White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, stood behind the lectern and stated very emphatically,
We’re going to put the safety of Americans first, we’re not going to wait and react, as I said in the statement, the president is going to be very proactive in protecting this country.
Donald Trump’s America First Energy Plan specifically states,
…our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.
Sean Spicer’s statement is shortsighted, red meat for the White House’s narrow constituency, while the statement about the EPA’s responsibility is now an outright lie. Or can be an outright lie, should the President sign the latest environmental regulatory review decision that Paul Ryan and the Congress have decided to do.
There’s this little thing called The Congressional Review Act. It was instituted in 1996, part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, and signed into law by Bill Clinton, himself. This allows Congress to review and roll back any regulations, instituted by any administration, recently enacted (within the last 60 days the legislature has been in session, currently this means that they can review all regulations enacted back to June, 2016). It works just like a law. If they disapprove with a simple majority and the President signs it, the regulation goes away. If the President vetoes it, as Obama would have done, they can overturn his veto by a 67% majority and the regulation also goes away.
Back in December of 2016, Obama finalized a regulation that requires surface mining companies (not just coal, as Paul Ryan is trying to make you think…heavy metals, as well) to not pollute waterways outside of their permit areas. After all, any kindergartner knows that water runs downstream and dumping waste into a stream, river, or lake, will end up polluting ecological communities downstream. This is just common sense.
We have Superfund sites that have been operating for years, decades even, where the entire mission is to clean up the downstream pollutants. Superfund sites are reactionary. Much like disallowing visas from Saudi Arabia would be, after the attack on September 11, 2001. A mining company comes in, legally pollutes the land and waterways, and then leaves or goes bankrupt, and the government (the EPA) is left holding the bag. The citizenry of the United States pays billions of dollars a year to clean up the environmental damage to our water and land.
Much like the current administration states that the “extreme vetting” refugee rules are proactive, rather than reactive, an argument that can be proven (and debated) on its merits, they also say that the “mission of the EPA is to protect (should be read: proactively) our air and water.”
But Congress is now using the Congressional Review Act to completely eliminate that rule, rolling back the proactive protections of our environment, going back to only worrying about the permitted areas, or at least removing the protections from regulatory oversight, making it easier for a mining company to circumvent responsibility for polluting our downstream waterways.
This will not only continue to cost America’s taxpayers billions of dollars in Superfund cleanup, but will fly in the face of the forcefully proffered “intelligence” of the Trump Administration to govern proactively. And it most definitely will disallow the EPA from carrying out its White House defined “essential mission.”