By: Ryan Kirby, Columnist
Today, environmental protections have largely been associated with the Democratic party, but it didn’t always used to be this way. Protecting the environment used to be a bipartisan concern, and Republican presidents had actually made significant milestones in environmental protection. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was able to protect approximately 230 million acres of public land during his presidency. President Richard Nixon created the EPA in 1970 and passed some of its founding laws, such as the Clean Water Act in 1972. The Republican party began to make a noticeable shift when Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980. Reagan appointed anti-environmentalists to the EPA and Department of the Interior with the goal of slashing regulations, their budgets and their staff. Their battle was short-lived with resistance from the Democrat-controlled Congress who put their decisions in full view of the public to show the consequences and the corruption of their actions.
When the GOP took back Congress in 1994, they again tried to deregulate and weaken environmental regulations, but this time President Bill Clinton’s veto stood in their way. The GOP was successful in other ways though. They began to frame the debate around the role government should play in protecting the environment and making attempts to cast doubt on climate science.
With complete control of the federal government, the Republican party continues its attacks on America’s environment. President Trump placed Scott Pruitt, former Attorney General for Oklahoma who spent his tenure suing the EPA for its regulations on pollution, to run the EPA. Scott Pruitt is a dream come true for oil, gas and coal companies. During his time as EPA Administrator, he has continued to deny climate change, rollback and eliminate dozens of environmental protections, and supported the Trump administration’s proposed budget that would cut the agency by about a quarter.
Pruitt has lifted a ban on a pesticide linked to fetal brain and nervous damage. Oil and gas companies no longer have to report their methane emissions. He is allowing new leases for coal mines on public land. Coal companies are now allowed to dump mining debris into local rivers and contaminate the water supply. Federal agencies are no longer required to consider the effects of greenhouse gases or the impact on the environment for their future projects. The U.S. is no longer making payments to the U.N. Green Climate Fund to help developing countries create sustainable economies. These are just some of the dozens of regulations that the Trump administration has eliminated or rolled back. These are all policies designed to protect the environment and the citizens who live in it, but the Republican party is too addicted to oil money to care about the effects these policies have on Americans.
And let us not forget, as per the usual with the Trump administration officials, there are also a wide variety of corruption and ethics violations that Pruitt is accused of while serving as EPA Administrator. Pruitt and his daughter have been staying at an oil lobbyist’s home for just $50 a day, not exactly the going rate in Washington, D.C., before having to be kicked out for overstaying his welcome. He also hired former oil and chemical lobbyists and then gave each of them over $50,000 worth of raises using an obscure rule over even the White House’s objections. Pruitt has also demanded 24/7 security, far more than any of his predecessors, which has cost American taxpayers over $3 million and he flies first class on taxpayer-funded trips.
The Republican party has abandoned the principles of its predecessors and for the past four decades it has embarked on a mission to protect the interests of corporations over people. The decisions made by the current Republican party stand only to hurt America’s future and wage an active war on our planet’s climate. The Republican party is holding the United States, and the world, hostage by allowing policies that do irreparable harm to our environment. Because of the Republican party, the U.S. is literally the only country to not be a part of the Paris Climate agreement, of which even Syria, China, and even North Korea are members.
“The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.” Theodore Roosevelt, 1910