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Trump's 100 Days of Harm: Enough Is Enough

Like any arbitrary benchmark, the 100-day point of a new president's term normally tells us only so much about what's to come. In the case of President Trump's all-out assault on our environment and health, however, we've already seen more than enough.

In his first three months on the job, Trump has acted again and again to undo half a century of bipartisan progress in protecting our rights to clean water, air and lands. He's moved to part ways with longstanding American values of conservation in the public interest. And he's betrayed the covenant we've forged with our children to leave them a livable world.

That's not a plan to put America first. It's about putting industrial polluter profits first―and putting the rest of us at risk.

Presidents don't get to roll back generations of hard-won gains with the stroke of a pen. Working with his fellow Republicans in Congress, Trump has already killed rules to protect coal communities from mountaintop demolition that destroys forests and streams. And he may expose more public lands to the ravages of coal mining.

Much of what he's ordered, though, can be halted, slowed or turned back around―in the court of public opinion or in a court of law. To do that, we'll have to stand together and give real voice to truth against a president intent on using the full powers of his high office to try to eliminate the tools we need to protect our families and communities from ongoing harm.

From his first week in office, Trump and congressional Republicans have attacked the commonsense safeguards we all depend on to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, the lands that grow our food and the wild places we share. He's put the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the thumb of Scott Pruitt, an avowed foe of the agency's mission, while proposing to gut the EPA budget and staff.

He's taken on the very notion of responsible public oversight with an unlawful and baseless order to scrap two existing regulations for every new one put in place―as though we can cope with emerging threats only if we pretend the old ones no longer exist.

And he's sounded an ignominious retreat from the essential progress we're making in the fight against global climate change.

Any one of these tacks would be cause for national alarm and public rebuke. Taken as a whole, the Trump broadside attack on the nation's environment and health demands the united and concerted opposition of every American, from red state and blue, who cares about our common future.

Whatever our political leanings, we all should be shocked at this radical campaign to roll back environmental safeguards, abandon important national goals and hobble our environmental steward, the EPA. Trump's reckless attempts to do just that run wildly at odds with the will of the people, as a raft of recent polling proves.

A solid 61 percent of the country disapproves of Trump's big polluter agenda, an April poll by Quinnipiac University found. Just 19 percent want the EPA weakened or eliminated, according to a January Reuters poll, with 61 percent saying the agency should be strengthened, expanded or kept at its current strength. Trump, though, has proposed slashing the agency's budget by 31 percent, taking it back to 1990 funding levels and cutting staff by 20 percent.

In one policy area after another, in fact, the disparity between Trump's actions and public opinion is striking:

Protecting Our Waterways

  • Drinking Water: Nationally, fears over water pollution hit a 16-year high in March, with 63 percent of Americans telling the Gallup polling organization they worry "a great deal" about drinking water pollution. Who could blame them? Trump has directed Pruitt to dismantle the Clean Water Rule, put in place to protect wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for one in every three Americans.
  • Great Lakes: Trump's cuts would end federal funding to reduce industrial and municipal waste, toxic contaminants and other pollution in the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. Who's with Trump on that one? Not the people who understand it the most. In Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and nearby states, 86 percent of the public supports the federal effort to clean up the Great Lakes.
  • Chesapeake Bay: Trump has proposed killing, also, a multi-state plan to clean up the nation's largest natural estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, which is being strangled by the toxic runoff from a 64,000-square-mile watershed that reaches nearly to Canada. That flies directly against the interests of those who live at the mouth of the bay: 94 percent of Virginians support the federal bay cleanup program, according to an April poll by Christopher Newport University.

Energy Development

  • Dirty Energy: Fully 59 percent of survey respondents say environmental protection should come ahead of fossil fuel development, with just 23 percent preferring dirty energy to clean water and air. The 26-point gap between the two, by the way, is the largest margin since Gallup began asking the question 15 years ago.

