National Policy Agenda Update

By Jack Clarke

In his first 40 days, President Trump has made it easier for the coal industry to dump their waste into streams, ordered the repeal of Clean Water Act protections for vast stretches of wetlands, proposed massive job cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and prepared to begin revoking the previous administration’s most ambitious climate change regulations.

  • The EPA has halted its inquiry to operators of oil and gas wells that would have required them to report methane emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat 86 time more effectively than CO2 over a 20-year period.
  • US Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s first act was to sign Secretarial Order 3346, which repeals a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directive the previous administration issued the day before President Trump took office barring the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in national parks and wildlife refuges. Secretary Zinke also signed an order to expand hunting, fishing and recreation access on federal lands.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Began a repeal of the Clean Water Rule.
  • Administrator Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao are expected to begin rolling back federal standards for vehicle pollution that contributes to global warming and 1/3 of our own greenhouse gas emissions. The regulations would have required automakers to build passenger cars that achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, compared with about 36 miles per gallon today. EPA will also begin legal proceedings to revoke a waiver for California that had allowed the state to enforce tougher tailpipe standards for its drivers. This all comes at a time when the rest of the world is moving forward with development of electric cars, putting us in a disadvantaged position to compete globally.
  • President Trump is also expected to overturn the previous administration’s moratorium on new federal coal leases. America’s previous pledge to send billions of dollars to United Nations climate programs is also likely on the chopping block. And, President Trump hasn’t ruled out withdrawing the United States from the 200-nation Paris climate agreement, a step that could undercut the international effort to confront global warming.
  • EPA Administrator Pruitt reiterated that he wants to maintain funding to clean up brownfields and Superfund sites, meet unfulfilled air quality standards and keep paying for local water infrastructure. However, an initial version of the proposed federal budget suggests reducing EPA’s overall budget by one-fourth, cutting state air grants by 30 percent, eliminating 3,000 employees and zeroing out 38 programs, according to a summary being circulated by sources familiar with the plan.
  • A US Department of Commerce budget proposal also would cut NOAA’s budget by 18 % in the areas of external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and coastal resilience.

We must remain vigilant in speaking up in opposition to these damaging decisions and will continue to work with the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation and Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in defending America’s national heritage and natural security.