WASHINGTON, D.C. — Government watchdog Accountable.US is calling on President-Elect Joe Biden and Congress to reverse harmful Trump administration policies that jeopardize climate protections and were finalized over the last four years as favors to industry and former lobbyists for large corporations focused on maximizing profits, not protecting the environment.
As part of its Damage Control project, Accountable.US is highlighting the actions taken by the Trump administration to benefit industry, its lobbyists, and those that filled the president’s campaign coffers.
“The Trump administration rarely saw an environmental protection that they did not want to do away with as a kick-back to the oil and gas industry,” said Chris Saeger, spokesperson for Accountable.US. “The incoming Biden administration and Congress are duty-bound to fix the damage done over the past four years — and to do it as quickly as they can. We need leaders who follow science, listen to experts, and refuse to put industry demands over the needs of the environment and the American people. Protecting our planet can’t wait.”
The Biden administration should immediately take action in the following areas that will help repeal the dangerous standards set during the past four years under Trump:
- Restore regulations for air pollution sources that were at any time considered “major sources.” Under the Trump administration, the EPA finalized a rule that removed the “once in, always in” standard that required hazardous air pollutant sources to remain “major sources” once they pass the ten tons of emissions threshold. Under the new rule, if sources reduce their hazardous air pollutant they can be reclassified as “area sources” and endure less stringent requirements. This risks a large increase in pollution and undermines the Clean Air Act, and the Biden administration must reverse this rule.
- Strengthen standards and timelines for coal ash pond closures to reduce toxic waste emissions. The Trump administration rolled back a 2015 rule to allow coal ash pond operating to delay closing ponds and seek more time to store toxic waste.
- Re-do the EPA’s study on anti-backsliding with updated models. The Trump administration, with the support of the oil and gas industry — including many with deep connections to the Trump administration — supported a rule that purported no additional measures are necessary to mitigate the adverse impact on air quality of renewable fuel volumes. The rule was based on a study which used a flawed modeling system, which the Biden administration should immediately re-do.
- Reduce unnecessary barriers to additional Clean Air Act regulations. Trump’s administration proposed unnecessary procedural requirements for providing all information regarding the cost-benefit analysis of Clean Air Act regulatory decisions. This rule, supported by the energy industry, slowed down regulations and allowed polluters to continue while procedural problems were solved. The Biden administration should refuse to move forward with finalizing this rule.
- Refuse to implement Trump-era deregulations that are parting gifts for the oil and gas industry. In 2020, the Trump administration proposed a rule to backtrack on three Obama-era public lands oil and gas regulations in response to “concerns” from “representatives of the oil and gas industry.” This rule-making is just a parting gift to the oil industry after the industry lobbyists running Trump’s Interior spent four years bending over backwards to deregulate public lands leasing for their clients’ benefit and the Biden administration should keep the 2016 regulations as-is.
- Halt any lease sales or oil production in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Trump administration fought to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling, and a lease sale took place last week. Oil development in Alaska’s ANWR could have serious implications for Alaska’s climate and could disturb Alaska’s caribou herds, which the Gwich’in people rely on for subsistence.
- Halt coal leasing and reinstate the Obama-era moratorium on new lease sales. The Trump administration sought to end an Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on federal land. The long-term impacts of coal mining and power generation threaten environmental quality, the climate, and Western public lands important to tribes like the Northern Cheyenne. The Biden administration should reinstate the moratorium and halt coal leasing.
- Reinstate rule preventing fracking companies from abusing weak state regulations. In 2017, the Trump administration got rid of a rule that required oil and gas operators to apply through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) before fracking on public lands managed by the BLM. Without federal regulation such as this rule, fracking companies are free to use and abuse lax state rules, further contributing to the climate crisis and destroying our natural resources.
- Reinforce strong standards for vehicles’ fuel and carbon dioxide emissions. Following a request from the auto industry, the Trump administration weakened vehicles’ fuel and carbon dioxide standards. The Biden administration should direct the EPA to issue a replacement rule that would recognize California’s authority to standards and pursue more stringent standards going forward from models 2026 and beyond.
- Withdraw the Trump administration’s failed “guidance” on the treatment of greenhouse gasses. In June 2019, the White House Council on Environmental Quality published draft guidance on the treatment of greenhouse gases — guidance that did not address climate change and its impact, provided little clarity to federal agencies on how to weigh emissions and climate impacts in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews, and appeared to encourage agencies to avoid those considerations entirely. The Biden administration should withdraw the 2019 guidance and replace it.
- Establish standards greenhouse gas emissions for airplanes that help reduce emissions — not appease aviation industry executives. The Trump administration proposed a rule establishing greenhouse gas emissions standards for airplanes that reflected current industry practices. This meant that the standards would have little impact on emissions by the aviation sector, which are responsible for accelerating climate change and exacerbating respiratory illness, and whose executives supported Trump in 2016 and 2020.
- Direct EPA to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter after the Trump administration retained looser standards. This came even as EPA scientists recommended lowering the annual particulate matter standard, noting that reducing the limit to 9 micrograms per cubic meter could save between 9,050 and 34,600 lives per year.
- Reinstate reputable climate scientists who were removed and replaced — by science skeptics — by the Trump administration.
A non-partisan federal watchdog, Accountable.US has released full documentation for the corrupt origins of these harmful policies on its Damage Control site, which catalogs solutions to harmful Trump policies the Biden administration should pursue to make the government work for all Americans again.