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Trump's Planned EPA Cuts Will Hit America's Most Vulnerable
The Trump administration is using a deliberate and systematic approach to undermine, weaken and disempower America's most vulnerable communities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed budget cuts are a clear-cut example of this attack. The cuts will gravely reduce the ability to enhance communities across the U.S.—including low-income communities made up of white, black, Latino, indigenous and Asian Americans, in urban and rural settings alike.
Now that Trump's appointed leader of the EPA testified on Capitol Hill Thursday, it is important to understand the consequences of the actions they want to take. The bottom line is that real people will get sick and many will prematurely die. Communities, particularly our most vulnerable, will greatly suffer if these cuts happen.
The road the Trump administration is taking us down puts us full-speed in reverse. Almost like a scene from Back to the Future, their actions would embrace a time when rivers caught fire and air pollution darkened the skies over our cities. A time when many communities of color were relegated to the back of the bus, and their voices did not have an influence in the decision-making process. Yep, the good ol' days were actually not so good for many of our citizens.
It is no secret on where the Trump administration is getting their ideas. They are running a systematic playbook put together by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has been around since the 1980s and is well funded by the infamous Koch brothers, among other individuals and corporations.
Their main office is just steps from the United States Capitol and the halls of Congress, where they wield unparalleled influence. Executing this game plan is a far cry from the "help the little guy" and "drain the swamp" mantra the president continues to tout. If you want to see what they will try to do next, just take a look at their report.
The EPA's proposed 2018 budget slashes protections, and slashes the workforce made up of good and honest people working long and difficult hours to uphold them. These protections are in place for a reason, each having been thoroughly developed after years of public input from millions of individuals across the United States.
They are in place to protect us from harmful air and water impacts from industry polluters. They are there to responsibly clean up and enhance designated toxic areas. And they are there to protect us from the deadly impacts of climate change happening now and lessening these impacts for our kids in the future. In essence, these protections are in place for people and made by the people.
One of the initiatives the proposed budget takes a major axe to is the EPA's brownfields job training program, which couples workforce development with environmental cleanup efforts in communities burdened with a legacy of industrial pollution.
Take Detroit, where a local group called the Green Door Initiative utilized EPA's program to create a technician jobs training program in 2011. Their training allowed their community to address extreme unemployment and underemployment among African American men in particular, while at the same time addressing high levels of pollution.
The training turned over 200 individuals with structural barriers to employment into assets for their local economy and providers for their families. This initiative continues to pay dividends to this local community by ridding the city of problematic toxic land and creating jobs for members of this vulnerable community.
Among other consequences, the proposed elimination of EPA's Office of Environmental Justice (my former office) will disempower our most vulnerable, like the Southeast Community in Newport News, Virginia.
For decades, this community has faced dire air quality thanks to a local power plant pumping coal-dust into the atmosphere. A few years ago they were able to take an EPA environmental justice small grant and turn it into a multi-year advocacy campaign to raise awareness and establish a scientific footing for concerns about the neighborhood's disproportionate asthma rates.
This grant funding taught the community how to better protect their health and also enhance the Southeast Asthma Network, allowing for greater reach, with the addition of new partnerships and shared resources.
These programs pay big dividends for local communities. Spartanburg, South Carolina, is undergoing a transformation from a contaminated, low-income area into a livable and vibrant community. In 1998, EPA awarded the community a $20,000 grant. The community has leveraged that into more than $270m in private and public funding through partnerships with more than 140 organizations.
Much of this work has been led by local leader, Harold Mitchell, who started a Spartanburg non-profit organization called the ReGenesis Project. ReGenesis worked with government and industry to clean-up the Arkwright municipal dumpsite, a former fertilizer plant, and six brownfield and Superfund sites.
They demolished 184 substandard public housing units and built more than 500 new, single-family and multi-family units for rental and homeownership. The community has seen the addition of community health centers, job training and employment programs and increased retail development. The community is also launching a 35-acre solar farm, which will create job opportunities and lower electricity bills for local residents.
What we are currently seeing from the Trump administration is a disconnect from what hard working everyday citizens are asking for and a strategic approach that is extinguishing the hope of our most vulnerable communities. While we should be providing them with upward mobility, this administration is removing basic protections and opportunities for our fellow humans and countrymen.
I know these programs work. I have seen it across communities of all colors and creeds. Let's focus on revitalizing our most vulnerable communities. We have an incredible opportunity to support the vision of these communities and focus on building them up, strengthening our country from the ground up. We need to do everything we can to lift our most vulnerable communities and move them from surviving to thriving.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."
georgeclerk / E+ / Getty Images
By Jennifer Molidor
One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.