EPA in Turmoil

EPA Ungagged

A lot has happened since President Trump’s inauguration. At Air Alliance Houston, that means more than just controversial newsletter articles. We are already being impacted by changes happening at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Several of our friends have already asked us what we think about changes at EPA and how they might affect us. I thought it might be useful to give a few examples.

The Trump Administration immediately froze all grants and contracts by the EPA. Air Alliance Houston regularly applies for EPA funding. The last project we received funding for was Ozone Theater, our award-winning educational curricula. Those lessons were designed with EPA funding. More recently, we were just about to submit a grant to the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grant program. Now that grant funding has been frozen, we have been advised not to submit that grant. Our good friends at t.e.j.a.s. are also currently conducting environmental monitoring in Manchester using an EJ Small Grant. Without EPA grant funding, these opportunities will stop coming to Houston.

 

Next, the Trump Administration seems intent on outright climate denial. All indications are that he will eventually stop funding climate science at NASA. This would be a blow to employment in Space City. We also have colleagues who have already been impacted by the purging of climate information from EPA’s webpage. I know of one colleague who can no longer locate online an EPA report he was using in his research.

 

Climate denial as a White House policy has the potential to impact some very important work in Houston. Jim Blackburn and the SSPEED Center at Rice University are working feverishly to prepare Houston for the next big storm–a disaster that is really only a matter of time in coming. Their work relies on on up-to-date climate science and related projections on climate impacts. If the federal government stops funding climate science, that will hinder the efforts of forward thinking states and academic institutions in the areas of climate adaptation and resilience.

 

At Air Alliance Houston, many of our largest victories in recent years have been via legal action taken against the EPA. Both the Refinery Air Toxics Rule and the new Emissions Factor rules for flares were the result of lawsuits we filed against the EPA. In recent years, we have been able to work with EPA and judges to arrive at settlements of those lawsuits that led to new rule makings to protect public health. Now we have an administration that is going so far as to ignore court orders. If this continues, it is hard to imagine how we will settle legal disputes with the EPA in the future.

 

Finally, Trump’s approach to environmental regulation will likely be to leave it “up to the states.” If this happens, then very little will be done to protect public health in Texas. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has no real inclination to pursue environmental enforcement. In fact, most of the progress that Texas has made on air quality since the 1970’s has been in order to meet federal mandates. Without someone enforcing those mandates, we just can’t expect much to get done in Texas.

 

If you’re a little unnerved by what you’re hearing about the future of the Environmental Protection Agency, we suggest you check out ungagged EPA. This rogue Twitter account–secretly managed by unknown persons at EPA–is a reminder that there are still thousands of good people working to keep our air, water, and land safe and healthy for all Americans. We may have some tough times ahead, but there will always be good people–including those of us at Air Alliance Houston–working to keep us safe.