There is no doubt that President Trump has significantly changed environmental policy since taking office that have caused a great deal of public outcry. The current administration’s decisions have affected everything from rolling back on policies enacted by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to cutting funding for different environmental and scientific programs. With so much to keep up with, here is a rundown of the Trump Administration’s environmental action in 2018 and how it has impacted the planet.
EPA loosens toxic air pollution regulations
A Clinton-era policy known as “once in, always in” or OIAI was an effort to permanently reduce the hazardous air pollution from industrial sources. The law required major sources of pollution to retool their processes and reduce their emissions to lower levels set by industry peers. This was known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT, standards.
Industry lawyers have long argued that eliminating OIAI would give businesses a stronger incentive to reduce emissions, and in a brief legal memo, Trump’s EPA abruptly dropped OIAI at the beginning of 2018.
NASA climate monitoring program cut
Back in May, the Trump administration ended NASA’s carbon monitoring system (CMS), which was an effort to improve the monitoring of global carbon emissions. The program cost $10 million a year, but a March 2018 spending deal did not include funding for the program.
CMS supported work was relevant to the Paris Agreement because it verified if other nations were meeting their pledges to reduce carbon emissions. But the Trump administration has rejected that agreement and is downsizing the NASA climate science program.
Rollbacks proposed for Endangered Species Act rules
This summer, the Trump administration proposed to make several key changes to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, including eliminating a rule that forbids referring to the economic impact of listing a threatened species.
The changes would still allow for determinations to be based on biological considerations, and they also would give regulators more freedom, so they can avoid designating critical habitat for endangered species.
Fuel economy rule change
One of the signature climate change policies from President Obama was a plan to increase vehicle mileage standards for cars made during the next decade. However, the Trump administration is dismantling the plan, but not nixing it entirely.
President Obama’s plan required light cars made after 2012 to average almost 54 miles per gallon by 2025, with hopes that the new efficiency standards would save billions of barrels of oil. However, President Trump has mileage targets of 34 miles per gallon because some automakers believe anything more than that would be too difficult to reach.
Methane rules repealed
Another rollback to Obama’s climate change policy, Trump’s EPA reduced the requirements on oil and gas companies to monitor the releases of methane from wells. Some in the industry had complained that the Obama rules were too much of a burden and a “record-keeping nightmare” that was impossible to execute.
However, when the EPA announced this new rule, the attorneys general in California and New Mexico filed a lawsuit to challenge the change.
EPA air pollution review panel disbanded
The Particulate Matter Review Panel – made of scientists who are experts in the health dangers of soot – has advised the EPA over the years about safe levels of air pollution. However, they will no longer meet starting in 2019, but they didn’t reveal why.
Conservation groups believe that eliminating the panel will make it easier to roll back pollution standards, but they had also complained that the panel wasn’t robust enough to protect public health.
Ocean plastic cleanup bill
In October, President Trump signed legislation to improve efforts to clean up plastic trash from the world’s oceans. He also called out nations like China and Japan for using the oceans as landfills and said that he will do everything he can during his Presidency to stop them.
The law passed with bipartisan support, and it amended the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Act. It also funded the program through 2022.
Arctic offshore drilling approved
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued Hilcorp a conditional use permit for its Liberty Project, and they will begin drilling from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea. The federally controlled waters of the U.S. arctic have been cleared for oil and gas production wells after years of debate about the risks and rewards.
Coal power plant rollback
In 2015, the Obama Administration adopted a rule restricting carbon dioxide pollution from future power plants. The energy industry criticized the rule, saying the technology was unproven and the required equipment was extremely expensive.
So, earlier this month, the Trump administration rolled back the climate rule by lifting some of the restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants.
The goal is to spur construction of new coal plants and to relieve America’s energy providers of excessive burdens.
Image via Sam Jotham Sutharson