Who is being put in charge of our nation’s environment?
President Elect Trump has appointed Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier with a history of suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to head the EPA. Along with a litany of other promised anti-environment policies and appointees, the new administration poses a real and serious threat to our fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters.
Not to fear. We’re here.
But amidst this threat, environmental activist groups like San Diego Coastkeeper will remain powerful. We rely upon environmental regulations like the Clean Water Act, laws that make the act of polluting a criminal offense, and that are enforced by U.S. courts and citizens. Although Trump may enjoy a sympathetic Congress, he will not be able to wave his hand and nullify the power of the Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations set forth by the Obama administration. Why? Because clean water activists like us stand in the way.
With Pruitt in charge, what are the threats to San Diego’s water quality?
EPA’s budgets maybe at risk
With Pruitt, who already talks about unnecessary EPA regulations, we can expect an EPA that is likely to be on the receiving end of significant budget cuts. Without adequate funding and on top of the already reduced budget and staff at the EPA, we may see an EPA that ignores water quality issues and significantly curtails government enforcement of the Clean Water Act. One need look no further than Trump’s own transition website where he talks about reframing the EPA to be focused on “safe drinking water,” while he conveniently leaves out the Act’s goal of achieving fishable, swimmable waters for all. The new administration may accomplish through these cuts what it cannot otherwise accomplish through the slow, facts-based process of rule-making and obstruction.
Necessary infrastructure improvements may not happen
Much of our infrastructure that protects water quality – whether it’s wastewater treatment and conveyance infrastructure or stormwater infrastructure – is beyond its intended lifespan. The cost of replacing that infrastructure to ensure that we have clean water to surf in, swim in, drink is expensive (by some estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars). As that infrastructure ages, water quality is suffering. If Pruitt’s past actions and statements are any indication, instead of the EPA leading the nation in efforts to incentivize or require infrastructure and action that address water pollution, we can expect an EPA that ignores water quality issues, or, at worst, actively stands in the way of efforts to address our polluted coasts and streams.
More offshore oil — and associated oil spills — may come to our coastline
The EPA under Pruitt’s leadership may be looking to expand oil and gas drilling off our coasts, including the coasts of Southern California, by expanding existing oil extraction industries into federal waters. With oil industry often comes oil spills, which could lead to large-scale disasters along our coasts as we’ve seen in Santa Barbara and the Gulf of Mexico.
We’ll lose ground on addressing climate change
And then there are the longer-term implications, such as losing ground on climate change initiatives, which will guarantee that our coastal resources will change in the years ahead due to sea level rise. Every day we delay implementing national and local measures aimed at curbing greenhouse gasses and addressing climate change and its impacts is a blow to our future. As sea level rises, many of the beaches and breaks we all love will be greatly changed. With what we’ve heard from the incoming administration and with Pruitt’s actions aimed against rules meant to lead to cleaner air, we can expect a retreat from the progress we’ve been making in climate change initiatives.
Here’s one more reason why groups like San Diego Coastkeeper are more important than ever during the next 4 years.
Under President Trump, we may face more serious and emergent threats to our environment than ever before, but we will not back down. With Pruitt’s appointment, we can see some near-term fights that we’re ready to battle to protect our water.
We will remain active in education and community engagement, and we will continue to enforce the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws when government cannot or is unwilling to do so. We will continue to advocate, either through outreach with our decision-makers, or through legal action, for infrastructure projects like stormwater capture projects that create water supply while reducing water pollution in our rivers and streams, along our coastlines, and in our surf breaks. We will continue to work with our statewide representation, California Coastkeeper Alliance, to ensure we protect our water locally and at the state level. We will continue this important work for you and everyone in this region who deserves clean water.
Will you stand with us in 2017 in the fight to protect our fishable, swimmable, drinkable water? Please donate today.