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Op-Ed: An environmental legacy is about to be thrown out

One Utah Republican, Representative Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said, “Obama may be in danger of losing his entire legacy,” according to ABC News. And reversing that legacy could come with just the stroke of a pen when Trump takes office in January.

As some people say, it is much easier to break things than it is to create them, and Obama has created some outstanding environmental protections that impact people all across the country, from restricting methane gas emissions, to prioritizing endangered species protection.

Obama has raised fuel-efficiency standards and signed into law the Clean Power Act, reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. He also gave us the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009 (aka the Stimulus Bill or Recovery Act).

President-elect Trump’s future administration has some powerful legislative tools he can wield in reversing some of Obama’s initiatives, including one called the Congressional Review Act of 1996. That law allows Congress to overturn rules recently made by an outgoing president as long as both chambers of Congress and the president approve.

The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan group, said the law would apply to any legislation made after May 20 in 2016. Surprisingly, it has only been used one time, and that was to overturn a 2000 rule on workplace ergonomics made by the Clinton Administration.

The commitment of the GOP to make change
Perhaps the greatest damage to come will be in the energy sector. I am referring to Trump’s promise to knock down the moratorium on coal sales and mining claim withdrawals. The Trump administration favors a national reinvestment in coal mining, regardless of the negative impact the industry has on health, land use, waste management, water and air pollution.

Donald Trump has bragged that America will be a place where citizens will have clean water and clean air to breathe. We already have clean air to breathe as well as clean water to drink, and it is because of laws and regulations that are enforced. We don’t hear reports of odd-even driving regulations in some of our major cities because the air quality is more like driving through pea soup.

People forget, or maybe just don’t want to remember that with a House and Senate top-heavy with Republicans when President Obama took office eight years ago, there was very little legislation that ever got passed, period. This was because Republicans had decided to do everything they could to upset the Obama administration’s apple cart.

For that reason, Obama put together a number of legislative packages to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Obama used his “executive privilege,” bypassing Congress to get the rules on the books. But this means Trump can use those same privileges as President to dismantle the environmental laws.

Here are a few of the initiativess Trump has said he will cancel or target when he takes office in January:
1. The Paris Climate Agreement is a worldwide initiative based on scientific evidence that aims to keep greenhouses gasses in check and reduce the impact of climate change by keeping temperatures below a certain level. The U.S. promised to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent from its 2005 levels, by the year 2025.

Trump has said he would “cancel” the agreement, and despite many people saying it will be difficult to do, all Trump has to do is stop enforcing any of Obama’s climate change initiatives, and he is already prepared to do just that with his appointment of climate deniers to key cabinet positions.

2. The Clean Power Act is meant to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, primarily coal-fired plants. The plan allows the states to decide how they will come into compliance with cutting emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. If Trump has his way, the plan will be scrapped.

As it is, the Clean Power Act was stalled in February in the Supreme Court until around two dozen lower court challenges brought by states and power industry companies are decided. But it has been documented that power plants are the largest single source of carbon pollution in the U.S., according to the EPA.

3. Methane emission rules released this year by the EPA focus on cutting the release of the highly potent greenhouse gas by targeting “fugitive” methane emissions in the oil and gas industry. Leaking methane gas from equipment used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking enters the atmosphere. The industry has been asked to fix the problem, and in most cases, they already have been working on it.

But Trump has said he will strip the energy regulations, giving free-reign for the oil and gas industry to produce more oil and gas. The methane rules have been challenged in court, and critics of the rule point out that the industry is already tackling the problem.

The problem with stripping all the regulations governing the energy industry is too horrendous to even dwell on for too long. Keep in mind that fracking has been linked to the increase in earthquakes in regions where fracking takes place. And just last week, the EPA’s study on water contamination linked to fracking came out.

And we have not touched on Trump wanting to open Arctic waters and both the nation’s coasts to offshore drilling. Too many people have been involved in getting safeguards in place to protect fragile regions in our world from being destroyed by humankind, and we must not stop now.

It is hard to believe that anyone would want to reverse course, going back to an era where the water we drink was contaminated, and the air was full of pollution. We have made great strides in cleaning up the environment and these actions have resulted in a healthier planet, yet there is still work to be done. Let’s hope Trump won’t destroy everything we have worked for.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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