The Environment 2018: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

2018 is drawing to a close. It was an exhausting year, but I’m excited about 2019. In fact, I’m counting down the days to January 3, when the House of Representatives turns Democratic. (Yes, every vote counts!)

It’s impossible to keep up with the news cycle, but there are a few glimpses of good news.

Before I accentuate the positive, let’s get the negative out of the way:

  • Trump’s EPA — under the leadership of Andrew Wheeler — has hit its lowest, in its radical agenda to destroy protections against pollution. EPA has launched a process to sabotage and ultimately destroy our Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. These are protections that keep a terrible poison from harming babies’ brains. This  is proof that Trump’s EPA will stop at nothing to protect polluter profits.
  • According to a New York Times report, Trump’s efforts to decrease the efficacy of the car emissions rulings had a helping hand from Marathon Petroleum.
  • Trump’s EPA, along with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, has moved to roll back the standards put in place to keep our water safe. They were originally instituted by President George H.W. Bush.
  • Trump’s EPA has closed the book on a civil rights complaint in the African-American community of Tallassee, Alabama, underscoring that Environmental Justice has taken a hit under their watch. Chalk it up to politics.
  • Protection for the at-risk sage grouse have been loosened, to facilitate new oil exploration.
  • The seven-person Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) has eliminated the subcommittees of scientific experts need to furnish guidance on “ozone and particulate standards.” Chris Frey, former chair of CASAC from 2012 to 2015, has been highly critical.
  • Poor air quality has forced children in Utah to stay indoors. Brian Moench, who I previously interviewed, recently spoke about the impact of poor air quality on kids. He stated, “There are now many studies that show air pollution affects the ability of our school children to actually learn at school. It affects their ability to think. Air pollution that a child breathes on the way to school can affect their ability to learn that same day at school.”
  • Increased exposure to air pollution, even for a small time frame, can increase the threat of miscarriage in women by 16%.
  • Trump’s EPA is looking to alter the Obama regulations which directed that the maximum of 1400 pounds of carbon be emitted per mega watt-hour…to 1900 pounds.
  • The Trump administration is seeking to turn nineteen million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into an oil drilling field, making short-term financial profits a priority. While insects continue to diminish in number, Trump’s EPA is considering a request by Dow Chemical to expand the use of their poisonous product, sulfoxaflor.
  • A new study has proposed that “a growing body of evidence strongly suggests an association between PM2·5 pollution and the risk of diabetes.
  • Under Trump, relations between China and America have deteriorated. This will impact joint action on climate change from the two top global carbon emitters (40 percent total).

The good news:

  • Ryan Zinke steps down. Perhaps the thought of a serious Congressional look into his actions was the motivator. Regardless, he’s gone.
  • Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, the state which holds the number two ranking for gas production, has proposed stronger rules for oil and gas emissions from extraction fields. This would reduce methane emissions.
  • During the United Nations climate change talks in Katowice, Poland, over 1,000 institutions agreed to divest from fossil fuels. Faith-based organizations made up 28 percent of those on board.
  • The Keystone Pipeline project is back on hold, thanks to the judge who rejected the Trump executive order to proceed.
  • Renewable energies are increasingly being adapted by corporate entities.
  • Youth climate activism is growing. Example: Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg.
  • The hole in the ozone is shrinking. Negative effects could be reversed by the 2060s.

For thoughts on how new leadership will impact the fight to protect the environment, I reached out Rep. Nancy Pelosi. She responded by e-mail:

“On Election Day, voters delivered a resounding verdict against Washington Republicans’ attacks on the health of our families, democracy and planet. Mothers have been on the frontlines of the climate fight since day one, and their strong voices and advocacy have been critical to changing the national conversation and forging progress on this looming crisis. Our House Democratic Majority will make fighting the climate crisis a top priority, and looks forward to the courageous leadership that America’s mothers will bring as we fight for a clean energy future for all our children. Together, we can create the good-paying clean jobs of the future, take bold action to fight the devastation of the climate crisis and safeguard clean air, clean water and public lands for the generations to come.”


This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force .

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