Founded in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency is the one positive legacy left by Richard M. Nixon, one of America’s worst Republican Presidents, the only one forced to resign in disgrace because of his criminal conduct.
The agency, charged with protecting folks from the worst environmental ravages wrought by corporations and developers, the EPA has played a major role in cleaning up the nation’s worst environmental disasters and preventing others.
But with prominent members of the Trump administration opposed to the agency’s vary existence, California legislators announced new measures this week designed to replace threatened federal regulations with new state counterparts.
From the Sacramento Bee:
Fearing a federal rollback of longstanding protections for air quality, clean water, endangered species and workers’ rights, California Democrats are pursuing legislation that would cement those environmental and labor regulations in state law.
The trio of bills announced Thursday also seek to use state authority to block private development of federal lands in California and extend some safeguards to federal whistleblowers.
“Californians can’t afford to go back to the days of unregulated pollution,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said at a press conference. “So we’re not going to let this administration or any other undermine our progress.”
De León and other state senators who joined him Thursday pointed to a litany of developments over recent months that compelled them to act: Trump calling climate change a hoax; proposals to eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, who as attorney general of Oklahoma repeatedly sued the EPA, to lead the agency.
But nationally the threat remains
And it’s very real, with the Trumpies presented with uniquely circumstances boding ill for our world and our descendants.
University of Florida Professor Emeritus of Political Science Walter A. Rosenbaum is uniquely suited to address the threat, being both an internationally recognized academic environmentalist and a former Special Assistant to the EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Policy Planning.
What follows is his analysis, Why Trump’s EPA is far more vulnerable to attack than Reagan’s or Bush’s, an essay written for The Conversation, an open-source academic journal written in conversational English:
For people concerned with environmental protection, including many EPA employees, there is broad agreement: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in deep trouble.
The Trump administration has begun the third, most formidable White House-led attempt in EPA’s brief history to diminish the agency’s regulatory capacity.
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s newly appointed EPA administrator, is a harsh critic and self-described “leading advocate against EPA’s activist agenda.” Pruitt’s intention to reduce EPA’s budget, workforce and authority is powerfully fortified by President Donald Trump’s own determination to repeal major EPA regulations like the Obama’s Clean Power Plan and Climate Action Plan.
Previous presidents have tried to scale back the work of the EPA, but as a former EPA staff member and researcher in environmental policy and politics, I believe the current administration is likely to seriously degrade EPA’s authority and enforcement capacity.
The vanished majorities
This latest assault on EPA is more menacing than previous ones in part because of today’s Republican-led Congress. The Democratic congressional majorities forestalled most past White House efforts to impair the agency’s rulemaking and protected EPA from prolonged damage to its enforcement capability.
Presidents Ronald Reagan (1981-1988) and George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) both sought to cut back EPA’s regulatory activism. Reagan was fixated on governmental deregulation and EPA was a favorite target. His powerful assault on EPA’s authority began with the appointment of Anne Gorsuch, an outspoken EPA critic, as EPA administrator. Gorsuch populated the agency’s leadership positions with like-minded reformers and supervised progressive reductions in EPA’s budget, especially for EPA’s critically important enforcement division, and hobbled the agency’s rule-making – a key step in the regulatory process – while reducing scientific support services.
Bush’s forays against EPA authority were milder, consisting primarily of progressive budget cuts, impaired rule-making and disengagement from international environmental activism.