The Troubling Consequences of Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks

Submitted July 30, 2020 as an Op-Ed to The New York Times

The Troubling Consequences of Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks

By Kayli Ottomanelli, studying social environmental science and sustainability at the University of Mary Washington, and an intern for the Rappahannock Group of the Sierra Club.

In less than 100 days Americans will vote in the fall presidential election. This election will have a far greater impact on peoples’ lives than many voters realize. Since Donald Trump assumed the presidency in 2017, he has made it his top priority to dismantle many of the environmental protections established under the Obama administration. The New York Times (NYT) has kept a running count of every environmental law Trump has modified or reversed during his tenure (1). The count now stands at approximately 100 environmental rollbacks (1). What the article will not tell you, however, is that these rollbacks will cause over 79,700 premature deaths annually and put another 73.6 million Americans at risk of serious injury or illness (2-8, 11-16). If Trump were elected to a second term, these deaths and debilitating illnesses will continue to climb precipitously.

Many might wonder how such a shockingly large death count could have been overlooked and unreported. The answer? Until now, we have only reviewed the costs of individual environmental rollbacks, not the cumulative effects of every action combined. In some cases, the consequences of an environmental rollback have been easy to identify due to widespread coverage by the media. For example, Trump’s replacement of the Clean Power Plan made dozens of headlines when the EPA predicted the new policy would result in 1,400 premature deaths (7).  It reappeared in the news when the Natural Resources Defense Council found this number to be closer to 5,200 premature deaths annually (8). Other reversals have received less attention. Case in point, the new EPA regulations on lead and copper in drinking water doubled the time allotted to replace poisonous lead pipes (3). That made fewer headlines despite increasing the risk of lead poisoning for the 18 million Americans whose water systems still contain high levels of lead (11). It can be difficult to comprehend the collective effects of 100 individual actions on our health and livelihoods. Regardless, actions do accumulate and the consequences are far worse than we ever imagined.

The death count we face now is not due to benign neglect or sheer ignorance; the Trump administration is well-aware of the costs that accompany their policy changes. Vermont Law School Professor, Patrick Parenteau, has noted that in virtually every environmental rollback, Trump’s E.P.A. has acknowledged in the fine print that their legislative changes will cause increased pollution, resulting in an enormous surge in health problems and deaths (2). Donald Trump is willfully exchanging American lives for the favor of industry leaders. The Declaration of Independence proclaims that every American has the right to the blessings of liberty: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Upon entering office, Trump took an oath promising to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and the blessings of liberty and prosperity it guarantees to citizens of the United States. Despite this, Trump has taken upon himself to revoke the unalienable rights of 79,700 Americans in order to repeal “unnecessary” regulations that burden businesses (1). By “burden,” he means laws that interfere with company profits, regardless of the impact on everyday citizens. By failing to act for the American people, Trump is not performing his duties as President and should not be considered for a second term.

Trump has defended his environmental policy decisions by citing their benefits to the economy. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has boasted that the Trump Administration’s environmental rollbacks have saved American businesses $6.5 billion (10). However, a thriving economy means little if it is built upon the misfortune of those it is intended to benefit. According to Kip Viscusi, an economist at Vanderbilt University, government agencies currently value a statistical human life at $10 million (9). Using that valuation, Trump has cost the nation $797 billion from his environmental rollbacks alone. However, the death tally from our president should also include his failure to effectively address the Covid-19 pandemic. Millions sickened, nearly 150,000 dead, and the count continues to climb day-by-day. How many more Americans must sicken and die due to Trump’s environmental policies and gross mismanagement of the pandemic? If Trump remains president, he will continue to cost the nation billions with his deliberate disregard for human life.

Trump’s presidency has caused this nation irreparable damage. He has only prolonged the slow death of the oil, gas, and coal industries; while dramatically reducing the resiliency of our lands and waterways in the process. Our nation will never be great as long as we have a President that favors power and profit over human well-being. To prevent further unnecessary death and suffering, every effort must be made to defeat Trump in the upcoming presidential election. Every vote cast for Donald Trump will further endanger the lives of American citizens. This is what hangs in the balance in this November’s presidential election.