Fuel Economy

Trump has directed the EPA to weaken or eliminate standards to clean up the cars and dirty power plants that together account for 60 percent of the U.S. carbon pollution that's driving global climate change. That's a stone-cold loser in the public mind. Drivers like saving billions of dollars a year at the pump, and an April poll by Quinnipiac found that 76 percent of the public is "somewhat concerned" or "very concerned" about climate change, with 62 percent saying Trump should not backtrack on standards and rules put in place to fight it.

Climate

  • Climate Action: Far from supporting Trump's retreat from the climate fight, 59 percent of poll respondents say the country needs to be doing even more to fight the carbon pollution that's causing seas to rise, turning croplands to deserts, and contributing to raging wildfires, flooding, droughts and storms.
  • Jobs: Fully 68 percent of Americans understand that we can fight climate change and support economic growth, like the gains that have put three million Americans to work helping us to become more efficient, building all-electric and hybrid cars and getting more clean power from the wind and sun.
  • Research: The Quinnipiac poll found that 72 percent of Americans say it's a "bad idea" for Trump to slash funding for the scientific research we need to better understand climate change and other threats to our environment.

A hundred days into Trump's presidency, we've already seen more than enough. It's time to gather as one and speak out against his senseless campaign to turn back the clock on 50 years of environmental gains and stanch the promise of more progress to come.

On Saturday, April 29, I'll travel, along with thousands of others, to Washington, DC, to march with the People's Climate Movement. I hope you'll join us, in the nation's capital or in any of dozens of sister marches across the country, to show Trump just how far out of step his policies are with the will of the people he serves.

Let's put Donald Trump on notice. Let's show him what we believe. We won't back down from this challenge. We won't back down from this fight. We'll defend our health and environment. We'll hold fast to the values we share. We'll stand up for our children's future and their right to a livable world.

Health

2 Billion People Drink Contaminated Water, Says WHO

The World Health Organization urges cleaner sanitation practices after new data reveals that at least two billion people do not have access to clean water.

The drinking water that is causing nearly 500,000 deaths a year is contaminated with feces, causing cholera, dysentery, intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma, typhoid and polio.

The most serious threats are in impoverished and developing areas. Although there has been a push for safe drinking water by the UN General Assembly, which led to a 4.9 percent increase in budgets worldwide, most countries say it is not enough.

The report found that 80 percent of countries are not adequately meeting the UN standards. In a statement WHO said when people can't provide the most basic necessities, like repairing infrastructure, water safety and reliability is sacrificed first.

"This is a challenge we have the ability to solve," Guy Ryder, chair of UN-Water and director-general of the International Labour Organization, said. "Increased investments in water and sanitation can yield substantial benefits for human health and development, generate employment and make sure that we leave no one behind."

This is a heavy burden on local communities, but as Ryder said, it is possible. To really meet UN standards, the world budget for drinking water would have to triple, that's $114 billion annually, to provide underserved areas. Governments can also step up their game by increasing and sustaining WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) access for vulnerable groups, especially in rural areas.

This graphic shows budget for WASH funding worldwide. Photo credit: World Health Organization

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Lake Mead, which stores Colorado River water, shows a bath tub ring from low water levels. Photo credit: Bureau of Reclamation

America's 10 Most Endangered Rivers and Why They Are Threatened

Conservation group American Rivers released its annual "Most Endangered Rivers" list on Tuesday, highlighting how 2017 is a "critical year for rivers and clean water."

In the announcement of this year's top 10, the non-profit noted how the Trump administration's proposed budget cuts pose a threat to rivers and communities nationwide.

"President Trump has abandoned critical river protections including the Clean Water Rule, leaving small streams and wetlands—sources of drinking water for one in three Americans—vulnerable to harmful development and pollution," the organization stated.

According to the list, the Lower Colorado River—which runs through Arizona, Nevada and California—is the country's most endangered river.

Matt Rice, Colorado Basin director for American Rivers, told USA Today that "the Lower Colorado is the lifeblood of the region and grows food for Americans nationwide, but the river is at a breaking point."

The river provides drinking water for 30 million Americans, including those who live in major cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix, and helps grow 90 percent of the nation's winter vegetables.

Its main threats are water demand outstripping supply and climate change.

