5 Environmental Catastrophes in the Trump Budget (and Who to Call to Stop Them)
By AnaChristina Arana
President Trump has released his 2019 budget proposal, and when it comes to environmental policy, it's full of bad ideas.
The proposal he sent to Congress on Feb. 12 threatens our health, safety and economic future through major cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), essential environmental programs and our judicial rights. It would rob future generations of the chance to experience our nation's outdoors, gut clean air and water protections, and undermine toxic pollution cleanup programs that keep our children from being harmed by life-threatening pollution.
This proposal is a statement of the administration's priorities and values, and it does not accurately reflect those of the American people. Congress, not Trump, will ultimately determine the funding allocated to each department and program, so there is still time to make your voice heard. Tell your members of Congress to reject any budget that weakens health and environmental protections for people living in the U.S.
The proposed budget is catastrophic for the environment. Learn about five pressing threats and who you can contact to stop them from going into effect.
1. Reducing the overall EPA budget by 34 percent. Trump and his EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt want to slash the EPA budget with deeper cuts than any other agency, chopping even some of the programs they claim to prioritize. They want to reduce last year's budget by a full third. This $2.8 billion decrease would eliminate more than 20 percent of the agency's workforce, as well as initiatives including climate change research, the efficiency benchmarks program Energy Star, and environmental education. It will also cut research and development in half and reduce the Superfund budget—money set aside for hazardous waste and pollution cleanup—by about 30 percent. This proposal is devastating for all Americans, as it endangers public health and the environment to serve polluting industries.
Take Action: The House and Senate Committees on the Budget are responsible for drafting a concurrent resolution on the budget. Urge House Budget Chair Steve Womack, Ranking Member John Yarmuth, Senate Budget Chair Mike Enzi and Ranking Member Bernie Sanders to oppose these attacks on our health, clean air and water, and our efforts to preserve our environment for future generations.
2. Reducing EPA state grants to protect clean air and water by 40 percent. A number of critical programs to protect clean air and water would be completely eliminated, limiting the effectiveness and scope of EPA, state, local and tribal programs that protect air and water from pollution. Cuts to state grants would weaken the states' ability to enforce water pollution laws and regulations, protect and clean up major polluted water bodies, improve water infrastructure, protect groundwater, restore beaches and coastal areas, oversee compliance with drinking water standards, and provide assistance to water systems.
3. Eliminating funding to fight against climate change. The federal budget aims to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon pollution from power plants and is the largest single action the U.S. has ever taken to combat climate change. The funding for the EPA's Office of Science and Technology would drop by more than a third, eliminating dozens of programs implemented by the Obama administration to fight climate change. A 65 percent reduction in the budget for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, paired with the elimination of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, increases the risk for communities across the country to be harmed by life-threatening pollutants.
Take Action: The Members of Congress with the most power over these decisions are House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair Greg Walden, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chair Lisa Murkowski, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chair Lamar Smith and Vice Chair Frank Lucas. Tell them that if Trump and Republicans truly want American energy dominance, they should invest in job-generating clean energy technologies rather than gutting the renewable energy, science and climate programs that move our economy forward.
4. Slashing the Department of Interior's national parks funding. Trump's proposed 16 percent cut to the Department of the Interior's budget would sell out public lands and severely undermine the booming outdoor recreation economy. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is designed to protect national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other protected sites, would lose 92 percent of its budget. The proposal eliminates programs for historic preservation, heritage and land acquisition and establishes a public lands infrastructure fund that relies on increased energy leasing and development. It would also cut funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by nearly 20 percent, including cuts to Endangered Species Act implementation, the National Wildlife Refuge System, grant programs, and wildlife trafficking prevention efforts that aid in protecting elephants, rhinos, tigers and other endangered wildlife.
Take Action: Tell House Committee on Natural Resources Chair Rob Bishop and Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva that you will not stand for this unacceptable assault on our public lands, endangered species and natural resources.
5. Closing the Department of Justice's Office for Access to Justice. Amid Trump's attacks on public health and environmental justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to close down the office dedicated to making legal aid accessible to all citizens. The administration is making cuts to the already small staff and reallocating resources to its own priorities. Gutting the Office for Access to Justice would restrict people's ability to use the courts to defend their civil rights, civil liberties, consumer protections, public health and safety, and the environment.
Take Action: Jeff Sessions cannot officially close down the office without Congressional support. Defend your judicial rights by contacting Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein.
An overwhelming majority of Americans support a stronger and more expansive EPA, rather than massive budget cuts that threaten our rights to health and safety. The final budget should reflect the needs of the American people, rather than the greed of politicians and polluting industries. We resolve to do everything in our power to ensure Congress lives up to its responsibilities. Join us in this fight by telling your members of Congress to reject Trump's dangerous plan to sell out our future, and fight for a budget that chooses American families over corporate polluters. We need a budget that fully funds programs to protect our children's health and conserve our lands, waters, oceans, and wildlife for future generations.
We can send a message to President Trump and his allies in Congress that we reject any plan that weakens environmental protections in order to issue giveaways to industry. Contact members of congressional committees that play key roles in the budget decisions, and share your story about why this is personal to you. By sharing personal stories, we can send a message that people—not polluters—matter.
Trump Wants to Cut 355 National Weather Service Jobs Despite Record-Breaking Disasters in 2017… https://t.co/AODGYFXe5w— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1518706374.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Earthjustice.
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Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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