epa

"IMG_3897" by Andy Cook is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

Last week, Democrats in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sat out Scott Pruitt’s confirmation vote. Pruitt had been nominated by President Trump as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and was heavily criticized for his history of accepting money from anti-environmental interest groups. Though this was heralded as a virtuous political statement, the Republicans on the committee managed to approve the vote by changing the rules of Senate appointments. Though many environmentalists see this appointment as the end of the EPA as we know it, the appointment of Scott Pruitt is not the most serious threat to the EPA. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz recently introduced H.R. 861, which has the sole purpose “To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.” Though many might consider nominating a man with no scientific background and conflicts of interest to head the EPA as unethical, what are the ethics of completely disbanding the Environmental Protection Agency as a whole?

"Séance pleinière de la COP21 pour l’adoption de l’accord de Paris (Salle Seine - Le Bourget)" by COP Paris via Flickr (Public Domain)

This past week, following his presidential victory, president-elect Donald Trump named Myron Ebell, a staunch dissenter on climate change, as his head of transition committee for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Alongside Ebell’s nomination, Sarah Palin and Forrest Lucas have been names mentioned in possible positions within the Department of Interior and Department of Energy. The implications these nominations hold  for the future of American environmental policies and climate carry major weight. To fully digest these implications, one must look into Trump’s environmental stances and those of his possible future nominations.

"Indiana Harbor" by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District is licensed under Public domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

The small Indiana town of East Chicago sits roughly 25 miles southeast of downtown Chicago. In late July, East Chicago’s mayor and the Environmental Protection Agency began informing residents that their soil had been contaminated with lead since at least 2014. But it was only a few weeks ago that the city began the process of evacuating nearly 1200 residents out of their housing complexes. The reason for this evacuation coincides with the rich industrial history of East Chicago: the smelting of lead.

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"Sky Factory” by Taras Kalapun is licensed under CC BY 2.0(via Flickr)

On October 1, the Obama administration released a new environmental regulation concerning smog. For those of you that don’t know, smog is an air pollutant that gets its name from a mash-up of the words smoke and fog. It was first seen in London, where clouds of smoke and sulfur would mix with fog to create a thick haze that would hang over the city. While still associated with coal burning, it is now known that VOCs and airborne particulate matter called ozone can also be responsible. The recent law limits the amount of ozone that can be released from factory smokestacks and tailpipes with the intention of reducing smog.

 28th Anniversary, Bhopal Disaster. Women's rally. by Bhopal Medical Appeal (CC BY-NC 2.0)

One would certainly hope that, as far as environmental regulation goes, we are better off than we were fifty years ago. We would hope that novels like Rachel Carson’s ground-shifting Silent Spring, a work chronicling the dangers of the U.S. chemical industry, have made enough of an effect to prevent the author’s dystopian predictions from becoming a reality.