What do you call someone who places your life in imminent danger? If it’s intentional, it’s called attempted murder. If it’s the product of gross negligence or willful disregard of the consequences, it’s called manslaughter. Either way, it’s a crime. Donald Trump, the alleged president of the United States, is responsible for appointing all sorts of lunatics to positions of authority in his government. Many of them are taking actions that directly threaten the health of ordinary Americans. Are they guilty of criminal behavior? Here are two recent examples. You decide.
Rolling Back Clean Water Protection
The United States Environment Protection Agency is now headed by Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the coal industry. Bill McKibben surely had the slimy Mr. Wheeler in mind this week when he tweeted this week that the US government is now nothing more than a subsidiary of fossil fuel companies.
On Tuesday, the EPA issued a plan to roll back portions of the Clean Water Act, which was first signed into law by George H. W. Bush. The rules were later expanded under George W. Bush. Republicans used to care about the environment (and a “kinder, gentler America”) but that version of Republicanism is so last century. Republicans today are all about filling the air, the water, and the land with deadly pollutants regardless of the consequences to people and the environment.
Under President Obama, the clean water rules were strengthened further to cover wetlands and other bodies of water that are not directly connected to major rivers and lakes. If promulgated, the new rules will allow farmers to dump fertilizers and pesticides onto land that abuts those lesser bodies of water. Developers will be free to build residential and commercial properties on protected wetlands, filling them in and paving them over to provide parking for more vehicles, according to a report by the New York Times.
Apparently no one at the EPA understands the concept of aquifers or realizes water can travel great distances underground. Considering all the current muckety mucks at the EPA were appointed by Trump, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by their carefully crafted ignorance. The proposed new rules would remove federal protection for millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of rivers and streams. Many people in rural areas, especially in western states, were overjoyed when Trump promised to do this during the 2016 campaign. As the Times explains, many of them felt officials in the Obama administration were openly dismissive of their concerns.
“The Obama administration led with the premise that all water is connected, all water runs downhill, and the federal government could control all water,” said Don Parrish, director of regulatory relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation. He met with White House officials over the summer to press the case for changes to the existing rules. “If they can control the water that falls out of the sky, they control the land that it falls on,” he said.
Such intrusion into private activity is covered under the concept of “government overreach” that Trump uses so expertly to fire up his so-called “base.” Parrish says many people were rubbed the wrong way by the Obama rules because they were written by bureaucrats who did not understand the daily reality of farmers’ livelihoods. “The last administration called our concerns silly and ludicrous, and this administration took us seriously. They listened to us,” he said.
When the current rules were first proposed, a belief sprang up that they would apply to every puddle and drainage ditch in the country. To counter that perception, the Obama administration created a “Ditch the myth” campaign on social media. “With that campaign, they were laughing at us,” Parrish says.
His concerns echo those of Richard Oswald, a fifth generation farmer in Missouri, who told The Guardian recently, “One of the problems farmers have is when we start talking about environment, a lot of times Sierra Club comes to mind and Sierra Club is pretty radical in their approach. When you have a group that says cows are the problem, you need to get rid of all the cows, and raising corn is a problem, we need to get rid of all the corn, then you’re not going to have a lot of farmers who want to join in and follow you.”
Disrespecting those on the other side of debate is a poor strategy for gaining converts to your point of view. No one wants to be dissed by the people we pay taxes to. If the Obamans committed the sin of arrogance, that’s on them. But farmers who think they have a license to pollute the water we all rely on to sustain life need a check up from the neck up. And soon.
Pollution Is Good For Us!
How’s this for government sponsored insanity? This week, Tony Cox — a consultant to the coal industry and erstwhile science adviser to the Trump dystopia — said during a meeting at the EPA that he has doubts about the research linking fossil fuel pollution to human health problems, including early death. What? This raving lunatic is a “science adviser” while real scientists are dismissed as money grubbing leaches? In what universe could that be true? Only in Trumperica.
Cox challenged EPA staffers to state precisely what percentage of health problems such as asthma and cardiopulmonary disease are directly caused by soot from coal-fired generating plants. The implication was if they cannot provide that information, then no restrictions on coal plant emissions are justified by current law. According to The Guardian, his comments confirm the fears of scientists who say the US government is now aiming to discredit scientific research so it can roll back climate change and health regulations that pertain to power plants, cars, and oil and gas drillers.
“It’s really all a facade at this point,” said Christopher Frey, a scientist and professor at North Carolina State University who worked at the EPA from 2012 to 2015. “Almost everything that could have been changed to weaken the process has been changed, including how members have been appointed and the timeline.” The EPA has disbanded two panels of experts on soot and smog since The Donald hijacked the federal government.
The process for updating air standards would normally take about three years, Frey says, but the EPA wants to shorten that to just one year. Where there were previously 42 experts examining the science on air pollution and specifically on particulate pollution and smog, there are now just seven, he adds. A group of former members of the panel focused on soot wrote a 134-page letter to Cox this week documenting their many concerns. They maintain his committee does not have the expertise or time to adequately assess the science. Not that such petty concerns would have any impact on the pedant of Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Trump administration is populated by people whose extreme views would make Ayn Rand blush. Their mantra is that making a profit should override all the norms of a civil society. If a farmer in Montana wants to dump gigatons of fertilizers and pesticides on his fields — things that will leach into the groundwater — well, that is his right as an American, isn’t it? It’s a free country, isn’t it, and that means he can do what ever he wants on his land, right?
This puerile concept of liberty posits that people should be free to harm their neighbors with impunity. It’s every man for himself and the government should butt out. And where would such a distorted notion come from? Ahem, may I respectfully direct your attention to this story? Talk about people who deserve some serious jail time.
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