Like an evil troll throwing a curse over its shoulder before being banished from the kingdom, President Donald Trump’s EPA finalized a rule that could make it harder for Biden to address pollution and climate change.
EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, announced the new rule. “Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we are ensuring that future rulemakings under the Clean Air Act are transparent, fair, and consistent with EPA governing statutes,” said Wheeler, as reported by CNN. But critics say the change ensures that the EPA will continue to put the economy over environmental and public health interests. It allows the agency to disregard positive side effects of decisions, such as saving lives from being lost to air pollution, while fully weighing the economic impact.
During Trump’s four years in office, his administration managed to roll back more than 100 public health and environmental rules, putting the welfare of corporate polluters over that of the people. “For four years, this administration has waged war on public health by kowtowing to polluters,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, as reported by Common Dreams. “Now, on the way out the door, this amounts to sabotaging the efforts of the incoming administration to protect Americans from dirty air.”
Poor air quality is especially troubling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. A study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found an association between air pollution and increased mortality from COVID-19 infection. Individual-level COVID-19 data isn’t publicly available, so the study couldn’t state a definite cause and effect, but the implication is clear. Yet this new EPA rule was proposed in June and passed at a time when COVID-19 deaths are at a high and still rising.
New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone tweeted his disgust: “This rule will distort @EPA analysis by discounting the health benefits of air pollution standards & prioritizing the financial costs to polluters above health costs to the public. It’s a betrayal both of the #CleanAirAct and of EPA’s mission to protect human health.”
Image via Johannes Plenio