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Published on January 13th, 2020 | by Carolyn Fortuna

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CleanTechnica Readers Speak Out About Dismantling Environmental Regulations

January 13th, 2020 by  


CleanTechnica readers are a savvy lot. They read closely and often add comments that infuse alternative perspectives about the topics and issues we discuss. In a recent article, “Do You Think The Trump Administration Should Have Dismantled These 10 Environmental Regulations?” a good number of readers took the extra step of responding to a survey we set up. Let’s analyze their impassioned answers and see if we might be able to discern patterns of environmental policy dismay among the CleanTechnica audience.

CleanTechnica readers

We asked CleanTechnica readers, “Which environmental regulation tampering could have the most serious consequences?”

More than 90 environmental rules & regulations have been modified, dismantled, or eliminated since Trump took office.

Here are the 10 environmental regulations with which the Trump administration is tampering that we found to be particularly egregious.

  • Submitted notice of intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. The process of withdrawing cannot be completed until November 2020.
  • Announced intent to stop payments to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations program to help poorer countries reduce carbon emissions.
  • Replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have set strict limits on carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, with a new version that would let states set their own rules.
  • Revoked an Obama executive order that set a goal of cutting the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over 10 years.
  • Revoked California’s power to set its own more stringent emissions standards for cars and light trucks.
  • Directed agencies to stop using an Obama-era calculation of the “social cost of carbon” that rulemakers used to estimate the long-term economic benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Changed the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, making it more difficult to protect wildlife from long-term threats posed by climate change.
  • Rescinded water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands.
  • Proposed “streamlining” the approval process for drilling for oil and gas in national forests.
  • Repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have nearly doubled the number of light bulbs subject to energy-efficiency standards starting in January 2020. The EPA also blocked the next phase of efficiency standards for general-purpose bulbs already subject to regulation.

Paris Agreement Tops the List

An ambitious effort to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, the Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

26.9% of CleanTechnica readers who responded to the survey cited withdrawing from the Paris agreement as the #1 environmental policy error of the Trump administration.

  • “Carbon is a GLOBAL problem. We need China and India on board with Western world.”
  • “It sends the wrong message to the rest of the world and potentially puts our planet, and its inhabitants, in harm’s way.”
  • “It sends a terrible message to the world and paints the USA as turning its back on humanity.”
  • “Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is the worst of those regulatory changes. All the changes are likely not supported by a majority of Americans.”
  • “While all the actions taken by Trump are bad, this decision leaves the US as a pariah in the eyes of the world. Pollution and climate change are global problems and can only be confronted by serious effort by all countries in this world.”

Just Can’t Choose: All of Them are Bad Policy

The Environmental Integrity Project says that the Trump Administration’s pattern of rolling back a wide variety of regulations that protect our water, air, land, and public health results from a mission to reward high-pollution industries that donate heavily to political campaigns. They point out that the numbers show that environmental regulations on the whole are good for the economy and have benefits that far exceed costs by preventing illness and death from dangerous pollution.

23.1% of CleanTechnica respondents agreed — they just couldn’t choose one environmental deregulation over another. Here are some of their comments.

  • “We must impeach Trump and annul his actions.”
  • “The one that would impact Trump the most is number 10 [lightbulbs], but would he get the message.”
  • “These choices will lead to the United States losing its lead in the area of environmental protection of the country and the world.”
  • “Every regulation matters.”

Fuel Emissions Hit Home with Readers

The Trump administration has long wanted to revoke California’s long-standing right to set stricter air pollution standards for cars and light trucks. It’s another step in a broad campaign to undermine Obama-era policies aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, which The Washington Post states has set in motion a massive legal battle between California and the federal government, has thrust automakers into a prolonged period of uncertainty, and has created turmoil in the nation’s auto market.

15.4% of CleanTechnica participants felt that California’s power to set its own more stringent emissions standards for cars and light trucks was central to a forward-moving US carbon policy. While none of the CleanTechnica readers who responded to the survey added individual comments to this selection, they seemed to agree with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. He has sued the Trump administration on a range of issues and is heading back to court, arguing California’s clean car standards are “achievable, science-based, and a boon for hard-working American families and public health.”

Endangered Species Act in Danger

Passed with bipartisan support in 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the most effective US law to protect species from extinction. The World Wildlife Foundation explains that grizzly bears, humpback whales, and bald eagles are just some of the 46 species now listed as recovered under the ESA. The rebound of any species, they say, is a gradual process that “requires a long-term commitment and is dependent on many factors,” including direct threats, habitat, food availability, reproduction rate, and climate. Opponents of the ESA have sought to weaken it, largely because of the restrictions it places on land use.

7.7% of CleanTechnica survey respondents felt that protecting vulnerable wildlife was more important than other Trump administration environmental deregulations. One participant noted, “Humans are supposedly able to protect & preserve themselves. Wildlife in the face of shrinking habitat can’t.”

Not all CleanTechnica Readers Agree that Dismantling Environmental Regulations is a Bad Thing

Just a few days ago, Trump proposed a sweeping overhaul of environmental regulations in what he calls an effort to streamline the process for infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, and oil pipelines. Fox News foregrounded his announcement, which came just days after the 50th anniversary of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Of particular emphasis in the Trump plan is expedited permitting processed and stricter time limits for completing environmental impact statements, which would allow construction projects to move ahead more quickly.

“These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground, and deny jobs to our nation’s incredible workers,” Trump said, pointing out that NEPA has not been amended in over 40 years. “Now, we’re going to have strong regulation, but it’s going to go very quickly.”

Some survey respondents agreed. One CleanTechnica reader announced, “I’m happy he dismantled these. The consumer is powering the advancements we’ve gained so far and will continue to do so.”

Other Environmental Deregulations of Concern

The Trump administration has major deregulatory ambitions, and some CleanTechnica survey respondents differed on which alterations to environmental policy could have the most lasting effects. One person called revoking Obama’s order to reduce federal government emissions 40% over 10 years “insane.” Another felt that “1, 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9 have the most serious environmental consequences, even if you don’t consider global warming. Coal fired power plant exhaust is the single largest source of mercury in our environment. Mercury is (depending on which form it is in — sulfate, oxide etc.) anywhere from 100 to 1000 times the toxicity of lead!”

This was a small survey sample (N) and, as a result, not statistically significant, but it does demonstrate the importance that a plurality of CleanTechnica readers place on protecting the environment. Our survey is closed now, but if you’d like to continue this conversation, add a comment into the Disqus comments section below.

For example, e360 at Yale claims that “mathematical manipulation is becoming an important tool in regulatory rollback at the EPA.” Do you think the US public is being played by rhetoric that exaggerates the costs of new regulations and understates their benefits?


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About the Author

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. She's won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. As part of her portfolio divestment, she purchased 5 shares of Tesla stock. Please follow her on Twitter and Facebook.



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