The United States Environmental Protection Agency, commonly referred to as the EPA, looks to be a major adversary of President Donald Trump. The EPA is a government agency which aims “to protect human health and the environment.” The EPA’s initiatives include preventing pollution and conserving energy in addition to conducting research and educating the American public on the environment.
Trump, a proponent of the coal and oil industries and a climate change skeptic, has already put his anti-EPA agenda into motion. First, he appointed Scott Pruitt as the head of the EPA. Pruitt led a crusade against the EPA in his former position as Oklahoma Attorney General. Mr. Pruitt sued the EPA thirteen times during his tenure as Attorney General in order to dismantle some of their landmark programs through litigation. Two major goals that Pruitt tried to block were the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule.
The Clean Power Plan was established by the EPA under President Barack Obama in 2015, attempting to decrease carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32% relative to carbon dioxide levels in 2005. CO2, a gas known to trap heat, is one of the main causes of global warming due to its excess in the atmosphere. When interviewed about the topic on CNBC, Pruitt stated, “…no, I would not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” At the time, the EPA website said, “Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.” When considering Pruitt’s view on carbon emissions, it is also worthy to note that Pruitt has received $300,000 in donations from the oil and gas industry for his election campaigns over the years. Pruitt’s skepticism of CO2’s role in global warming and his ties to environmentally unfriendly groups could lead to the scrapping of many of Obama’s initiatives to curb carbon emissions and prevent future generations from the effects of climate change.
As for the Clean Water Rule, Trump has already issued an executive order to eliminate this 2015 clarification of The Clean Water Act of 1972. The Clean Water Rule aims to protect any bodies of water and their tributaries used for drinking water. In addition, it prevents landowners from filling bodies of water in order to build on top of them unless they obtain a permit first. By regulating the outlined bodies of water, the government has been able to curb water pollution over the last few decades. Additionally, the Clean Water Rule oversees streams, from where millions of Americans get their drinking water. By taking the EPA’s regulatory powers away, a lack of oversight could lead to the pollution of these streams. President Trump, along with the head of the EPA, are clearly asserting their pro-business agenda in this instance. By not enforcing clean water regulations, they are allowing companies to fill in streams and other bodies of water in order to expand their businesses on the land. Unfortunately, this often leads to more polluted water.
On March 16, President Trump issued one of the biggest blows to the EPA. In his proposed budget, Trump included a 31.4% cut for federal funding to the EPA, the greatest percentage decrease of all of his cuts. This would also slash 3,200 jobs at the EPA, a fifth of its workforce. While the budget is not final, it does give a good indication of how Trump wants to structure the government. Most of the EPA programs being eradicated under Trump involve climate change research. Trump clearly does not believe that climate change, including global warming, is a serious problem. In 2012, he infamously tweeted that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Since investigating climate change is one of the EPA’s biggest initiatives, cutting research programs on the topic will only hurt the EPA.
Under President Trump, the future of climate change research seems to be in jeopardy; nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the EPA sustains itself during Trump’s presidency. While the President and Scott Pruitt will aim to marginalize this department to great extents, it is possible that public interest in climate research will increase as less is done to help the environment and stop pollution.
Graphics: Amelia Chen