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Issues Of The Environment: The Battle For Environmental Protections And Future Sustainability

Mar 4, 2020

Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Since President Donald Trump took office, 58 environmental protection policies have been rolled back or rescinded.  37 more are in the process of being taken off the books.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair checks in with 12th District Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell about efforts to thwart federal policies that threaten environmental health and sustainability.  


Overview

  • Although the past decade has been the hottest on record, Trump failed to make any reference to climate change in his latest State of the Union address.  He has also rolled back nearly 100 previously-enacted environmental rules, while including regulations on air pollution, water safety, chemical contamination, and animals.
  • Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell says some of the most critical rollbacks hurt southeast Michigan.  The Trump Administration has announced significant rollbacks of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Dingell will soon be introducing a resolution opposing these changes.  Dingell says, “For fifty years, the National Environmental Policy Act has been the bedrock of conservation law and preserved the environment, human health, and the people’s voice in policy decisions.  NEPA’s directive is clear: the government must consider how a project will affect the environment, and communities and people affected by the projects must have a fair chance to weigh in on its merits.  NEPA – which John worked for years to pass, and was signed by President Nixon – holds polluters accountable and protects endangered species, water quality, and the environment.”
  • Southeast Michigan has some of the poorest air quality in the state.  The NEPA rollback could stall or reverse progress toward reducing corporate emissions that pollute our air.  Weakening of NEPA also undermines efforts to hold polluters responsible for environmental damage to water quality.
  • Dingell and her team also face challenges in advocating for increased regulations related to water safety including the creation of a federal PFAS standard.  She says, “The longer the EPA drags this process out, the more people will continue to be poisoned by these harmful forever chemicals.  The action EPA has taken is a small, procedural step in a process with no promises about actually setting a standard—and long overdue.  We cannot be fooled.  This country has only a guideline for PFAS, not an enforceable drinking water standard—which we needed yesterday!  The EPA is taking the longest route possible on PFAS.  Action is necessary to address this expanding national health and environmental crisis, and it is not happening.  It is clear, the EPA still fails to recognize the urgency to act swiftly.” 
  • PFAS is of great concern to the greater Washtenaw County region, and the entire Huron River Watershed remains under a “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory because of PFAS contamination.  A meaningful federal standard would give State and local authorities the ability to enact greater controls on PFAS discharges and encourage policies where polluters are responsible for cleanup.
  • Congresswoman Dingell also says the Trump presidency has been negligent in updating the EPA’s Lead and Copper rule.  She says, “Lead is highly toxic—we all know this and access to clean water is a basic human right.  The Lead and Copper Rule proposal by the EPA comes up far short of what is actually needed if we are to make meaningful improvements to protect human health and our environment for the long term.” 
  • Although drinking water in Washtenaw County tests at allowable levels, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported in 2013 that 56.5% of the housing stock in Washtenaw County was built before 1978 and 17.2% was built before 1950, therefore about 60% of children in Washtenaw County are at risk for lead poisoning from paint used in older homes before it was outlawed.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu