Trump administration uses pandemic as cover to reduce environmental protections

The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to relax enforcement of countless environmental restrictions in the past month is the latest of a long list of ill-fated deregulations under the Donald Trump administration and is a move that is certain to make the planet’s climate crisis even worse.

In last month’s announcement, the agency said it will not be issuing any fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste reporting requirements, while also allowing large companies and corporations to self-regulate to their own standards.

The rollback, which was called for by many businesses struggling to stay afloat during the current pandemic, allows factories and other large plants to be held to a much lower standard in reporting dangerous emissions of hazardous waste.

Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the administrator of the EPA under the Barack Obama administration, called the rollbacks an open license to pollute.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works detailed these concerns in a letter addressed to the EPA’s administrator, Andrew Wheeler, on March 24.

These revisions directly counteract all the good that has been done to reduce air pollution during the pandemic, with experts crediting a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for an improvement in air quality.

Though these positives can be seen as a silver-lining of the pandemic, they are sure to be short-lived.

The pandemic – resulting in literal tons of medical and hazardous waste, paired with these new lax restrictions on emissions – can and will lead to heavy consequences.

To put some of these rollbacks into perspective: Obama-era standards would have required vehicle manufacturers to average 54 miles per gallon (for manufactured cars) through 2026, while under the Trump administration’s new Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule that figure dropped to 40.

The SAFE Vehicles rule is speculated to reduce the average cost of new automobiles by $1,000 with regulatory costs amounting to $100 billion (projected through 2029). While this may make sense in theory to help businesses, it does no good if people are not even driving or buying cars in the first place.

And while these rollbacks were meant to help struggling businesses across the nation, surely there are better ways to do so while also protecting human health and the environment, as opposed to slashing important regulations that were specifically put in place to combat climate change.

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, that is the worst possible gift we can give Mother Earth.

Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Campus Times Editorial Board.

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