

The list of neutered protections, compiled in an analysis by the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., includes the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration's initiative to address climate change and dramatically reduce smog, particulate matter, mercury and other dangerous air pollutants from fossil fuels. And last week, he announced a policy that could force regulators to ignore long-running health studies linking air pollution to lung damage.

But there is some good news. Congress isn't buying all of Scott Pruitt's ideology — at least the ones that required Congressional action.

To pass the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, the GOP dropped a number of additional anti-environment riders. Primarily, congressional negotiators rejected Trump's deep cuts to EPA and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

EPA will still be funded at the current $8.1 billion, representing a rejection of the 31 percent funding cut that Trump wanted. And funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which the White House proposed to cut by 70 percent, will actually see an increase of 12.5 percent to $2.32 billion.

Many of the 80-plus anti-environmental-policy riders, like those that would have blocked implementation of the Interior Department's methane venting and flaring rule and endangered species protections, were eliminated. But the final bill that Trump signed still carries a provision barring the EPA from enforcing protections against particulate matter, lead, carbon monoxide and mercury from certain incinerators.

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