Donald Trump’s rambling discourse on toilets drew social media snickers and a few jabs from late-night comics, but his bizarre, comical ranting masks a cynical assault on the environment that threatens the nation’s air, land and water.
In the latest effort to stem the roll back of regulations fundamental to the nation’s health, attorneys general from 15 states, including New York, have sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
At issue is the Trump Administration’s “Recodification Rule.” It repeals the Clean Water Rule, a science-based Obama-era federal regulation that ensured the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands received proper protection under the Clean Water Act.
Trump War on Toilets
Crowd stares in silence as Trump explains lack of water in showers and dish washers. pic.twitter.com/RB3aI635Lj
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 19, 2019
Trump: Last time I talked about needing to flush many times press was so mean to me. pic.twitter.com/iFW3u6DapU
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 19, 2019
The rule, finalized in October, replaces the definition of the waters protected by the Act with a narrower, outdated, 30-year-old definition.
This definition ignores the best and most current science on the connectivity of smaller or infrequently-flowing bodies of water, such as headwater streams, tributaries, and wetlands, to downstream “navigable” waters, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James.
“Access to clean water is a fundamental right for all New Yorkers and Americans,” said James in a statement.
“This regressive rule ignores science and the law and strips our waters of basic protections under the Clean Water Act. Attorneys general across this nation will not stand by as the Trump Administration seeks to reverse decades of progress we’ve made in fighting water pollution.”
The Trump roll back is only the latest in a series of administrative actions that are dismantling science-based regulations protecting the environment.
In another action with detrimental consequences, the administration has been undercutting regulations controlling the release of deadly coal ash into the environment.
Coal ash is the toxic waste left over from coal-burning power plants and contains some of some of the deadliest known toxic chemicals, including heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and chromium,” according to The Sierra Club
The government began to focus on coal ash after the massive coal ash spill near Harriman, Tenn., in 2008. More than one billion gallons of toxic coal ash swamped the 300 acres of land and the Emory and Clinch rivers after an ash dam at Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston coal plant failed.
The rollback that EPA just finalized gives polluters an extra 18 months to close leaking coal ash ponds, which is more time for Wheeler’s EPA to further weaken the rule and potentially exempt more coal ponds from closure requirements altogether, according to the environmental organization.
In the meantime, the rollback allows utility companies and other coal ash generators to keep dumping toxic waste into leaking, unlined pits.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) is trying to sound the alarm over the EPA’s proposal.
“Once again the Trump Administration is prioritizing coal industry interests over Americans’ health and environment,” he said in a statement.
“With this announcement, the Trump EPA is continuing its roll back of critical coal ash protections to benefit the few at the expense of the many.
“The coal industry has done enough damage to our health, environment and climate without the Trump Administration doing its bidding. For the sake of communities across the country at risk of exposure to this toxic substance, we will be addressing proper coal ash disposal next year,” he added.
Ironically, residents in rural areas like West Virginia, Kentucky and other coal states will be hardest hit. Yet, they form a key part of Trump’s electoral base.
“Instead of having a single strong national set of public health protections for this polluting industry, we are going to be left with federal regulations that are riddled with loopholes,” Tom Cmar, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice, told NPR.
Under the Obama rule, finalized in 2015, all unlined coal ash ponds were to begin closing in 2018. Under the Trump rule, some of these plants will have up to five more years before they begin shutting down.
Coal ash pollution has been found to be leaking into groundwater at over 200 power plants nationwide. More than 90% of sites that store coal ash are leaking levels of contamination exceeding EPA health standards, according to a report by The Environmental Integrity Project.
Many of the Trump administration’s actions have resulted in lawsuits, which in many cases have been successful in derailing his proposals.
The lawsuit over the 2015 clean water rule is a case in point.
The rule was supported by 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific studies that concluded that many of the nation’s larger waters are connected to upstream headwaters, intermittent streams, wetlands, and tributaries.
When wetlands and relatively small or infrequently-flowing upland streams are subjected to physical, chemical, or biological pollution, this pollution often harms downstream waters such as rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans.
The New York Attorney General’s Office sued the Trump Administration when it issued a regulation suspending the Clean Water Rule for two years, and won a significant victory when the courts found the regulation illegal.
In the latest court action the coalition argues that Trump Administration’s reversion to the 1986 definition of the waters protected under the Clean Water Act is arbitrary and capricious, and violates the Administrative Procedure Act.
For example, the rule is illegal because it does not consider the Clean Water Act’s sole objective of protecting the integrity of the nation’s waters nor does it comply with subsequent Supreme Court precedent.
Further, the rule, as adopted, fails to consider scientific and factual findings – established in the 2015 Clean Water Rule rulemaking – on the interconnectivity of waters.
All of the lower 48 states have waters that are downstream of other states. New York, for example, is downstream of 13 states.
As such, New York and other states are recipients of water pollution generated not only within their borders, but also from upstream sources outside their borders over which they lack jurisdiction.
New York has taken 129 legal actions against the Trump Administration in the areas of safety and toxic chemicals, public lands and wildlife, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean air, clean water, and climate change.
Joining the latest action are attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, District of Columbia, and the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York.
Oddly, as Congress debated impeachment, Trump journeyed to Battle Creek, Mich., for a rally. He launched into a tirade against–of all things–water-conserving bathroom fixtures and later new, energy-efficient lightbulbs.
He told supporters his administration was “looking very strongly at sinks and showers, and other elements of bathrooms.”
“People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once,” he asserted.
Approved water- and electricity-conserving fixtures and appliances can save the average household $350 annually, according to the EPA, which is now under orders to review its flushing policies.
Low flush toilets were the subject of a “King of the Hill” episode.Who says Trump doesn’t play to his base. Check it out below.