White Pesticide Residue on Citrus Trees in California  Photo: Gabriella Demczuk, The New York Times

The New York Times published a major investigation over the holidays explaining the real-life impacts of the Trump Administration’s environmental regulation rollbacks and reversals by telling the stories of agricultural workers in California sickened by looser standards on pesticide use, residents near a coal-fired power plant in Houston who are exposed to increased carbon dioxide pollution, of the contamination of the Kanawha River in West Virginia threatening drinking water supplies and endangering the residents of “Chemical Valley,” and of the dangers caused by the flaring of methane gas from oil wells on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota causing the residents to breathe toxic benzene and other chemicals not to mention the resulting waste of gas.

The Times reporters, Pulitzer-winners Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, and John Branch, reached five major conclusions after examining each rollback’s impact in depth.

  • The Obama Environmental Legacy Is Quickly Being Erased: Obama carefully developed many environmental rules over the course of his 8 years in office and Trump is ripping them up in short order;
  • The Entire Nation Is Being Impacted: no region of the country has been spared the impacts of the rollbacks and many communities have been bitterly divided by the rapid actions;
  • The Rollbacks Are Comprehensive In the Environment: the rule changes have impacted air, water, oceans, land conservation, toxic chemicals, and pesticides;
  • The Trump Promise to Bring Back Coal is Unfulfilled Despite the Rollbacks: coal consumption is at its lowest point in decades as coal power plants continue to close despite the government’s actions to prop them up; and
  • Progress and Setbacks Lag Behind Government Action: environmental declines will continue into the future even if the rules are restored because it takes time for all the harms to become apparent.

The bottom line is that the consequences of the President keeping his promise to deregulate in favor of industry and development, particularly for fossil fuels, are beginning to have real detrimental impacts for those who live or work in proximity to them.

Why This Matters:  The very people the President claimed to want to help are many of the ones being hurt by the negative health impacts of deregulation.  They are seeing few financial benefits and health care costs of these exposures are impacting them directly.  But if you don’t live or work in one of these areas, you could be completely unaware — at least for now — of the grave costs of these rollbacks.  Telling these stories is a key to making them more visible to a larger swath of the public who mistakenly believe that in the U.S. the environment is well protected.

Carbon dioxide pollution from Parish Power Plant outside Houston    Photo: Gabriella Demczuk, The New York Times

To Go Deeper:  Worth your time – read the entire NYT series — we highly recommend it.  The photos by Gabriella Demczuk are also quite captivating.

And For More: The New York Times published another heartbreaking story about a cancer cluster in a suburb of Indianapolis, where kids are getting sick and dying at an alarming rate, and many residents suspect it is due to long-standing chemical pollution nearby made worse by Trump Administration’s inaction in the face of mounting evidence.

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