Federal Appeals Court Orders Trump’s EPA to Do Its Job

There is no doubt that when Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, avowed environmental protection enemy, to run the EPA, he expected the fossil fuel acolyte to put an immediate end to regulations targeting big oil; likely because those regulations protect Americans’ air and water. Pruitt did as expected and suspended various EPA regulations and restrictions including an important provision of the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) regulating dangerous and toxic greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Late Monday a federal appeals court issued a ruling against Pruitt’s EPA and ordered it to start enforcing restrictions on dangerous methane gas emissions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit formally vacated the agency’s 90-day stay of the NSPS because that “key [methane rule] provision” is the law; and despite what Pruitt or the oil industry claims, the rule “is in effect.”

The Court said the “leak detection and repair provisions” of the NSPS law were supposed to take effect  and “begin delivering significant benefits” on June 3. But two days after the law went into effect, the court said “the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unlawfully stayed these and other requirements of the rule retroactively from June 2 until August 31, 2017.” Pruitt did not have the authority to take that action and according to the court: “Pruitt and his industry allies have not offered any support for their proposition that complying with the law would cause significant hardship to the entities that had a year’s lead time to prepare.”

What the court did say, however, was that by ordering the stay of the rule, Pruitt’s EPA “is causing substantial additional methane, ozone-forming [volatile organic compounds], and hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde to be released into the air of communities near these wells.” It is telling that 9 of 11 judges on the appellate panel had to tell the agency tasked with protecting Americans from dangerous toxins and pollutants to do its job, protect Americans from dangerous toxins and pollutants, and stop helping the oil and gas industry pour more toxic material into the atmosphere. It is also noteworthy that a federal appeals court had to waste its time to tell the corrupt Trump administration that no matter what it believes, it still “must enforce federal environmental protection rules.”

An environmental advocacy group, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued a statement late Monday saying:

Administrator Pruitt tried to impose a 90-day suspension of the vital clean air standards without public input and without analysis of the public health or environmental consequences.

Pruitt actually intended on delaying implementation of the clean air and water rule for much longer than the 90 days it says the oil and gas industry needed to figure out how badly it would hurt profits. Pruitt proposed an additional two-year delay for implementation of the rule because the EPA needed extra time to discover what negative impacts it would have on the poor oil and gas industry. During that two-year delay, Pruitt said the oil and gas industry could just ignore the rule and continue poisoning the nation’s air and water.

To really get an idea of just how much contempt the Trump administration, and Pruitt specifically, have for the health and safety of the American people, the Environmental Defense Fund said Pruitt knew that any delay whatsoever would negatively impact Americans’ health.

The EDF noted that when the EPA announced it was delaying the rule’s implementation for two years, it acknowledged that it would make children in and around oil and gas drilling sites sick. But Pruitt argued “that more illness for only two years is acceptable” if it helps the oil and gas industry prosper.

It wasn’t acceptable to “people who showed up at EPA headquarters” early in July to protest the EPA’s intention to delay implementation of the “methane rule.”  But the new rule did more than just restrict methane emissions and it is noteworthy that it only affects new drilling operations or those under repair.

As the director of environment and health for “Physicians for Social Responsibility,” Barbara Gottlieb noted, sealing leaks and capturing methane at oil and gas wells would capture “all the toxic and hazardous air pollutants” inherent in oil and gas drilling operations;” not just methane. Ms. Gottlieb said that the implementing the rule would capture “volatile organic” compounds that “cause severe health issues for people” living near oil industry operations. “If you seal the leaks and capture the escaping gases, you get it all.

For Americans living in close proximity to oil and gas operations the Appeals court made the right decision they thought was the purview of the federal agency created and tasked with protecting Americans’ health and well-being. That concept of protecting the health of the people is an abomination to Trump’s anti-environmental protection crusader Scott Pruitt or he would not have put a halt to the EPA rule’s implementation.

It is astonishing that this is not the first time that the federal Judiciary has had to step in and order the federal government under Trump to enforce federal laws created to protect all Americans. What the court did not say in this instance was that Pruitt’s job as head of the EPA was not to protect the profits of the fossil fuel industry – the only reason he is running the EPA.

Trump Imperils a Third of the Population’s Clean Drinking Water

By now only someone in a coma is unaware that Republicans will go to great lengths to sate the greed of the fossil fuel industry no matter how detrimental their actions are to human life. As most Americans learned by the sixth grade, the primary component in a human body is water; anywhere from 60 to 75 percent depending on a person’s age. That being the case, it is safe to assume most people comprehend that access to clean drinking water is more than a basic human right, it is fundamental to life. Obviously, not everyone agrees with fundamental biology or has any regard for human life; that is particularly true of America’s “pro-life” Republicans.