"Water is one of the most crucial conservation issues of our time," said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, in a statement. "The rivers Americans depend on for drinking water, jobs, food and quality of life are under attack from the Trump administration's rollbacks and proposed budget cuts."

"Americans must speak up and let their elected officials know that healthy rivers are essential to our families, our communities and our future," he continued. "We must take care of the rivers that take care of us."

The annual list was first created in 1984. The rivers are selected based upon the following criteria: A major decision (that the public can help influence) in the coming year on the proposed action; The significance of the river to human and natural communities; The magnitude of the threat to the river and associated communities, especially in light of a changing climate.

Here are America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2017 (via National Geographic):

1. Lower Colorado River, Arizona, California, Nevada

Threat: Water demand and climate change.

2. Bear River, California

Threat: new dam

3. South Fork Skykomish, Washington

Threat: new hydropower project

4. Mobile Bay Rivers, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi

Threat: poor water management

5. Rappahannock River, Virginia

Threat: fracking

6. Green-Toutle River, Washington

Threat: new mine

7. Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers, North Carolina

Threat: pollution from hog and chicken farms

8. Middle Fork Flathead River, Montana

Threat: oil transport by rail

9. Buffalo National River, Arkansas

Threat: pollution from massive hog farm

10: Menominee River, Michigan, Wisconsin

Threat: open pit sulfide mining

Art Cullen, editor of the Storm Lake Times, is hugged Monday by his son, Tom, a reporter for the newspaper, at the newspaper office. Art Cullen won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Photo credit: Dolores Cullen / Storm Lake Times

Family-Run Paper Wins Pulitzer for Exposing Big Ag Corruption

By Nika Knight

Prestigious Pulitzer Prizes on Monday were awarded to investigations that tackled President Donald Trump, Big Ag and international offshore tax havens, rewarding reporters that took on today's powers-that-be.

The Pulitzer Prizes this year came "in the face of a combative stance from President Trump, who has called the news media 'the enemy of the American people,'" as the New York Times noted.

The prize shed light on a small family-run paper in Iowa that tenaciously challenged large agricultural corporations over water pollution. The Storm Lake Times forced documents to be released that showed powerful agricultural interests were funding a local county's attempt to quell a lawsuit over nitrogen runoff from farms contaminating drinking water.

Art Cullen, the paper's editor, slammed the close financial ties between Big Ag and county government in editorials described by the Pulitzer Committee as "impressive" and "engaging," while also highlighting the catastrophic effects of nitrogen pollution. In one editorial, for example, Cullen wrote:

Anyone with eyes and a nose knows in his gut that Iowa has the dirtiest surface water in America. It is choking the waterworks and the Gulf of Mexico. It is causing oxygen deprivation in Northwest Iowa glacial lakes. It has caused us to spend millions upon millions trying to clean up Storm Lake, the victim of more than a century of explosive soil erosion.

Everyone knows it's not the city sewer plant causing the problem. And most of us recognize that this is not just nature at work busily releasing nitrates into the water. Ninety-two percent of surface water pollution comes from row crop production.

The Washington Post's David A. Fahrenthold also won an award for his persistent investigations into President Donald Trump's claims of charity donations throughout the 2016 campaign. The Pulitzer Committee described Fahrenthold's reporting, which revealed that the president's charitable donations frequently fell far short of his claims, as "a model for transparent journalism."

In addition, an international collaboration between McClatchy, the Miami Herald and the International Consortion of Investigative Journalists that resulted in the landmark Panama Papers investigation into offshore tax havens was awarded the prize for Explanatory Reporting.

The Guardian listed the wide-ranging ramifications of the revelations contained in the Panama Papers:

Iceland's prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was forced to quit after it emerged that his family had sheltered cash offshore. There were demonstrations in Argentina and a small war in Azerbaijan, initiated—some believed—to distract from revelations concerning the president and his daughters.

In China, censors blocked the words "Panama Papers" and jammed the website of the Guardian. In Russia, aides to Vladimir Putin fumed about a western "spy" conspiracy after it emerged that Putin's oldest friend, the cellist Sergei Roldugin, had about $2bn flowing into a network of British Virgin Islands companies.

