Protection Agency Assaults Environment

It is forgivable that Americans might be distracted by all the scandals and dramatic missteps of the Trump presidency and miss the less-noticed efforts to dismantle existing policy, in particular, clean air and water protections. This week, Scott Pruitt, the embattled head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced the rollback of vehicle emissions standards, which will increase the use of fossil fuels, helping industry but harming the environment. Also under the gun is the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration attempt to limit greenhouse-effect carbon coming from electricity plants.

While people across the United States benefit from a healthy environment, those on the coasts are already experiencing accelerated erosion and other threats from sea level rise spurred by a warming climate. Greater damage from hurricanes and northeasters has become the norm. The distribution of once-common fish species is beginning to change, with effects all the way up the marine food chain, and causes harm to those whose livelihoods come from the bays and ocean. 

Shellfish stocks are at risk as associated water acidification weakens their shells. On land and sea, invasive plants and animals taking advantage of more favorable conditions are wreaking havoc. As much as the Trump outlook is creating upheaval in policy, it is taking reckless aim at the planet Earth. 

The administration hopes to scrap the vehicle fleet requirement for a 50-miles-per-gallon average fuel economy across a manufacturer’s entire small truck and car line by 2025. Doing away with this Obama-era rule was something the auto industry hoped for and President Trump promised. Mr. Pruitt has not said what fuel economy level his E.P.A. and corporate back-channel whisperers would find acceptable.

Environmental groups say that the move would sharply curtail the development of electric and high-efficiency vehicles and worsen air quality. A court fight from the State of California, which has the right to set its own emissions rules, is likely, but it would not necessarily beat back the Trump administration’s determination to weaken the protections. One thing is clear: More assaults lie ahead. 

Supporting candidates for Congress and state and local elections who make the environment a top priority is key. In polls, more than 70 percent of Americans — even in those places Donald Trump won — want clean air. Candidates who ignore that and other environmental concerns do so at their own political peril.