New Study Suggests Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks Could Have Dire Consequences

Photo: Flickr/Stiller Beobachter via National Wildlife Federation

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Contributing Writer

Over the course of the Trump presidency, the Trump administration has unraveled nearly all of Obama’s environmental policies. A new report from the Rhodium Group suggests that this could pump 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over the next fifteen years.  “The Trump administration is the first in the history of the agency to devote itself so relentlessly to a rollback agenda without even a pretense of meaningfully reducing environmental pollution,” John Walke, an attorney and senior adviser to the NRDC Action Fund, told The Intercept.

Why this Matters: Trump’s swift reversal of environmental policies is unprecedented in the time since the major environmental laws were enacted, and these actions are likely to have dire impacts if courts uphold them. The cumulative impacts of the rollback of just a few of the most important environmental rules could have a drastic effect on the planet since U.S. emissions impact temperatures across the globe.  And taken together the 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gasses emitted are more than the combined energy emissions of Germany, Great Britain, and Canada in one year, according to The New York Times.

At Least 100 Policies Revoked or Weakened

The Trump administration revoked or impaired at least 100 policies, but here are a few of the most dramatic rollbacks:

  • The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards:  Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, put in place in 2011, limited the emission of mercury and toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants. These pollutants cause increases in heart attacks, so regulating them prevented between 4,000 and 11,000 premature deaths each year. But in April, Trump’s EPA decided to roll back these regulations, perhaps reintroducing these health impacts.
  • Fuel Emission Standards: The Trump administration changed Obama-era rules that required new passenger cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks sold in the United States to become less polluting over time — automakers will now have to improve just 1.5% per year rather than 5% every year.
  • Revoking California’s rights to set its own emissions standards: The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions for the United States, and much of that comes from California. Because of this, California set more strict limits on emissions than the rest of the US, which the Trump administration has since revoked. According to the Rhodium report, “If California and its coalition states lose their ongoing lawsuit against the EPA and the waiver is revoked, this would increase emissions by 573 million metric ton, cumulatively, through 2035.”
  • Methane leaks from landfills, and the oil and gas sector: Methane can warm the planet 36 times as much as carbon dioxide does over a 100-year period. Because of this, the Obama administration issued regulations to capture the methane from decomposing food in landfills, and leaks from natural gas plants. The Trump administration, however, has delayed implementing some of these regulations and revoked others entirely.

States Take Over

 As federal climate policies disappear, cities and states have assumed the mantle. Ignoring Trump altogether, California formed agreements with Volvo, Ford, Honda, BMW, and Volkswagen to increase efficiency for vehicles by 3.7% each year, and many other states have followed suit.

If states continue to implement policies to combat climate change, they could undermine the Trump administration’s rollbacks, and potentially provide the federal government models of climate policies with demonstrated success should Biden win in November.

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