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The Trump Administration Has Reversed Decades of Environmentalism, New Report Reveals

Low-income communities will suffer the most.

SCIENCE AF STAFF
3 OCT 2017
 

In just seven months, the Trump administration has reversed decades of environmental justice work, a new report reveals. The report, which was carried out by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, details the extent to which the current administration's policies, proposed budget cuts, stated priorities, and political appointments will increase toxic burdens on low-income communities.

 

Unsurprisingly, the report found that the Trump administration's environmental decisions will have detrimental effects on public health and safety. From dismantled environmental protections to limited environmental data collection and access, the study concludes that "the Trump administration poses the most serious threat the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has faced in the agency's 47-year existence."

In the short time the Trump administration has been in office, they have made zero attempts to hide their disdain for environmental justice and the effects of climate change. Instead, the administrations has repeatedly placed the success of business and industries over public health and environmental protections.

President Trump himself has signed multiple executive orders deregulating toxic industries and eliminating environmental regulations. But the proposed 2018 budget is perhaps the best indicator of where environmentalism sits on the administration's list of priorities.

If the proposed budget is passed, it will drastically cut climate research, toxic waste cleanups, local air and water quality initiatives, and household lead reduction programs. Not to mention it will also remove the EPA's Office of Environmental Justice entirely.

 

"This is one of the most challenging times for the agency," Mustafa Santiago Ali, former head of the environmental justice program at the EPA, told ThinkProgress.  

"There seems to be a direct assault on communities of color, low income communities, and indigenous communities based on the policies that [the Trump administration] have proposed and tried to move forward on."

The report explores three cases in particular to illustrate the administration's preference for industry progress over the rights of Native Americans, workers and immigrants. The study explores how Trump's decision to continue work on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) ignores tribal sovereignty and promotes environmental racism. It also condemns the EPA's decision to reverse the ban on chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide, which primarily harms agricultural workers and rural communities that live near the pesticide. Lastly, the study points to Scott Pruitt's decision to halt the Risk Management Program (RMP), which develops strategic plans of action to protect workers and community members in industries tracking in hazardous materials. These decisions by the Trump administration will disproportionately place communities living near hazardous industrial facilities or farmland at greater risk.

Still, the report doesn't leave the reader feeling helpless. Instead, it offers suggestions on how Environmental Justice organizations and advocates can rethink their strategies and lay the groundwork for political openings in the future. It specifically calls for increased voter participation, education and youth empowerment to build "a new generation of voters, politicians, and cultural influencers, who are more likely to approach environmental problems from a framework of justice and equity."

While the federal government and the EPA stall on environmental rights, the report also calls on local governments and states to step up and fill the void. The report applauds the environmental efforts already made by California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont, calling them "inspiring examples" that "point to the importance of political action at local and regional levels."

The report ends on a bipartisan call to action, with the authors acknowledging the flaws of the Obama-era EPA, which "too often ignored or obstructed the pursuit of environmental justice". They argue instead for "deeper inroads between the government and communities" so that we may all experience a healthy, collective future.

"All of these folks have got to come together and work in authentic, collaborative partnerships," Ali said.

"That is the way we will move our most vulnerable communities to surviving to thriving.