By Kunlere Idowu
Inspired by President Trump’s vision of remodeling America’s environmental management landscape, the US Senate Thursday embarked on a new wave of alacritous repeal of some laws which environmentalists say were meant to protect the environment. Notwithstanding the opposition to the repeals, they passed with little resistance.
While the Trump administration says its support for the aggressive efforts at repealing these laws is to ensure unhindered job creation, critics say it is a subtle declaration of war against the previous Obama administration under which the laws were made, and an attempt by President Trump to appease powerful interests in the oil and gas industry.
First on the list of recent casualties is the “stream protection rule” which outlawed dumping of waste into surrounding waterways during operations by coal-mining companies. The rule which was first put in place by the Interior Department under Obama prohibited ultra-polluting activities by coal-mining companies which could irreversibly pollute natural water bodies, including streams and others that serve as source of drinking water for residents. The rule also made it mandatory for polluting mining companies to remediate concerns in polluted streams outside permit areas and restore them to within specified limits.
In a related move, the Senate also undid a rule put in place under Obama to drastically reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations on federal land. Several pro-Trump lawmakers argue that the old rules hindered job creation, led to job loss, stifled initiatives and creativity, and were unnecessarily expensive for the oil companies to implement. They say the repeals of the obnoxious laws would help President Trump deliver on his campaign promises of undoing “job-killing and destructive regulations”.
With the Republican Party firmly in control of the Senate and the House, repeal of these laws will be easy and readily available for President Donald Trump’s assent.
Critics and environmental activists have vowed not to be quiet and are not taking the repeals lightly nor giving up the fight. They have been quick to point out the that Trump administration is putting private interests in the oil industry above the well-being of the American people.
One of the leading dissenting voices, Michael Brine who is the executive director of the Sierra Club, was quoted in a press release as saying “No matter who you are or where you live, you have a right to clean water — but this shameless attack puts families and communities at risk.” He added, “This attempt to scrap the Stream Protection Rule is a clear case of putting polluters’ profits ahead of the basic well-being of vulnerable communities, and we must do everything we can to stop it.”
The point, however, must be made that environmental management does not have to impede or stifle job creation, industrial revolution or national development. When due commitment is made with the right tools in place, due diligence to environmental protection not only encourage creativity and innovations, sustainably create jobs, and advance national development, it also will secure the natural environment for current and future generations. As heated debates continue in the US on the role and extent of intervention by environmental authorizes, intense struggles and hard choices lie ahead.
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