Let’s look at the Trump administration

We all heard the cries that liberals needed to give Trump a chance, so let’s look at two departments under Trump.

First let’s look at the EPA under Scott Pruitt:

  • thinks its mission is to help the fossil fuel industry:

This new agenda for the EPA, bitterly opposed by many of the agency’s staff, was unveiled at the Harvey mine in Sycamore, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. Pruitt, who was presented with an honorary mining helmet, said the federal government’s “war” on coal was over in a speech to assembled miners.

“The coal industry was nearly devastated by years of regulatory overreach, but with new direction from President Trump, we are helping to turn things around for these miners and for many other hardworking Americans,” said Pruitt.

Though Pruitt insisted that clean air and water will be maintained in this purge, the choice of venue for the announcement was jarring.

Consol Energy, which operates the Bailey Mine complex which includes the Harvey mine, was fined $3m in August for discharging contaminated wastewater into streams that flow into the Ohio river. In the settlement with the EPA and the justice department, it emerged that the mining operation exceeded effluent limits at least 188 times between 2006 and 2015.

He also doesn’t seem to care about pesticides:

The EPA administrator also recently decided to reject the conclusion of his own agency’s scientists who recommended that a widely used pesticide, chlorpyrifos, should be banned from farms.

EPA scientists warned that the pesticides could cause severe harm to children and farm workers, but Pruitt said chlorpyrifos would not be banned in order to provide “regulatory certainty” to businesses.

And he has his priorities straight (bold added):

The EPA has been targeted by the Trump administration for stringent budget cuts. The agency has drawn up a plan that would lay off 25% of its employees and scrap 56 programs, including pesticide safety, lead toxicity and environmental justice. There would be new funding, however, for a 24-hour security detail for Pruitt.

  • He really seems to want increased pollution from coal:

The hulking Gallatin Fossil Plant sits on a scenic bend of the Cumberland River about 30 miles upstream from Nashville. In addition to generating electricity, the plant, built in the early 1950s by the Tennessee Valley Authority, produces more than 200,000 tons of coal residue a year. That coal ash, mixed with water and sluiced into pits and ponds on the plant property, has been making its way into groundwater and the river, potentially threatening drinking water supplies, according to two current lawsuits.

A new rule regulating the monitoring, safe storage and disposal of coal ash went into effect in 2015. This past week, however, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a letter to a Minnesota environmental official that the agency would reconsider the rule and delay the 2018 compliance deadline for states.

President Trump’s top environment official called Thursday for an exit from the historic Paris agreement, in what appeared to be the first time such a high-ranking official has so explicitly disavowed the agreement endorsed by nearly 200 countries to fight climate change.

Speaking with ‘‘Fox & Friends,’’ Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt said, ‘‘Paris is something that we need to really look at closely. It’s something we need to exit in my opinion.’’

‘‘It’s a bad deal for America,’’ Pruitt continued. ‘‘It was an America second, third, or fourth kind of approach. China and India had no obligations under the agreement until 2030. We front-loaded all of our costs.’’

Then there’s Betsy DeVos, that supremely unqualified leader of the Department of Education.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is inexplicably backing away from rules that are meant to prevent federal student loan borrowers from being fleeced by companies the government pays to collect the loans and to guide people through the repayment process.

On Tuesday, she withdrew a sound Obama administration policy that required the Education Department to take into account the past conduct of loan servicing companies before awarding them lucrative contracts — and to include consumer protections in those contracts as well.

A suit brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau claims that Navient saved itself money by steering borrowers into costly repayment strategies that added billions in interest to their balances. But as Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg reported in The Times on Monday, states’ lawsuits are especially damning with respect to Sallie Mae — the company that spun off Navient in 2014.

Most people would think that such a company shouldn’t get more business with the federal government, but not our Secretary of Education.

  • She hired someone even less qualified than she is, which I would have thought was impossible:

The new acting head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights once complained that she experienced discrimination because she is white.

