SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: May 11, 2020
SNIP: The Trump administration is diligently weakening US environment protections even amid a global pandemic, continuing its rollback as the November election approaches.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, US federal agencies have eased fuel-efficiency standards for new cars; frozen rules for soot air pollution; proposed to drop review requirements for liquefied natural gas terminals; continued to lease public property to oil and gas companies; sought to speed up permitting for offshore fish farms; and advanced a proposal on mercury pollution from power plants that could make it easier for the government to conclude regulations are too costly to justify their benefits.
The government has also relaxed reporting rules for polluters during the pandemic.
The Trump administration is playing both offense and defense, rescinding and rewriting some rules and crafting others that would be time-consuming for a Democratic president to reverse.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has written what critics say will be a weak proposal for climate pollution from airplanes, a placeholder that will hinder stricter regulation.
Trump officials have been attempting to create a coronavirus relief program for oil and gas corporations, a new move in his campaign to back the industry and stymie global climate action. The president has sown distrust of climate science and vowed to exit the Paris climate agreement, which the US can do after the election.
Historians say Trump’s presidency has forced a pendulum swing back from the environmental awakening of the 1960s and 70s, when there was bipartisan support for conservation.
“What Trump’s done is create a blitzkrieg against the environment … trying to dismantle not just Obama’s environmental achievements but turn back the clock to a pre-Richard Nixon day,” said Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University who is writing a book on the subject.
“It’s just death by a thousand cuts. It’s not one issue, it’s just across the board.”
If a Democrat takes the White House, it will take years to reverse some changes. Moving faster would require Democrats holding both chambers of Congress. Even then, industry would fight hard.