The founders of the Panamanian law firm, Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, were arrested in February. They are currently in jail on suspicion of money laundering following a coordinated swoop by prosecutors across Latin America.

Other notable prize winners include Eric Eyre of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, for his investigative reporting on the state's opiod crisis and the pharmaceutical corporations fueling it; the staff of the East Bay Times in Oakland, California, for their coverage of the "Ghost Ship" fire and city officials' failure to take action that may have prevented the tragedy; and the New York Daily News and ProPublica for an investigation into the New York Police Department's abuse of eviction rules that led to calls for citywide reform.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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Fracking
Oil drilling site, with a pond for fracking water, Cotulla, Texas. Photo credit: Al Braden

Texas Town Opposes BLM's Plan to Frack Public Lands

The mayor of Brenham signed Monday the city council's unanimous resolution opposing the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) plans to auction lands beneath and around Lake Somerville for oil and gas development. The resolution cited concerns that loss or contamination of the lake's water supply would be "catastrophic" for its residents. Lake Somerville is the city's sole drinking water source.

A federal lease auction for oil and gas deposits beneath and around Lake Somerville and Choke Canyon Reservoir—a water supply for Corpus Christi—is scheduled for June 8. Lake Somerville lies along the northeastern end of the oil-rich Eagle Ford Shale Play. In recent years advances fracking techniques have made these oil deposits accessible to oil and gas operators and have sparked an oil and gas boom in Texas.

"We applaud Brenham for taking a stand against this dangerous fracking plan. Fracking beneath or near Lake Somerville could have disastrous consequences for communities that depend on this precious water supply, including Brenham, Somerville and Lyons," said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Conservation groups and the city of Corpus Christi filed formal protests in February challenging the lease auction, raising concerns about spills, water contamination and earthquakes that could jeopardize dam integrity.

"Somerville Lake is an important water source for the city of Brenham," said Rita Beving of Clean Water Action. "It is important that city leaders like those of Brenham step in to do all they can to protect the water quality and the infrastructure of their reservoir."

Brenham city officials also plan to send a letter to the BLM opposing the lease auction, although the deadline for filing a formal protest has passed. City officials at the council meeting expressed concerns that it did not receive adequate notice of the lease auction. The BLM only posted notice of the lease sale on the agency's New Mexico state office website.

Records obtained recently by the Center for Biological Diversity through a Freedom of Information Act request to the federal Bureau of Reclamation show that in 2012, two "plugged" oil wells beneath Choke Canyon Reservoir were found by agency staff to be leaking into the reservoir. Records obtained thus far do not indicate the amount or type of pollution that resulted from the leaks or whether those leaks are ongoing.

Health

Shell, Dow Hid Cancer-Causing Chemical in Pesticides, Contaminating Drinking Water for Millions

For decades, Shell and Dow hid a highly potent cancer-causing chemical in two widely used pesticides, contaminating drinking water for millions of people in California and beyond, according to lawsuits detailed in a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The chemical 1,2,3-trichloropropane or TCP, was formerly an unwanted and ineffective byproduct in Dow's Telone and Shell's D-D pesticides. Internal documents uncovered in lawsuits filed by communities in California's San Joaquin Valley show that the companies saved millions of dollars a year by not properly disposing of TCP, a chemical a Dow scientist once called "garbage," as hazardous waste.

Shell stopped making D-D in 1984 and Dow later took TCP out of Telone, but not before it contaminated the tap water supplies of 94 California utility districts serving 8 million people.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency testing program found TCP in tap water supplies for about 4 million people in 13 other states between 2013 and 2015, but the chemical is unregulated at the federal level and in every state except Hawaii.

Regulators in California will meet next week to decide whether to set a legal limit for TCP in tap water. Shell and Dow have paid multi-million dollar settlements to some communities to pay for filtering TCP out of water supplies, but dozens more cases are pending.