A longtime anti-Clinton activist and an outspoken conservative-turned-libertarian, she has denounced feminism and race-based preferences. She’s also written favorably about, and helped edit a book by, an economist who decried both compulsory education and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Now that’s impressive. Scott Pruitt has sued the EPA and Rick Perry now heads an agency he once wanted to get rid of, but the new head of the Education’s Office for Civil Rights has worked for someone who was against the Civil Rights Act and compulsory education. You can see her thinking in these quotes:

“As with most liberal solutions to a problem, giving special assistance to minority students is a band-aid solution to a deep problem,” she wrote. “No one, least of all the minority student, is well served by receiving special treatment based on race or ethnicity.”

“In today’s society, women have the same opportunities as men to advance their careers, raise families, and pursue their personal goals,” she wrote. “College women who insist on banding together by gender to fight for their rights are moving backwards, not forwards.”

It’s almost as if she doesn’t believe racism or sexism exist, which is kind of weird for a head of a civil rights division.

She’s also blatant in her hypocrisy and partisanship:

In 2005, Jackson wrote a book on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Bill Clinton, titled “Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine.” She gained national attention last October after she arranged for several of Bill Clinton’s accusers to attend a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Jackson sat with the women in the front of the audience. A few days before the debate, Jackson established Their Lives Foundation. In registration documents, she described two of its purposes as “giving public voice to victims of women who abuse positions of power” and “advocating for and against candidates for political office.”

Less than a week after the debate, Jackson posted on Facebook that her foundation “supports all victims of power abusers,” but labeled Trump’s accusers “fake victims.”

 

This same kind of thing is true in almost every part of the Trump administration, which is why we didn’t want to give Trump a chance. We knew how bad he could be.

I wonder if Lake Erie will die again

Donald Trump has decided that fossil fuels trump the environment:

The far-reaching order he unveiled Tuesday instructs federal regulators to rewrite key Obama-era rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions — namely the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s electric plants. It also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

In sum, it amounts to a wholesale rebuke of Obama’s environmental efforts.

Several of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to change broader economic trends that are pushing the nation toward cleaner sources of energy than coal. But the order sent an unmistakable message about the direction in which Trump wants to take the country — toward unfettered oil and gas production, with an apathetic eye to worries over global warming.

This is stupid in terms of jobs because the number of jobs in the renewable energy is increasing:

Clean energy jobs have seen incredible growth in recent years, with solar and wind jobs growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. According to a 2015 report from the Environmental Defense Fund, renewable energy jobs in the United States enjoyed a 6 percent compound annual growth rate between 2012 and 2015. Fossil fuel jobs, by contrast, had a negative 4.5 percent compound annual growth rate over the same time period. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s fastest growing profession over the next decade is likely to be a wind turbine technician.

so this statement is true but in a stupid way:

“This is an important moment for EPA,” chief of staff Ryan Jackson wrote. “As the Administrator has mentioned many times, we do not have to choose between environmental protection and economic development.”

The Trump administration didn’t want to choose which, the environment or economic development, to make worse so it chose both.

Who needs clean water?

Via here we get to see the priorities of the Trump administration:

The proposal would virtually eliminate annual Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding, slashing it from $300 million to $10 million among other cuts that would altogether reduce the EPA’s total budget by a quarter.

The Great Lakes funding cut is the largest total dollar reduction on a list that includes major cuts to climate change programs, restoration funding for Puget Sound and Chesapeake Bay, research into chemicals that disrupt human reproductive and developmental systems, enforcement of pollution laws and funding for Brownfield cleanups.

The plan also includes a $13 million cut in compliance monitoring, which the EPA uses to ensure the safety of drinking water systems. State grants for beach water quality testing would also be eliminated.

Other EPA cuts in the plan include a 30 percent reduction in state and local air grants from 2017 levels, a 24 percent cut to the overall budget, decrease of staffing by 19 percent, elimination of the Indoor Air Radon Program and state indoor radon grants, elimination of the Environmental Justice office and a reduction of environmental justice funds by more than 77 percent from 2017 levels, according to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

Hey, remember when water pollution was so bad that rivers caught fire?

Trump doesn’t want anyone to know what the government does

Well, this is fun:

Emails sent to EPA staff since President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday and reviewed by The Associated Press detailed specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency’s social media accounts.

