If Trump Guts the EPA, This Could Be Our Future

by Ryan Schleeter

February 27, 2017

Donald Trump — and his new EPA head Scott Pruitt — have said they want to get rid of the EPA entirely. Here’s what the country might look like if that happens.

Sign in a restroom along Interstate 25 south of Colorado Springs, Colorado, warns that water is undrinkable, April 1974

This sign from a rest stop bathroom near Colorado Springs, Colorado warns that the water flowing through its pipes is not safe to drink. April 1974. Photo via U.S. National Archives / Boyd Norton.

Donald Trump campaigned on promises to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency entirely and undo as much of President Obama’s climate action plan as possible. Choosing career fossil fuel industry shill Scott Pruitt — who was confirmed by the Senate in the most divided vote for EPA Administrator in history — to lead the agency was the first step to putting that plan in motion.

This week, we could witness the next step.

Reports emerged last week indicating that Trump will sign executive orders significantly limiting the EPA’s ability to fight climate change, scrapping regulations that curb emissions from power plants and protect waterways from pollution. They’re essentially marching orders for Pruitt, who’s so steeped in fossil fuel industry political meddling he should have no trouble following them.

Pruitt spent his time as Oklahoma attorney general suing the EPA repeatedly (13 times in total) while pocketing $318,496 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. And emails from Pruitt’s office released last week revealed that he’s worked closely with oil industry lobbyists for years to attack federal climate legislation.

Together, Trump and Pruitt are exactly the kind of climate-denying nightmare team that could take us backwards to a time when the air and water we depend on was completely open to exploitation by corporate polluters.

So, what would a world without the EPA actually look like?

The EPA was established under the Nixon administration in 1970 with the mission to “protect human health and the environment.” At its core, it’s a public health agency, protecting all Americans from the effects of rampant pollution and environmental degradation — which include impacts like respiratory disease stemming from air pollution or harmful chemicals in drinking water.

And we don’t have to look too far back in history to see just how devastating those impacts can be without the air and water protections we’ve come to depend on. As one of its first projects, the EPA hired freelance photographers around the country to document the scale of the environmental health challenges Americans faced in the 1970s.

What they uncovered gives us every reason to be concerned about a future without the EPA (click on a photo to read the description):

If Trump and Pruitt are successful, it’s people like you and me that will bear the costs. It’s our air, our water, and our climate that will be compromised. That’s what it means to “dismantle” the EPA — putting the lives of millions of Americans at risk to protect fossil fuel industry profits.

But we don’t have to sit by while Trump and Pruitt sell out our environment for corporate gain. SHARE these photos today and speak out against the administration’s attacks on our environment and the people who protect it.

Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a senior communications specialist with Greenpeace USA covering climate and energy. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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