Deregulation no breath of fresh air
As war continues to be waged over tax reform and the Affordable Care Act, a more subversive battle to eliminate consumer and environmental protections continues to rage. With the stroke of a pen, the president has swatted away bothersome regulations at the behest of corporate interest groups as though they were so many annoying flies.
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says none of these regulations are “very sexy... very glamorous, none rise to the level of getting national attention.”
He’s right. They’re nowhere near as sexy and glamorous as tax breaks for the wealthy and taking away healthcare from those less economically fortunate. He’s dead wrong, however, about their worthiness of national attention.
Elimination of regulations by way of an executive order can be accomplished more easily than shepherding legislation through an uncooperative congress. In his rush to “do more in its first year than any other administration in history,” the president is putting Americans at risk. Case in point are the initiatives being taken by the Environmental Protection Agency’s director Scott Pruitt.
High on Pruitt’s hit list is the Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule, which was enacted to limit pollution in nearly 60 percent of America’s waterways. Former House Speaker John Boehner called WOTUS “regulatory and economic hell” for farmers, landowners, small businesses, and manufacturers. It’s unlikely the people of Flint, Michigan feel the same way.
In a bid to save money, state and local officials approved a plan to supply residents with untreated drinking water from the Flint River, long a repository for toxic waste generated by the city’s General Motors plant. GM skirted or chose to ignore EPA regulations for decades. They closed plants during the 1980s, in part to avoid paying increased labor and cleanup costs mandated by federal regulators. The contaminated water had festered for generations. When it began flowing through the pipes of Flint residents, over 100,000 people were potentially exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins.
During his presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump cracked, “It used to be cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint.”
Some joke. Trump then boasted that lead poisoning “would never have happened if I were president.” That comment is disingenuous to say the least.
Pruitt is arbitrarily and radically discarding regulations that will allow the president to score short-term “wins,” at a cost to the health of the American people. These include loosening of restrictions on dumping of coal waste, including coal ash, acid mine drainage, coal sludge, and thermal pollution, which leads to contamination of groundwater, streams, rivers, and oceans from heavy metals and mercury.
Pruitt also led an unsuccessful attempt to suspend the methane rule, which restricts greenhouse emissions from new oil and gas wells. A federal appeals court determined that this was an overreach on the agency’s part, stating it was “arbitrary,” “capricious,” and “unreasonable.”
President Trump says he wants to eliminate 80 percent of all existing federal regulations, claiming they hinder economic growth and job creation. The coal industry is only one of the alleged victims of oversight that he continually points to. Yet, even with aggressive deregulation, coal will never be what it once was. Environmental protection is the least of its causes. Cheaper alternatives like natural gas are.
The president is advocating trickle-down economic theories long-since proven to be faulty. Businesses may thrive, but they’ll do so as much through reductions in labor and other cost-cutting measures as they do from relief from environmental protections. Automation will rise, human participation in the production process will decline and, ultimately, the average American will pay a price. If they have enough money in their pockets to do so. Sadly, there will be insufficient amounts of clean water to wash away their woes.
Deregulation is less about job growth and more about corporate welfare. And far from a breath of fresh air.
Copyright 2017 Blair Bess.