The Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018 list of accomplishments touts policies that make it much easier and cheaper for polluters to pollute.
But the administration’s record is hardly painted that way in acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler’s “Year in Review” report.
Topping Wheeler’s list of 2018 achievements is pushing through “13 major deregulatory actions, almost one a month.” Since the beginning of the Trump administration, the report says, the EPA “has finalized 33 major deregulatory actions, saving Americans almost $2 billion,” he brags.
That claim needs annotation, said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook.
“The Americans Wheeler is talking about are the corporations fouling our water, polluting our air and exposing children to more pesticides,” Cook said. “If there was an award for the 2018 breakout performance on behalf of polluters it would go to Andrew Wheeler.”
But, without offering any proof to back up the rhetoric, Wheeler’s report does pay lip service to what the EPA is supposed to do.
One of the most important things it can do is ensuring that kids grow up in healthy and safe environments. Children are uniquely vulnerable to the ill health effects of environmental hazards found in their everyday environments.
But the following are some of the actions taken by Wheeler that actually will put the health of America’s children at risk:
- Approving scores of new toxic chemicals without adequate safety reviews.
- Fighting a federal court ruling ordering the EPA to carry out a ban on the brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos.
- Gutting an Obama-era rule that has dramatically cut emissions of mercury, a highly toxic chemical known to harm the nervous systems of children and fetuses. The Obama rule has cut emissions of mercury and other heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic, from coal-fired power plants by 70 percent.
- Repealing and replacing Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants in order to save lives and lower the number of children suffering from asthma. The Trump/Wheeler replacement plan, according to researchers at Harvard University, would mean 36,000 premature deaths and more than 600,000 cases of childhood respiratory disease each decade.
- Abruptly and without explanation placing Dr. Ruth Etzel, the EPA’s top children’s health official, on administrative leave.
- According to news reports, declining to set a legal limit on the PFAS family of chemicals widespread in the nation’s drinking water – chemicals linked to cancer, thyroid disease and weakened childhood immunity.
- Repealing critical safeguards that prohibit the dumping of pollution into sensitive waterways that provide tap water for more than 117 million Americans.
Perhaps Wheeler was closer to the truth when he was asked by The Washington Post to list just three policies he and the Trump administration were executing to combat air and water pollution.
“I’m not sure I’m going to be able to give three off the top of my head,” he replied.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.