Environmental Science 101
Environmental Policy and Politics

Environmental Policy and Politics

The commitment of the government to laws, regulations, and other mechanisms concerning environmental issues.
Focuses on problems arising from (generally negative) human environmental impact.
Issues commonly addressed by environmental policy:
      Reduction/elimination of air and water pollution
      Waste management
      Ecosystem management
      Biodiversity protection
      Protection of wildlife and endangered species
      Protection of natural resources
      Preservation of natural resources for future generations

Justification for Environmental Policy

Mitigation or control of market/usage forces beyond the control of individuals.
Mining operations produces mercury contaminated waste water which is dumped into a local stream.

“Tragedy of the Commons”
Used to describe a situation in which any shared and unregulated resource is exploited by individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest and behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.
Some Environmental Examples:
      Uncontrolled human population growth leading to overpopulation.
      Forests: Frontier logging of old growth forest; slash and burn agriculture.
      Animals: Bison hunting in the 1800’s
      Water Resources: water shortages due to over-extraction of groundwater and wasting water due to overirrigation. (Ogallala Aquifer)

A Candidate Trump Environmental Statement

“…while speaking to an audience of West Virginia coal miners, Trump complained that regulations designed to protect the ozone layer had compromised the quality of his hair spray.”
“Those regulations, he continued, were misguided, because hair spray is used mainly indoors, and so can have no effect on the atmosphere outside.”
Source: “Trumps’ Anti-Science Campaign”, Lawrence M. Krauss , The New Yorker, Aug. 21, 2016

Trump Anti-Environmental Policies

Key Agenda points:
      Eliminate or restrict Obama-era environmental policies.
      Limit federal funding for science and the environment.
      Reduce costs and regulations on businesses and corporations.

February 1, 2017: Senate confirms ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

February 17, 2017: Senate confirms Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, as head of the EPA. Pruitt frequently sued the EPA over its regulations, notably leading a 27-state lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt had close ties with oil and gas companies.
Resigned in July 2018 after ethics violations. Deputy EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, is now head of EPA.

Environmental Policy Issue: Reduction/elimination of air pollution

August 21, 2018: In a speech in West Virginia Tuesday, Trump detailed the EPA’s plan to reverse Obama Administration rules designed to curtail coal emissions of carbon dioxide and methane that contribute to climate change.

Environmental Policy Issue: Reduction/elimination of water pollution

February 16, 2017: Joint Trump/Congress resolution revokes U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Stream Protection Rule.” Removes stronger restrictions on dumping mining waste into surrounding waterways.

Environmental Policy Issue: Waste management

March 2, 2017: U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rescinds prohibition of lead ammunition on federal lands and waters.

Environmental Policy Issue: Ecosystem Management

January 15, 2018: Nine of 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board resigned in protest of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's refusal to meet with them.
Chartered by Congress, the unpaid civilian group advises the National Park System, the National Park Service, and the Secretary of the Interior on a wide range of matters, and it also helps to select national historic landmarks.
In a joint letter, departing board members expressed frustration at Secretary Zinke's refusal to meet with them. “…our requests to engage have been ignored, and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of its agenda…".
“…profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside."
Around the same time, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt dismissed several members of the agency's Board of Scientific Counselors.

Environmental Policy Issue: Protection of wildlife and endangered species

July 19, 2018: Trump administration unveiled a proposal making several key changes to the Endangered Species Act the 1973 law credited with saving the bald eagle and other species from extinction.
The plan calls for eliminating a rule that forbids referring to the economic impacts of listing an endangered or threatened species.
Regulators would have greater freedom to avoid designating critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed eliminating the blanket section 4(d) rule. This policy gave threatened species all the protections given to endangered species, which face a more immediate risk of extinction.

Environmental Policy Issue: Protection of natural resources

April 13, 2017: At Pennsylvania’s Harvey coal mine, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announces a “back-to-basics” agenda for the EPA, which he describes as “protecting the environment by engaging with state, local, and tribal partners to create sensible regulations that enhance economic growth.”

Environmental Policy Issue: Preservation of natural resources for future generations

March 28, 2017: Trump signs an executive order that rescinds a 2016 moratorium on coal leases on federal lands.

December 4, 2017: Trump announced his intention to sharply reduce the size of two Utah national monuments. (established by Clinton and Obama)
Bears Ears National Monument will be reduced by 1.35 million acres.
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument will be reduced by 1.88 million acres to almost half its size.

Environmental Policy Issue: Global Warming

August 2016: Candidate Trump denounces Obama’s climate policy
“ ‘…the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.’ ”- Trump quote
Source: “Trumps’ Anti-Science Campaign”, Lawrence M. Krauss , The New Yorker, Aug. 21, 2016

March 9, 2017: EPA head Scott Pruitt says that carbon dioxide’s role in the Earth’s changing climate remains unclear.

June 1, 2017: Trump announces that the U.S. will pull out of the Paris climate agreement, steering away from a group of 194 other countries that have promised to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

August 15, 2017: Trump signed an executive order revoking federal flood-risk standards that incorporated rising sea levels predicted by climate science.

Environmental Policy Issue: Oil-Global Warming; Pesticides; Endangered Species

March 24, 2017: Trump’s State Department grants a permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

March 29, 2017: EPA head Scott Pruitt rejects petition banning all use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. Research suggests that chlorpyrifos may be associated with brain damage in children and farm workers.

June 13, 2017: Trump cancelled a rule that would have helped prevent endangered whales and sea turtles from becoming entangled in fishing nets off the U.S. West Coast.

Unless otherwise noted, dated items above are summarized from the National Geographic article, A Running List of How President Trump Is Changing Environmental Policy.