The Trump administration has also ordered what it called a temporary suspension of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors. The orders were expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide.

Similar orders barring external communications have been issued by the Trump administration at other federal agencies in recent days, including the Agriculture and Interior departments.

Well, if by fun you mean the potential destruction of our democracy. That sounds melodramatic, but a democracy can’t survive without free and open information–that’s why a Free Press is part of the Constitution. Now, we do get this:

Doug Ericksen, the communications director for Trump’s transition team at EPA, said he expects the communications ban to be lifted by the end of this week.

‘‘We’re just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration,’’ Ericksen said.

If true that’s good but since these prohibitions because the Interior Department sent out a Tweet which showed how much smaller the crowds were at Trump’s inauguration than they were at Obama’s in 2009, don’t be surprised if these types of prohibitions become common in the years ahead.

Now that’s an interesting point

Here are a few stories in today’s Boston Globe:

one on the EPA tightening pollution standards:

‘‘The Clean Power Plan is one of the most far-reaching energy regulations in this nation’s history,’’ said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, among those leading the challenges. ‘‘I have a responsibility to protect the lives of millions of working families, the elderly, and the poor, from such illegal and unconscionable federal government actions.’’

Yes, that is indeed someone arguing that he is trying to protect lives by trying to allow higher amounts of pollution.

a second on police:

With his remarks, Comey lent the prestige of the FBI, the nation’s most prominent law enforcement agency, to a theory that is far from settled: that the increased attention on the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals. But Comey acknowledged that there is so far no data to back up his assertion and that it may be just be one of many factors that are contributing to the rise in crime, like cheaper drugs and an increase in criminals being released from prison.

“I don’t know whether that explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year,” Comey said in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School.

Comey is arguing that trying to make sure police follow the law makes them less likely to do their job. He adds:

“Lives are saved when those potential killers are confronted by a police officer, a strong police presence and actual, honest-to-goodness, up-close ‘What are you guys doing on this corner at 1 o’clock in the morning’ policing,” Comey said. “We need to be careful it doesn’t drift away from us in the age of viral videos, or there will be profound consequences.”

Somehow this applies to everyone except the police, who should be left alone.

Bad news

15 years ago NASA launched a satellite to measure Earth and it shows explicitly the terrible work the EPA has done. First, here’s a picture of the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the US (Credit:

NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/T. Schindler):
sequence-01-reduced_2
You might be thinking that this is good news since nitrogen dioxide is a poison, but since this is a result of policies set by the EPA it must be bad news.
The second picture looks at the level of carbon monoxide over the globe (Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory):
14-mopitt_april_2000-2014
Scientists have found that levels have been dropping at a rate of 1% per year since 2000. You might again think this is good news since carbon monoxide is one of the main ingredients in smog and is also a poison, but again this has come about mostly from government regulations so must be bad.

Regulations

One of the problems with President Obama is framing. In some sense, he is correct that we should always review regulations to get rid of outdated or useless ones but when he says:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday pushed back against GOP charges that he is saddling the nation with costly and overly burdensome regulations. In fact, Obama argued, he has led the way in trying to reduce the federal government’s regulatory costs on individuals and businesses across the country.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Obama said his efforts to reduce the government’s regulatory burden will save $10 billion over the next five years, adding that he hopes to find billions more in additional savings. Earlier this year, Obama issued an executive order imposing a series of requirements designed to reduce burdens and costs and called for a government-wide review of rules now on the books.

“A mere fraction of the initiatives described in the plans will save more than $10 billion over the next five years,” Obama wrote. “As progress continues, we expect to be able to deliver savings far in excess of that figure.”

then he’s arguing in Republican terms and he’s going to lose. Republicans will be willing to get rid of a lot more regulation than Obama. The point should be that you don’t get rid of regulation to save money, you get rid of regulations that don’t work. Regulations have made the US a much better place: the air and water are cleaner; businesses don’t outright lie to us; food and drugs are safer and better; the economy is more stable. Boehner goes on about how much EPA regulations cost (and the cost of new regulations is almost always overestimated) but says nothing about the lives it will save.

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