 

 

References

  1. Albeck-Ripka, Livia, Kendra Pierre-Louis and Nadja Popovich. “The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List.” 15 July 2020. The New York Times. July 2020.
  2. Davenport, Coral and Lisa Friedman. “E.P.A. Weakens Controls on Mercury.” 16 April 2020. The New York Times. July 2020.
  3. Davenport, Coral. “New E.P.A. Lead Standards Would Slow Replacement of Dangerous Pipes.” 10 October 2019. The New York Times. July 2020.
  4. Environmental & Energy Law Program . “Petroleum Refinery Sector Rule (NESHAPs / NSPS).” 11 December 2018. Environmental & Energy Law Program . July 2020.
  5. Environmental Defense Fund. “National clean car standards.” n.d. Environmental Defense Fund . July 2020.
  6. Environmental Integrity Project. “Environmental Protections on the Chopping Block.” n.d. Environmental Integrity Project. July 2020.
  7. Freidman, Lisa. “Cost of New E.P.A. Coal Rules: Up to 1,400 More Deaths a Year.” 21 August 2018. The New York Times. July 2020.
  8. Friedman, Lisa. “E.P.A. Finalizes Its Plan to Replace Obama-Era Climate Rules.” 19 June 2019. The New York Times . July 2020.
  9. Gonzalez, Sarah. “How Government Agencies Determine The Dollar Value Of Human Life.” 23 April 2020. NPR. July 2020.
  10. Jackson, Derrick Z. “Derrick Z. Jackson: EPA’s new water rule is a mockery of science and the Clean Water Act.” 27 January 2020. Environmental Health News. July 2020.
  11. Layne, Rachel. “Lead in America’s water systems is a national problem.” 21 November 2018. CBS News. July 2020.
  12. Myers, Jessica. “Cronkite News: Plan to ‘revive’ uranium mining called unneeded, unwanted by advocates.” 09 June 2020. Cronkite News. July 2020.
  13. NYS Attorney General . “Attorney General James Sues Trump Admin For Gutting Safety Protections For Chemical Accidents.” 29 January 2020. NYS Attorney General . July 2020.
  14. Occupational Safety & Health Administration . ““Crystalline Silica Exposure” Health Hazard Information for General Industry Employees.” 2002. United States Department of Labor . July 2020.
  15. Storrow, Benjamin. “Trump’s EPA Made It Easier for Coal Plants to Pollute Waterways.” 24 September 2018. E&E News. July 2020.
  16. Walker, Joro. “Environmental Rollbacks by the Trump Administration Threaten Westerners’ Health and Way of Life.” 19 May 2020. Western Resource Advocates. July 2020.

Press Release: COMMUNITY GROUPS CHALLENGE EIS FOR PROPOSED KAHULUI SLUDGE FARM AND POWER PLANT

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Immediate Release: May 31, 2018

Contact: Lance D. Collins (808) 243-9292 lawyer@maui.net

 

COMMUNITY GROUPS CHALLENGE EIS
FOR PROPOSED KAHULUI SLUDGE FARM AND POWER PLANT

 

KAHULUI, MAUI – The Sierra Club Maui Group and Maui Tomorrow are challenging Maui County and Anaergia Services’ proposed sludge farm and power plant along the Kahului shoreline by filing a lawsuit in Maui’s Environmental Court today. The groups are represented by attorney Lance D. Collins.

The groups challenge the County Environmental Management Director’s approval of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Anaergia’s proposed sludge processing, energy generation, and biocrop growing/burning project. Under the proposal, sludge from wastewater treatment facilities at Kīhei, Lahaina, and the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility
(Kahului Wastewater Facility) would be trucked to a site at the Kahului Wastewater Facility and dried using methane gas byproducts of the anaerobic digestion of “biocrops” grown on 500 acres of former sugar cane lands, with additional energy from a propane burner. This process is also proposed to generate electricity for the Kahului Wastewater Facility.

