As Earther senior staff writer Yessenia Funes wrote last week, “pollution is racial violence.” The racist political and economic forces that perpetuate police violence against Black communities and expose communities of color to higher levels of toxic air pollution are the same.
And rather than working to heal a nation in pain, in the middle of a global pandemic that is killing members of the Black and Latinx communities at disproportionately high rates and threatening job security and safety at higher rates as well, President Trump is focused on making things even worse.
Over the last few weeks, President Trump has continued to dismantle environmental policies that protect communities, especially communities of color, and exacerbate environmental racism in the United States. These are just a some of the ways the Trump administration is prioritizing corporate polluters and putting the health and safety of our families at further risk right now:
- Ben Lefebvre at Politico reported this week that President Trump will reverse his administration’s pledge to take drilling off Florida’s beaches “off the table,” which his Interior Department is not rebutting. The move to open Florida’s coast to offshore drilling would put the health and safety of already vulnerable coastal communities, especially communities of color, at even greater risk. Here’s LCV’s statement on the news.
- Last week, Trump issued a new Executive Order that will restrict public input on the environmental impacts of infrastructure projects and, as Adam Aton and Scott Waldman wrote for E&E, will mean that, “communities of color will have fewer ways to protect themselves from pollution and climate change.” The Executive Order waives environmental review requirements under one of our bedrock environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- The same day, Trump’s EPA proposed a new rule that would permanently weaken the federal government’s ability to issue strong clean air and climate rules — potentially hindering a future pro-environment president’s ability to combat the climate crisis. Trump wants corporate polluters to have the power in perpetuity, while communities, especially communities of color, suffer from toxic air pollution.
And those are just the moves making headline news. Under the radar, the Trump administration will stop at nothing to help Big Oil:
- A new report this week found that 62% of “mining” corporations — including oil and gas companies — have gotten almost $4.5 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, part of coronavirus relief intended for small businesses.
- Interior Secretary and former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt quietly, indefinitely extended the terms of the acting directors of the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service this week, bypassing Senate confirmation rules to keep pro-polluter BLM Director William Perry Pendley in charge.
- Since Trump’s EPA stopped pollution monitoring at the start of the pandemic, polluting facilities can release dangerous levels of pollution without notifying nearby residents. This is especially concerning for communities of color most likely to live near sources of toxic pollution.
- The Trump administration has slashed royalty payments for oil companies to help out corporations that drill on our precious public lands.
- The majority, 65%, of the top meetings at Trump’s Interior Department this year have been between oil and gas companies, their lobbyists, and the administration.
- The Trump administration gave $6.8 million in coronavirus relief funds to a corporate oil services firm, SAExploration, that is currently under federal investigation.
All of this comes on top of Trump’s moves in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to perpetuate environmental racism by suspending the EPA’s enforcement of environmental safeguards, disregarding science and not strengthening air quality standards, undermining Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and a whole lot more.
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