An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant
June 7, 2017
As an environmental studies student perusing recent media headlines, one of the myriad of issues that stands out to me is the contested future of the Environmental Protection Agency. Several newly-elected figures wish to dismantle the EPA, while 60% of Americans believe that the EPA is doing just sufficient work or not enough work (Thompson 2013). This polarization of the subject is perpetuated by the recently elected President Trump. Throughout both the election campaign and Trump’s time as president thus far, threats regarding the EPA’s future have been wildly thrown about. At a GOP debate, Trump was recorded saying:
“Department of Environmental Protection. We are going to get rid are of it in almost every form. We’re going to have little tidbits left but we’re going to take a tremendous amount out.” (Team Fix 2016)
Although many are familiar with Trump’s rampant threats (often unsupported and then denied), after his selection of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA (a man who sued the EPA for having harsh pollution standards), I am concerned that Trump’s statement above might have some bite to its bark. If Trump were to fulfill his desire to dismantle the EPA and slash its budget, I worry what the repercussions could be.
If followed through, this threat would mean budget cuts, job losses and diminished EPA capacity. Research and fieldwork studies, such as the studies dedicated to assessing the impact of global climate change, will be greatly reduced – if not eliminated – threatening the progress of environmental preservation (Leber 2017). Grants for environmental scientists at universities and field research on environmental issues, pollution and pathways forward to reduce environmental degradation and increase community resilience would be decreased if not halted (Cornwall 2017). One of Trump’s main points of interest is to reduce the regulations and fines the EPA has placed on the oil, gas and fracking corporations (Cornwall 2017).
The colossal impacts the EPA’s dismantling will have reach much farther than the realm of nature. A large portion of the EPA deals with environmental justice, particularly for low-income communities of color who carry the country’s burden of pollution. By ripping apart the EPA, a crucial component of our health and well-being, we jeopardize not only the environment, but the lives of members of frontline communities and our future generations.
The Trump administration’s actions, thus far, to run EPA into the ground, highlight a president who is more willing to destroy those who protect the environment and human health, than to protect those who destroy it. There are millions of Americans who share my point of view, yet our voices are being muted by a government and media culture unwilling to hear us. We will not be muted any longer. It is time this administration hears our collective voice and what we are coming together to stand for – the health, well-being, and right to clean water, air, and environmental justice for current and future generations.
Cornwall, Warren. “Trump plan for 40% cut could cause EPA science office ‘to implode,’ official warns.” Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 3 Mar. 2017, www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/ trump-plan-40-cut-could-cause-epa-science-office-implode-official-warns.
Leber, Rebecca. “6 Ways President Trump Wants to Hamstring the EPA.” Mother Jones, 6 Mar. 2017, www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/03/trump-epa-budget-cuts.
Team Fix. “The Fox News GOP debate transcript, annotated.” The Washington Post, 3 Mar. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/03/03/the-fox-news-gop-debate-transcript-annotated/?utm_term=.364cd796c472.
Thompson, Jake. “New Poll Shows Americans Strongly Opposed EPA Shutdown, Look Unfavorably on Those Who Put Our Health and Environment at Risk.” National Resources Defense Council, 17 Oct. 2013, www.nrdc.org/media/2013/131017.