The project was first proposed through a county procurement. Anaergia was the sole bidder in that process. Anaergia also currently holds a County waste-to energy landfill gas contract, which an independent auditor determined will cost the County $35 million more than anticipated when procured. The community groups challenge Anaergia’s preparation of the EIS, as opposed to the County, for reasons including the County’s unwritten policy of imposing less strict oversight over projects for which they have outside entities prepare an EIS.

The groups also challenged the failure to adequately consider sea level rise predictions. Maui Tomorrow Executive Director, Albert Perez commented, “Taxpayers should not be burdened with underwriting complicated science experiments that will only cost taxpayers more money and likely do nothing to protect the environment. Maui County needs to move forward, not backward, by getting the Kahului treatment facility out of the tsunami zone and away from sea level rise.”

The Kahului Wastewater Facility’s precarious location was specifically called out in the State’s Sea Level Rise Adaptation Report, published in December 2017. “Sierra Club is very much in favor of increasing the use of renewable energy, including in microgrids for specific purposes,” said Rob Weltman, president of Sierra Club Maui Group. “However, it must be done in a responsible way which does not result in new threats to our sensitive shoreline environment.”

The proposal will result in nearly 3,130 tons per year of dried sludge and nearly 30,000 tons per year of biocrop byproduct “digestate,” but the EIS does not indicate how the County will dispose of them.

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Anaergia’s MANA Project Questioned in The Maui News

Original Article at: http://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2018/01/sewage-plant-project-would-end-landfill-green-waste-composting/

 

Sewage plant project would end landfill green waste composting

Green waste is dumped off at EKO System's drop-off at the Central Maui Landfill in this photo taken in February 2016. A proposed renewable energy project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility would put the 23-year-old composting facility out of business, diverting the sewage sludge that is a necessary component in EKO's composing process. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Green waste is dumped off at EKO System’s drop-off at the Central Maui Landfill in this photo taken in February 2016. A proposed renewable energy project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility would put the 23-year-old composting facility out of business, diverting the sewage sludge that is a necessary component in EKO’s composing process. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAHULUI — Maui EKO Systems, which has processed the island’s green waste and county sewage sludge into compost for nearly 23 years, could be put out of business as early as the end of next year because of a proposed renewable energy project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility.

The closure stands as one future impact among several other potential problems residents voiced during a community meeting focused on the project led by Maui All Natural Alternative, an Anaergia Services company, on Wednesday at Kahului Elementary School.

“I think we left the meeting with more questions than answers,” Sierra Club Maui coordinator Adriane Raff Corwin said Thursday. “They didn’t give many specifics at all, so we’ll be following up. But I think last night’s meeting illustrated the community has a huge amount of concerns and questions that aren’t being answered.”

Officials with the energy company and county Department of Environmental Management provided a brief presentation and answered questions during their first public meeting on the project. An environmental impact statement is nearly completed, and a final draft is expected later this year.

“No project I’ve ever seen in my 27 years with the county is perfect, but I think this consists of everything we’re looking for,” Environmental Management Department Director Stewart Stant told the crowd of about 40 people.

Stewart Stant

Stewart Stant

The project calls for installation of an anaerobic digester to produce methane gas from energy crops grown on former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. lands. The natural gas would be refined on-site and fuel a combined heat-and-power engine to generate electricity for the sewage treatment plant.

Waste heat from the plant’s engine would dry biosolids, or digested sewage sludge, produced by the plant. The anaerobic digester would be located on the west side of an existing aerobic blower building.

The treatment plant is next to the ocean on Amala Place in Kahului. The Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary is inland of the sewage treatment plant, and Kanaha Beach Park and Kahului Airport are located to the east.

Anaergia and county officials said the renewable energy project would provide 4.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year and dry the county’s 24,000 tons of biosolids annually. The biosolids would be treated and returned to the county to possibly be used as fertilizer for parks, including the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course.

The energy company would develop the project at no upfront construction cost to the county and charge the county 29 cents kWh as part of a 20-year contract.

Residents and environmental watchdog groups took issue with the charge per kilowatt hour, which is more than double what Maui Electric Co. pays wind farms and for fossil-fuel generated power.