Dow and Shell "should have taken it out and disposed of it properly as a toxic waste. But that would have cost them a lot of money, so they left it in and continued to sell these pesticides to farmers throughout California," said Asha Kreiling, an analyst with the Community Water Center, which along with Clean Water Action has pushed the state to set a legal limit.

"This is an outrageous story of how Shell and Dow essentially got farmers who bought the pesticide to pay to help them get rid of a hazardous waste," said Bill Walker, EWG's managing editor and co-author of the report. "How many other hidden examples are there of chemical companies endangering communities through toxic deception?"

TCP was synthesized in the 1930s as one of many byproducts from the manufacture of a chemical used to make plastics. After pineapple growers in Hawaii found that the mixture of byproducts could kill microscopic worms called nematodes, Shell and Dow began marketing slightly different formulations of the mixture and eventually D-D and Telone became the second most heavily used pesticides in California.

But San Francisco attorney Todd Robins, who represents many smaller communities whose water is contaminated with TCP, said the companies knew TCP was useless as a pesticide—in fact, it made the products less effective. Yet both Shell and Dow claimed on the labels that the products were 100 percent active ingredients—false claims that violated federal regulations for registering pesticides. Robins also said the companies knew as early as 1952 that TCP in fumigants did not break down in soil and could migrate into groundwater. Once there, it persists for centuries.

In 2009, California state scientists set an extraordinarily low public health goal for TCP in drinking water of less than 1 part per trillion. Public health goals are not enforceable legal limits but minimal risk levels expected to cause no more than one case of cancer in a million people who drink and shower with the water daily for a lifetime. The only chemical with a lower California public health goal is dioxin, considered one of the most toxic substances known to science.

Staff of the California State Water Resources Control Board have proposed a legal limit of 5 parts per trillion, the lowest level current technology can reliably detect. A public hearing on the proposed standard, which is supported by Community Water Center, Clean Water Action, EWG and other groups, will be held April 19 in Sacramento.

"Shell and Dow put greed for profits ahead of the health of the people who bought and used their products," said Andria Ventura, toxics program manager for Clean Water Action. "We can't reverse the tragic consequences, but setting a drinking water standard that's fully protective of public health can stem the threat going forward."

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Popular Farm Pesticide Found in Drinking Water

After evidence of pesticides killing off pollinators surfaced in 2016, scientists went on a quest to see if pesticides were seeping into anything else. Now, in an unprecedented study, the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Iowa reported findings of neonicotinoids—a class of pesticide used to kill off insects—in treated drinking water, marking the first time these chemicals have ever been identified.

The researchers behind the new study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, took samples from 48 streams that feed the Iowa River, a primary source for drinking water throughout the midwest, and found that 63 percent of the samples contained at least one neonicotinoid compound. The samples were taken shortly after corn and soy were planted in nearby fields.

Even more concerning, samples taken from local tap water and the water treatment plant at the University of Iowa showed three main neonicotinoids, proving that filtration practices are not enough to purify the drinking water. The water was collected over the course of seven weeks, but higher concentrations are likely to occur within one to three days of planting.

"Having these types of compounds present in water does have the potential to be concerning," Gregory LeFevre, a coauthor of the study told The Washington Post. "But we don't really know, at this point, what these levels might be."

There is not enough research on human health surrounding the ingestion of pesticides, especially over a prolonged period of time. But, in a 2015 study on the impacts of neonicotinoids on human health, scientists found that chronic exposure to high concentrations were not that harmful and showed weak findings. However, in smaller vertebrate animals, the effects can be severe. A 2015 study of the effects of neonicotinoids on wildlife concluded that they may cause neurological and developmental issues.

Though the study was exclusive to Iowa, it could have far-reaching effects on the entire U.S.

"Everything in the watershed is connected," LeFevre said. "This is one of many types of trace pollutants that might be present in rivers."

Health

Why Pruitt's 'Cooperative Federalism' Spells Trouble for Clean Water Protection

By Brooke Barton

A majority of Americans value strong federal protections for clean air and water, which provide both environmental and economic benefits.

But they should be very worried that the basic human expectations of healthy air and safe water will quickly turn cloudy if the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator's pledge to regulate through "cooperative federalism" becomes a reality.

