Brief # 112 Environment Policy
Reunited; Science and Government… And It feels so good.
Written by: Shannon Q. Elliott
April 20, 2021
Biden and Harris walked into a cyclone of environmental ludicrousness as they entered The White House. The previous four years disavowed regulatory science, and neglected to create policies which would support public health and the environment. The policies enacted during the Trump era are now being reevaluated via Executive Order (EO) “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” Under the EO, federal agencies will vet existing environmental policies, vowing to hold polluters accountable, and discuss innovative ways in which to restore and confront environmental crisis.
As a result of President Biden’s EO; several Trump era environmental policies have been rescinded by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The mission of the CEQ is to work within the Executive Office to improve and protect American public health as well as the environment. The CEQ will work alongside entities such as (but not limited to) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), United States Forest Service, United States Department of Energy, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taking immediate steps to set forth consistent and relevant law which prioritizes national health and environmental justice. In the meantime, Trump rollbacks will continue to remain active until each agency agrees on how to move forward with appropriate actions to sequester greenhouse gases.
One of the most significant pieces of legislation undergoing CEQ and EPA review, is The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Enacted in 1970, NEPA requires federal agencies to “act as trustees of the environment for succeeding generations.” EPA.gov puts it simply “This policy requires the federal government to use all practicale means to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.”
The language of NEPA was reworked under Trump in 2020 favoring the oil and gas industries. Void of public morality, Trump declared war on the scientific community when he tailored the 50-year-old legislation to ease permitting processes for large corporations and their multimillion-dollar infrastructure projects. Trump insisted that the environmental “red tape” was unnecessary and the hurdles put in place to conserve natural resources stifled jobs and economic growth.
Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the linkage between modern science and the declining health of the environment, soured the relationship between scientific scholars and the federal government. It became evident that the now ex-President had no intentions of incorporating intellectual studies that would protect our decaying country. Tensions escalated, and practical safeguards were ignored. At the peak of the Trump presidency, emissions soared to their highest number since 2014, totaling 5.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide dispersed into the atmosphere.
The White House website states that “President Biden will take swift action to tackle the climate emergency. The Biden Administration will ensure we meet the demands of science, while empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution.”
We must have an administration in place that respects the opinions of those who have dedicated their lives studying environmental impacts. They will be the ones to most accurately depict how to move forward combating environmental damage attributed to climate change, rising greenhouse emissions and other “acts of god” which are a direct result of environmental negligence.
Biden is hopeful that the changes mandated in the E.O. will repair the relationship with the scientific community. He is asking them to take a leadership role in the ratification of environmental policies, which will play a vital role in present and future policy reconstruction. Failure to mend frayed relationships between government and science could have devastating consequences for future public policy making.
The Executive Order ““Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” can be found Here
Friedman, L. (2021, March). EPA to review attacks on science under Trump. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/03/24/nation/epa-review-attacks-science-under-trump/
Gardner, T. (2021). Trump’s EPA finalizes last minute limits on science used in rulemaking. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-science/trumps-epa-finalizes-last-minute-limits-on-science-used-in-rulemaking-idUSKBN29A0BY
Hahn, J. (2020, July). Trump’s NEPA Rollback Favors More Pollution and Less Community Input. https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/trumps-nepa-rollback-favors-more-pollution-and-less-community-input
National Environmental Law Center https://nelconline.org/
Project NEPA https://protectnepa.org/
The White House https://www.whitehouse.gov/