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly “Explicitly recognized the fundamental human right to safe water and sanitation, and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.”

Republicans, led by the Koch brothers and Donald Trump, completely disagree with the U.N. General Assembly and are continuing the fossil fuel attack on Americans’ “fundamental human right” to clean water; an attack they began early in the new legislative year with a new heartless White House occupant. However, that “first strike” attack only affected areas in and around coal mining regions, so the Trump is expanding the attack on clean drinking water to affect a greater number of Americans; a little over one-in-three Americans.

In early February, Trump signed a law allowing the fossil fuel (primarily coal) industry to dump toxic waste and chemicals into Americans’ clean water supplies. This is in spite of Trump’s campaign pledge to his supporters that “Americans need crystal clear and clean drinking water.” As Jenifer Collins of Earthjustice said at the time:

It is shameful that one of the first bills President Trump signs into law is an attack on clean water protections for communities facing the harmful health and environmental impacts of coal mining operations like mountaintop removal mining. The President said Americans need ‘crystal clear and clean water.’ If he really meant that, he would have vetoed this legislation.”

Of course Trump didn’t mean it – he is a pathological liar. And he will say “I never promised to protect Americans’ crystal clear and clean drinking water, I just said they need it.” Apparently the Koch brothers’ fossil fuel industry needs the authority to pour toxic waste into “crystal clear and clean drinking water” without legal repercussions or punitive damages that Trump and Republicans were happy to provide.

Another advocate for Americans’ access to clean drinking water, Natalie Thompson, representing the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said:

Voting to overturn the Stream Protection Rule in its entirety with no consideration for the health of our citizens and our ecosystems is completely irresponsible. The people in these coal communities will pay the price by being forced to purchase potable water that they cannot afford or by combating cancer, birth defects, and other invasions of human health by way of toxic water.”

As an aside for Ms. Thompson to ponder; If those people in those coal communities are unable to afford purchasing potable water, they aren’t going to be able to purchase healthcare insurance to battle cancer, birth defects or other human health issues. And, if they are that economically disadvantaged they will just have to die along with any Medicaid or Medicare coverage Trump and Republicans are eliminating to “sate the greed of the rich.”

Now, Trump and his fossil fuel industry EPA director, Scott Pruitt, are readying a vicious attack on the rest of the nation’s “crystal clear and clean water” that will affect a little over a third of the population’s “fundamental human right” to clean water.

Trump’s barbaric administration officially began repealing the “Clean Water Rule” late last week with a solemn pledge to completely “rescind and rewrite the regulation.” Trump’s fossil fuel employee Scott Pruitt will task industry lobbyists to “rewrite the regulation” to conform to the February law allowing the fossil fuel producers, manufacturers, and agribusiness  to legally dump toxic waste into about two million miles of rivers and streams and 20 million acres of wetlands.

To get an idea of how dastardly this Trump cabal really is, the “official repeal proposal” appeared on the same day EPA Administrator and ardent “pro-life” evangelical Scott Pruitt testified in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee that with a fossil fuel advocate like him at the helm, “the EPA would focus on its core mission of ‘protecting clean air and water’ for the American people.”

Pruitt said in a press statement:

We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses. This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

Republicans, and particularly the Koch brothers’ fossil fuel cohort, complained bitterly in 2015 when President Obama tasked the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers with following an order from the United States Supreme Court to designate “waters of the U.S” that required protection from toxic dumping; solely because they provide “crystal clear and clean drinking water” to over a third of the population.

In February, at about the same time he signed a law authorizing the fossil fuel industry to dump toxic waste into rivers and streams that provide clean water, Trump issued an executive order directing the EPA to “review and reconsider” the Clean Water Rule it previously devised in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers. Trump specifically ordered the EPA to give “special attention and consideration” to how the agency defined “navigable waters.” One can only imagine that “navigable waters” will be reserved for the oceans in and around the United States so the fossil fuel, manufacturing, chemical, and agricultural industry can dump toxic waste into the clean waters anywhere within the continental United States.

There really isn’t much to say about the party in power, or its corrupt leader, that is printable for polite company, but that it takes a special kind of evil to pass laws, issue executive orders and rescind protections just to “sate the greed of the fossil fuel industry.” It was beyond comprehension that Congress and Trump would enact a law allowing the fossil fuel industry to dump toxic waste in and around mining and oil operations, but endangering a third of the population’s “crystal clear and clean water” is beyond comprehension. Sadly, there is nothing whatsoever anyone can do to stop this vicious attack on a “fundamental human right,” but there are environmental groups pledging to continue the fight for “human rights.” The executive director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune said in a statement:

“It goes without saying that the Trump administration doesn’t care about the environment, public health, or its duty to protect our most precious natural resources — and that is why it’s up to us, the American people, to hold them accountable. We will fight this and every other attempt by polluters and the Trump administration to destroy our water resources.”

