While we are in the midst of one of the most consequential elections of our time, at eco18 we wanted to gauge the state of a major, if not the biggest priority of our time: the climate crisis. From devastating wildfires, changes in weather patterns, and the rising of sea levels, to mention just a few, the next U.S. President needs to pave the way for the future of our planet, not roll back initiatives that are there to protect it.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the entity responsible for the protection of our health and environment. Their main objectives include ensuring that we have clean air, land, and water. Guarantee that national efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information, and administer and enforce federal laws protecting human health and the environment.
To keep track of the state of our environment, we decided to overview the EPA’s recent decisions. Here’s what you need to know about the EPA’s most recent actions. While we are focused on COVID-19, they were relaxing the regulations that were there to protect us.
- Clean Water Act: A new federal regulation, in effect on June 22nd, 2020, removed protections of the waters it was originally intended for. The new change lifted the protections so activities such as dredging or filling in waters for development, even unpermitted dumping of industrial waste into streams or wetlands is now possible. Read more here: https://news.osu.edu/a-watershed-moment-for-us-water-quality/
- Toxic Waste From Coal Plants: The EPA announced in August of this year the reconsideration of the Steam Electric Power Generating category. With this new regulation, the agency actually relaxed the strict guidelines implemented by the previous administration in regards to the wastewater treatment technologies used by power plants, among other measurements that used to protect our rivers and streams from metals and other pollutions. This is particularly important because those regulations were meant to control the air emissions containing brain-damaging heavy metals like mercury. Find out more here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/31/climate/trump-coal-plants.html
- Emissions from Vehicles and Engines: The EPA amended the automobile fuel efficiency standards allowing more emissions of climate-damaging carbon dioxide and “established new less stringent standards, covering model years 2021 through 2026.”
- Power Plant Effluent Limitation Guidelines: Additionally, the EPA announced on August 31st 2020, their “final revisions to specific effluent guidelines and standards for “steam electric” power plants. The final rule revises a 2015 Obama-era regulation by leveraging newer, more affordable pollution control technologies and taking a flexible, phased-in implementation approach. As a result, the new rule will save the U.S. power sector approximately $140 million annually while reducing pollution by nearly a million pounds per year over the 2015 rule.” While this decision is packaged to look like it’s saving money and jobs as it reduces pollution, it is actually expected to increase levels of lead, arsenic and other contaminants harmful to the environment and public health.
But there are many other decisions that the EPA has recently taken that directly impacts the protection of human health. Just on September 22nd, 2020 the EPA released a draft of their assessments for chlorpyrifos’s health and environmental impacts, which would continue to “allow the neurotoxic chemical chlorpyrifos to be used to grow food, despite years of scientific research showing the pesticide damages babies’ brain development,” said Carey Gillam in a recent article published on EcoWatch.
Whatever political inclination we all have, the new President will have a key role in the shaping of our future. Take your time to learn more about the candidate’s plans and standing on unprecedented matters such as the environment. We all depend on it.