In this time of the Trump administration, you can expect to return to the days when environmental protections barely existed. Lakes were so polluted with chemicals—some of them carcinogens—that fishing and swimming endangered people’s health. Consider the infamous case of the Cuyahoga River that runs through Cleveland, Ohio. Throughout the 1950s and the 1960s, it was polluted with discharges from meat packers, oil refineries, steel plants, paint companies, and tar distilleries. The river was not only foul smelling but also highly flammable. One spectacular blaze occurred in 1969 and burned for several miles through an industrial section of Cleveland.
In 1969, an oil rig off the Santa Barbara coast exploded and sent 3 million gallons of oil into the ocean and onto the seashore. Dead birds, sea otters, seals, and dolphins coated with oil washed ashore. It was the nation’s worst oil spill the nation had ever experienced—until decades later the Exxon Valdez crashed off the coast of Alaska and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil, killing hundreds of thousands of seabirds, otters, seals and whales along with plants along the shoreline.
Finally, grassroots groups and environmental organizations petitioned local, state and federal governments to do something about water, air, and ground pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970 to protect the nation from environmental hazards. Congress passed The Clean Air Act in 1970 and in 1977 the Clean Water Act became law.
Yet another environmental catastrophe in 2010 happened in the Gulf of Mexico where the oil rig platform Deepwater Horizon caught fire and exploded, killing at least eleven workers and injuring many others. Nevertheless, the current Trump administration has been reducing safety regulations for offshore oil and gas rigs and making plans to continue drilling off U.S. coastal waters.
In addition, Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s choice to lead the current EPA, has offered little or no commitment to protect clean air regulations. (Wheeler took over after the former EPA head Scott Pruitt resigned amid scandals.) Wheeler is a former lobbyist for coal industries and biodiesel producers. He spent years working against environmental regulations for fossil-fuel industries, so do you think he will diligently oversee those companies? Wheeler, in fact, plans to downplay climate-change efforts such as the clean car standards—requirements that auto makers improve fuel efficiency. Fuel efficient cars not only lower costs of gas, but also help reduce air pollution.
The Trump administration has been busily reducing regulations for environmental protection, allowing the nation and Earth itself to become increasingly polluted. To protect his industry supporters rather than the environment, Trump in 2017 repealed legislation that prevented coal mining companies in Appalachia from dumping their waste materials into waterways. The waste contains heavy metals that can have a damaging effect on the health of people in many Appalachian towns.
Energy companies in numerous states produce electricity by burning coal and with Trump rolling back regulations, the electric companies are allowed to dump coal ash in unlined pits near the power plants. The ash contains lead and arsenic that can leach into aquifers and rivers that are drinking water sources. So do you think there will be more Flints in the USA? Flint, Michigan, which got its drinking water from the contaminated Flint River, struggled with toxic chemicals, including deadly lead, in their drinking water from April 2014 to April of 2018. No amount of lead in drinking water is safe, but don’t count on the Trump administration to press the EPA to more closely monitor for lead in drinking water.
There is little doubt that Trump is undoing environmental regulations wherever and whenever he can. Why? One reason is the fact that he blames Obama for the regulations and he hates anything and everything that the 44th president has done. The second reason you already know. Pleasing industrial giants is more important to Trump than caring for our water, air, and land.