Cooperative federalism, at its most benign, is about allowing each state to tailor its own approach to enforcing environmental rules. At its worst, it's about the federal government turning a blind eye to states that shirk the nation's environmental laws or that simply don't have the coffers to pay for monitoring and enforcement.

"Process, rule of law and cooperative federalism, that is going to be the heart of how we do business at the EPA," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has promised to follow the Trump administration's will to slash EPA's budget and soften its rules.

To see how cooperative federalism erodes environmental protection, look no further than the 2015 Waters of the United States rule. President Trump issued an executive order last week announcing plans to undo the rule, which clarifies the federal government's authority to limit pollution in bodies of water not explicitly covered by the Clean Water Act.

Those smaller bodies of water—typically streams, wetlands and rivers, which account for more than half of the nation's freshwater resources—feed into larger water bodies that provide key drinking water and recreational opportunities for the public, as well as water supplies for business. Keeping them clean is vital for the nation's health and economic prosperity.

The executive order, coupled with the administration's penchant for cooperative federalism, send a strong message that if states choose not to protect smaller streams and wetlands, they won't get pushback from the federal government.

And as state environmental budgets shrink, many simply don't have the resources to ensure healthy streams and clean drinking water on their own, even if they wanted to. Forty state environmental agencies have reduced staff in recent years, with the biggest cuts being in North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, New York, Illinois and Arizona, according to a fall 2016 report by the Center for Public Integrity.

Center for Public Integrity

Pruitt's home state, Oklahoma, for example, spends a paltry $13 million on environmental protection. Compare that to Connecticut, which has an environmental budget twice the size of Oklahoma's but less than one-tenth the land mass or with neighboring Arkansas, with a budget nearly triple the size of Oklahoma's.

Water pollution from industrial-sized poultry farms operating in the northeast corner of Oklahoma and in neighboring Arkansas, has been a source of huge controversy, health concerns and lawsuits for more than 25 years. Phosphorus, the primary pollutant in poultry manure, can trigger toxic algae blooms, threatening rivers, lakes and other waterways that feed into the Illinois River.

Algae bloom in Florida.

Cooperative federalism gives Oklahoma and Arkansas more opportunity to turn a blind eye to manure runoff and other untreated pollution in waterways covered by the Waters of the United States rule.

Similarly, though the U.S. Geological Survey has linked oil and gas hydraulic fracturing drilling to groundwater and surface water pollution, Oklahoma has yet to identify whether its surface waters face pollution threats from fracking activity. J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board said that Oklahoma does not have the budget for widespread testing in the state.

These same challenges can be found in states across the country.

North Carolina has a long history of water pollution from coal ash spills and manure lagoons—a legacy that gained national prominence last fall when Hurricane Matthew triggered massive flooding and pollution overflows from thousands of hog farms. At the same time, contentious political battles in that state have contributed to a dramatic decrease in its environmental budget, from $126 million in 2011 to just $81 million in 2015.

Even states with larger environmental budgets may struggle to protect smaller waterways under cooperative federalism because of political fights that play out at the state level.

In Kentucky, regulators and utilities are pushing to loosen regulations on the state's coal ash ponds and landfills. Yet over the past six years, arsenic and selenium have been found to be leaching from a coal ash pond at a major power station into groundwater and directly into Herrington Lake. Despite remedial measures taken by Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities, the pollution persists and is poisoning fish in the lake.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has gutted the state environmental agency—earning him a scathing "environmental disaster" editorial in the Tampa Bay Tribune. In addition to cutting support for clean water and conservation programs, state-driven enforcement has disappeared nearly altogether—enforcement cases fell by 81 percent from 2010 to 2015.

Pruitt's cooperative federalism mantra, where states should see us as "partners, not adversaries," sends us down a perilous path of continued diminishment of precious natural resources across the country.

Leaving states on their own to protect the nation's vital water resources, without holding them to minimum standards or supporting them financially, is a slippery slope indeed towards a dirtier America—an America that the vast majority does not want.

Brooke Barton is the senior program director of Ceres' water and food programs.

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