By Matthew Gravatt, Sierra Club
In case you missed it, many of the things that we love and value–like clean air, clean water, good clean energy jobs, and the health of our families–are coming under attack with Donald Trump as president and his polluting ally, Scott Pruitt, as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator. Earlier this year, Trump ordered the EPA and other agencies to consider what rules or protections they could roll back–this executive order was nothing less than a giveaway to corporate polluters and the dirty fuel industry. What’s more, they’re not even giving the public a fair chance to speak out on these rollbacks and to participate in this process.
Trump and Pruitt are actively working undo many of the important safeguards that protect our health and our communities through a sham review process that’s really just a first step in an attempt to gut vital environmental safeguards and public health protections. They will tell us that we have the chance to comment on these protection rollbacks by May 15, but the truth is that the process is a total sham, made easy only for polluters and those who wish to grow their profits at the expense of our health in our communities.
Further, this process largely ignores those who benefit most from environmental and health protections, including: children, seniors, and fence-line communities–often low-income communities and communities of color. These vulnerable communities have been shut out in this current process. In the past, EPA’s rulemaking went to great measures to engage and collaborate with affected communities, this current stage has denied them that opportunity, depriving communities of the justice and fairness due to them in these proceedings.
Communities across the country, and most importantly those most vulnerable to pollution and toxic exposure in the communities where they live or attend school, deserve the fundamental rights that every American enjoys to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment which been thrown into doubt by EPA’s sham review process. It is therefore vital that Pruitt’s EPA reconsider its current process, which is substantively flawed, obviously biased, and procedurally deficient.
The EPA has provided little advance notice, has indicated no interest in holding hearings outside the DC-Metro area, and has given no clear signal even as to which EPA divisions will be involved. Some offices are holding limited, invitation-only sessions, while others are only holding teleconferences in lieu of actually interacting with the public. Scott Pruitt must ensure that the EPA runs an open and balanced process if it is to get a true picture of how these safeguards are keeping communities safe and how they feel about them.
This single-minded (and closed-minded) focus on eliminating protections could have immense consequences on EPA’s core mission to protect human health and the environment. Offices at the agency have delivered enormous benefits to the public in fulfilling their obligations–obligations that a regulatory review will not change. Environmental protections have saved lives, improved health, conserved resources, and spurred innovation, all while allowing for economic growth and providing far more in benefits than they cost.
With so much at stake, it’s more important than ever that American families be given a voice to really speak out about what we care about most.