State, federal reps must fight environmental rollbacks
The coronavirus has devastated our collective health, along with the system we have in place to care for us when we get sick.
We can’t let the federal government use the national emergency as an opportunity to make it worse by loosening environmental regulations.
These rollbacks — on everything from auto emissions, to what coal-makers can put into the air and water, to allowing more particulates to be discharged — threaten the air that we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we walk on, the ground our children play in, the place where wildlife live, and our collective safety.
Yes, we want to help businesses succeed, particularly in this economy. And environmental regulations do indeed place a financial burden on many companies.
But do we really want to place their financial interests above our own health and the health of our children and grandchildren?
And should the federal government really be exploiting a worldwide pandemic to sneak through harmful regulatory changes while we’re distracted by this disease?
If the federal government won’t protect us, it’s up to us, as stewards of this planet and determiners of our own destinies, to demand action from our state and federal representatives.
State lawmakers have a responsibility to pass laws to protect our environment. Our state attorney general has a responsibility to challenge irresponsible actions that threaten to harm our citizens.
And our representatives in Congress have a responsibility to fight back against actions by the administration that go against their obligation to serve We the People.
In the past few months, the Trump administration has proposed rolling back an estimated 100 major environmental regulations.
The changes to the regulations, many of which have been in place for decades, have even drawn opposition from staff scientists within the administration.
The New York Times reported in late March that some scientists were inserting information into the rollbacks, such as vital statistical data, in order to help support legal challenges to the changes they were making.
If the federal government’s own scientists are against the changes, how can we not be?
Officials in several states have already either filed lawsuits or have announced plans to file suit against rollbacks in Obama-era vehicle emission standards.
We wrote about these changes last month and urged our state officials to take action.
These changes will result in 1 billion more tons of carbon dioxide being released into the environment through the burning of 80 billion more gallons of gasoline.
That’s particularly relevant to our current health situation, as those with respiratory ailments are particularly vulnerable to the most harmful effects of coronavirus, which primarily attacks the lungs.
In exchange for these rollbacks, customers will save about $1,000 on the price of a new car while spending more on gasoline.
But there are other changes the state must fight as well.
The administration is holding the line on how much fine soot a company can discharge into the air, a regulation that scientists say contributes to 45,000 deaths per year.
According to a Times analysis of federal scientific data, tightening these regulations by just 25% could save more than 12,000 lives a year.
A new relaxation of an administration rule relating to coal emissions could contribute to 1,400 premature deaths per year, government scientist say.
And last week, two separate coalitions of environmental groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers over rollbacks to the Clean Water Act.
The groups are particularly concerned about regulations relating to federally protected waterways, including streams.
New York lawmakers and officials can’t let their guard down as our environmental protections are taken away during the pandemic.
And we, as citizens, can’t let them get complacent about what’s happening by doing nothing ourselves.