Doug McLeod, vice president of the Maui Tomorrow Foundation, said the price is high because the county advertised the project as “gas turbine to dry sludge,” which solicited just one bid from Anaergia. He added that there seemed to be “a lot of very strange aspects” in the deal that he believed was not the most cost-effective for taxpayers or the safest for the environment.

“When you look at this price 29 cents that is well more than double the current market price for solar power,” McLeod said Thursday. “It would seem to be a lot more than other renewable options, but we don’t know that because the county didn’t ask” for alternatives.

McLeod, who also runs an energy consulting firm and is the former county energy commissioner, said many solar companies did not bother to meet with the county to discuss the project because of the clear restrictive language that favored Anaergia. He believed only Pacific Biodiesel showed interest.

Raff Corwin also questioned why the county did not seek separate solutions for disposing of biosolids and producing energy. She wondered why the treatment plant proposal needed to combine both aspects into one and was concerned about air quality and odors produced by the plant.

“I still haven’t gotten a clear answer as to why these two needs had to be combined,” she said. “It sounds like we’re going to have a huge amount of dry sludge and green waste no longer turned into composting material.”

In 2014, Anaergia, a California-based company, signed a separate 20-year contract with Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration to build a waste conversion facility at the Central Maui Landfill.

Anaergia and county officials acknowledged that the wastewater treatment plant waste-to-energy project would be related to the landfill project because it would provide dried sludge for the landfill waste conversion project. But they maintained the contracts for the projects were separate.

McLeod said he is skeptical of the landfill waste-conversion facility, which has yet to have an EIS preparation notice published. Anaergia had previously tried to build an energy plant using wastewater in 2015 but was shot down by the Public Utilities Commission.

“These contracts people think they’re free with minimal upfront cost, but they will cost the county money in the end,” McLeod said. “There’s obviously a lost opportunity.”

As for EKO, the company’s current contract with the county ends in June, but the two sides will likely extend until the end of 2019, plant manager Rubens Fonseca said Thursday. The company has 20 workers.

The composting operation was established to extend the life of the landfill by diverting green waste and sludge.

“I hate to see this product that has been offered to landscapers and farmers here almost 23 years going to be gone,” he said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@maui news.com.

Planning Commission to consider whether to include ag burning impacts in SMA

Chris Profio’s petition to add the following to the criteria for considering SMA petitions will be heard by the Maui Planning Commission on October 13, 2015 at 9am in the Planning Conference Room located at 250 High Street in Wailuku.

(K) A description of all current impacts to the parcel and adjacent parcels caused by open-air agricultural burning, if any, and a description of anticipated changes to current impacts due to the proposed action, if any. 

When the rule change comes up for consideration the Planning Department will present an overview of the Petition, and the Department of the Corporation Counsel may wish to comment. You should then be given an opportunity to present the Petition, and then public testimony should be taken.
The Planning Commission has scheduled Chris Profio’s request for a rule to consider smoke and dust when granting a SMA permit. Please show up and testify. This will help raise awareness of the problem which cane burning presents to our environment and people.

Link to requested rule change. (Rule change is underlined)

https://www.facebook.com/events/1070744902938769/

President Obama’s Climate Plan

Sierra Club of Hawaii’s Statement on President Obama’s Climate Plan

Washington, D.C. – Today President Barack Obama announced his administration’s next steps for building a legacy of action to fight the climate crisis. The plan includes new energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and appliances, scales up responsible clean energy production on public lands with an ambitious new commitment to power 6 million homes by 2020, and uses the full authority of the Clean Air Act to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.

Sierra Club of Hawaii Director Robert D. Harris released the following statement in response:

Read morePresident Obama’s Climate Plan

Sen Schatz Solicits Input on Carbon Tax

BRIAN SCHATZ
United States Senator
 

Waxman, Whitehouse, Blumenauer, and Schatz Release Carbon Price Discussion Draft

WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Representative Henry A. Waxman, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Representative Earl Blumenauer, and Senator Brian Schatz released draft carbon-pricing legislation and solicited feedback on it from stakeholders and the public.  The legislation would establish the polluter pays principle for dangerous carbon pollution, requiring large emitters to pay for the pollution they emit.

Read moreSen Schatz Solicits Input on Carbon Tax