The Trump administration is out to destroy, or steal, all of America’s resources for his and Republicans’ masters the Koch brothers, and the people can attempt to fight, and resist, their efforts, but they are impotent. That’s what happens when stupid Americans install a government committed to the general welfare of the rich, corporations and fossil fuel industry instead of the American people. First they came for your healthcare, then your schools, then your freedoms and now they’re coming for your most fundamental human right; “crystal clear and clean water.”

Pruitt To Scrap EPA Safety Rules Preventing Oil and Chemical Tank Disasters

 

By now it should be apparent that with Republicans running the government the oil and chemical industry have taken a leadership role in slashing regulations meant to protect the environment and the people. Whether it is the rush to approve and build dangerous oil pipelines over sensitive ecosystems, agriculturally-rich land or precious drinking water sources, Republicans are Hell-bent on giving big oil and chemical manufacturers anything they want without regard for the environment or the people’s health. Of course what they want is complete abolition of all safety and environmental regulations.

This week an environmental activist, Earth Justice, reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has spent valuable time and effort to developmodest but important” updates to safety regulations affecting industrial sites such as oil refineries and chemical manufacturers’ storage tanks.  The “updates” were approved by Congress less than a year ago and announced by the EPA at the end of 2016 during the waning days of the Obama Administration.

Those storage tanks require more robust rules than currently existed because like crude oil refinery fires in California, or a chemical leak in West Virginia two years ago, any kind of accident can affect the health and well-being of tens-of-thousands of nearby residents, facility employees, or first responders.

Despite the alarming frequency of these dangerous industrial accidents, with an oil and chemical industry shill running the EPA, the one-time “protection agency” proposes putting a halt to the improved rules for a year-and-a-half. During that 18 month “hold” on the EPA’s safety proposals, Earth Justice reports there will likely be about 300 toxic chemical releases that could have been prevented with what can only be considered very modest rule changes.

While the chemical and oil industry claim the new safety rules are overly burdensome, they are very minor, not costly, and protect workers and “fence-line communities” in and around the facilities. They basically call for “strengthening emergency preparedness and coordination with local first responders; requiring more thorough, prevention-focused investigations; and forcing plants with the worst accident records to consider implementing available safety precautions.”

Those protections are necessary and might have averted some catastrophic health and economic disasters that occurred prior to the EPA’s safety rule implementation. For example, during 10 years leading up to these rules, there were 1,500 chemical fires, releases or explosions at chemical facilities around the country caused over $2 billion in damage to property, and necessitated emergency evacuation or “shelter in place” orders for half a million people. And those preventable accidents led to 17,099 injuries and 58 Americans’ lost their lives.

Without the safety measures in place, there is certainly going to be more Americans affected by ruptures, leaks and explosions.  The bad news is that “at least one in three schoolchildren attends a school within the vulnerability zone” of a hazardous facility like a refinery or oil and chemical storage tanks. And what is a very telling statistic about who, among the millions of people who live under the threat of a toxic plume or chemical disaster, will be most impacted by a manmade and preventable disaster; “the communities most in harm’s way are Black, Latino and low-income people.

Those statistics represent an unacceptable amount of death and destruction in an advanced society. Particularly when a couple of preventative safety measures could have halted or reduced the level of destruction. What cannot possibly be known yet is how many Americans will succumb to cancer and other ailments that take years to manifest and could have been easily, and cheaply, prevented with simple safety measures.

Those mainly preventative and preparedness rules are too much for the chemical and oil industry to accept which is why Pruitt’s EPA put them on hold for a year-and-a-half. Apparently, it is going to take 18 months for the EPA under oil and chemical industry activist Pruitt to “look for ways to roll back these vital protections.” Pruitt is well-practiced in the art of fighting EPA rules and campaigning to deregulate the chemical and oil industry because it has been one of his claims to fame since long before being put in charge of neutering the E.P.A.

Earth Justice rightly noted that the Pruitt-led EPA’s proposed action “defies logic and good sense,” but only if one believes that protecting the lives of Americans and the environment is a logical function of the government. Obviously, as an oil and chemical industry shill, Pruitt doesn’t believe that protecting Americans is reasonable, or logical, because the industries he’s protecting opposes them; Pruitt’s plan to put the rules on hold is a gift to his campaign donors.

Although it is doubtful that any amount of citizen action will change Pruitt’s position on halting the safety rules, the Environmental Protection Agency is still accepting comments from the public on the wisdom, or insanity, of delaying implementation of safety measures for a year-and-a-half; until Pruitt and the oil and chemical industry can eliminate them completely which was the plan the minute Republicans gained control of the entire government.