CHARLOTTEDEMS.COM EDITORIAL NOTE: Recently, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell* tried to excuse the Trump Administration’s lack of response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, because the President was distracted by the Impeachment trial. He said “came up while we were tied down in the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government, because everything, every day was all about impeachment.”
Trump is aggressively pushing his anti-environment agenda amid a pandemic. It’s inexcusable.
Source: Washington Post
By David J. Hayes April 1, 2020 at 4:11 p.m. EDT
David J. Hayes is executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the NYU School of Law. He was deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the Interior Department during the Obama and Clinton administrations.
The coronavirus pandemic has virtually shut down the U.S. economy. The lights remain on, however, at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, where the Trump administration is working to push through its radical reordering of our nation’s environmental and conservation priorities — pandemic or no.
For Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the novel coronavirus outbreak has emerged at an opportune time. After many false starts and embarrassing court defeats, the administration has moved on from its efforts to put off regulatory deadlines or not enforce existing rules. Now, agencies are racing to roll back environmental standards and privatize public lands before the election-year clock runs out. Their strategy is to plow forward regardless of the public health threat, working at a breakneck pace, undistracted by careful scientific deliberation or feedback from the public, which has been largely sidelined by the virus.AD
Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus emergency exposes this cynical strategy. While using the virus as an excuse to scale back their already-light pollution enforcement activities, the EPA and the Interior Department insist on pushing forward their special interest agenda. They are doing so with the White House’s cooperation, even as courts, businesses, and other federal, state and local agencies push back nonessential deadlines.
The March calendar tells the story. The White House set March 10 as the deadline for public comment on a massive rewrite and weakening put forth in January of National Environmental Policy Act rules. Those rules have guided all federal project approvals for more than 40 years. Pleas for an extension were ignored. Working out of their homes, lawyers in the office of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson helped lead a heroic effort, joined by 18 states and the District of Columbia, to produce and file a highly critical 77-page comment letter. Recall that Washington state was an early U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak at that time.
On March 18, as social distancing measures were implemented across the country, the EPA released a proposal that would give agency scientists license to discount or ignore well-designed, peer-reviewed human health studies. These studies provide the basis for many of our most important air pollution limits, requirements for toxic protection and cleanup, and standards for drinking water. No public hearing on the proposal has been scheduled (nor could it be amid the covid-19 threat). The EPA set a short, 30-day comment period — with no public hearing — that will preclude meaningful input from many in the scientific community. A particularly notable absence would be feedback from the presidents of the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering, who criticized an earlier, more narrow version of this proposal, and who are almost certainly consumed by our national health emergency.
Standing alone, the administration’s anti-environment, anti-conservation and anti-science agenda is an outrage. Continuing to aggressively prosecute the agenda when our country is consumed by a major health emergency is inexcusable.
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