Why Now Is the Worst Time to Repeal Environmental Standards
Environmental issues are a pressing matter throughout the world. In recent years, especially, climate change has risen to the center of attention in the United States. But with the coronavirus spreading across the US, the Trump administration has seen this as an opportunity.
The Trump administration has publicly opposed environmental regulations since Mr. Trump took office. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a drastic measure tho repeal Obama-era environmental standards. In the time of COVID-19, a virus that affects breathing and lungs, pollution should have more regulations than not.
The decision came at the end of March to reduce Obama's fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. Obama mandated that the transportation industry increase fuel efficiency by 5 percent every year. However, Trump's decision lowers that number to 1.5 percent annually. This is a drastic step backward for the environment and for consumers.
However, this is not the only step the Trump administration is taking during this time. The EPA has announced that they will not penalize violations of compliance monitoring, training, reporting, certifications and more if the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the violation. This decision allows for less regulation, more pollution and a lack of waste management.
How This affects citizens
Both Trump's reversal and the EPA's lack of regulations affect citizens, especially during the pandemic.
Obama's fuel regulation was groundbreaking — one of the biggest steps to fight climate change in the world. Under his rule, vehicles needed to have an efficiency of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. This decision would reduce carbon emissions in those vehicles' lifespans by about 6 billion tons. It would also reduce oil consumption by double that.
The Trump rule will increase US oil demand by over 2 billion barrels from 2021 to 2035. Additionally, this decision will increase consumers' spending on fuel by $231 billion during that same timeframe.
More immediately, the EPA's rollback on regulations will allow power plants, factories and manufacturers to violate pollution laws within their discretion. COVID-19 is allowing them an excuse to exceed rules — one where the EPA won't fine them.
Because of both of these decisions, air and water pollution will increase. Since the coronavirus is a respiratory illness, it affects breathing and the lungs. Those who live in areas with heavy pollution may face more risks, complications or even death if they contract the virus. Things like asthma, breathing difficulty or cardiovascular problems will worsen with the continued pollution. With COVID-19 reaching its apex, this is the worst time to repeal environmental and pollution regulations.
The American Chemistry Council has stated that the EPA's decision is critical during this time because they need to mass produce things like disinfectants, medical items and plastics. But government officials and environmental groups were quick to be critical and point out the heightening effects pollution can have on the virus.
Water pollution, air pollution and the transportation of environmental waste are all factors that can affect public health and safety. The new rules and regulations, or lack thereof, from the Trump administration will directly affect the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19.
The Future of Environmental Standards
The two sets of changes have come at the same time. Part of the reason for this is because Trump's first term is ending. Depending on the election, this may be his last. His administration is attempting to change regulations before then.
The present and future of environmental standards are inseparable. If a new president reverses Trump's decisions, the future could reinstate its greener approach. However, the Trump administration could also reverse more regulations during a second term.
The present, however, is currently what's most pressing. Pollution is rampant in certain cities in the US. Some, like St. John, Louisiana, have a high cancer risk from air pollution. And cancer is one of the factors that put individuals at risk for the coronavirus. Combined with asthma and lung issues it causes, pollution is a deadly contributor to COVID-19.
The necessary steps to protect citizens in the present will influence the trajectory of the future.