Trump and His New EPA Head Target Proposals for Safer Beaches and Sewage Plants
Donald Trump has put the Environmental Protection Agency in the crosshairs. He and his new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have launched a multi-front assault on the agency responsible for protecting human health and the natural environment.
In just his first 10 days heading the agency, Pruitt and Trump have:
- Stalled proposed standards for safe beaches that could protect swimmers from toxic algae blooms that can cause liver damage and kidney failure.
- Put off renewing regulations about what records sewage sludge treatment plants are required to keep, records that help the EPA target offenders.
- Delayed long-planned regulations that would limit releases of toxic gasses by some especially troublesome sewage treatment plants, including those affecting three of the nation’s biggest cities.
Trump’s proposed budget is expected to decimate the EPA. Myron Ebell, who led the transition team at the EPA, has said the agency could be trimmed by two-thirds of its workforce.
On Saturday, Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general and oil industry stooge who made a career fighting the EPA, told the Conservative Political Action Conference that people are “justified” in wanting to see the agency eliminated.
“I think people across this country look at the EPA much as they look at the IRS,” he said.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Pruitt to head the EPA just days before emails were released that detailed how closely he has worked with utilities and others to undermine environmental protections. Senate Democrats unsuccessfully tried to stall the vote until after the emails were released.
Pruitt has told EPA employees that regulating polluters should mostly be left up to the states. Some EPA employees had urged senators not to confirm Pruitt.
Trump is expected to sign at least two executive orders that will gut President Obama’s efforts to prevent the worst of climate change.
The proposed beach standards were based on a report done during the Obama administration. The Trump EPA has asked for more time for people to weigh in on the report.
The sewage sludge regulations were first adopted in 1971 and have been amended several times since then. Trump’s EPA wants more time to review the regulations.
The Trump administration has also stalled regulations that would limit releases of toxic gasses by four problem sewage treatment plants in mostly minority neighborhoods in New York and Milwaukee. It also would impose more restrictions on plants in Harris County in Texas (Houston) and Hopewell, Va. (near Richmond), that mostly treat industrial waste.
His administration gave the sewage industry another month, until March 29, to comment on the impact of the proposed regulation that has been years in the making.
Trump has a personal connection to one of those sewage treatment plants. One of his projects got a permit to connect to the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Harlem, one of the worst in the nation for releasing toxic gasses such as xylene, a solvent that can damage the liver and kidneys, and formaldehyde which may cause cancer. The toxic gasses are released while processing chemical waste from local businesses.
New York’s Riverbank State Park is built on top that sewage treatment plant in a mostly minority neighborhood in Harlem and features an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a skating rink. About 3.6 million people visited the park in 2016.