“This has been the longest 100 days that I can remember.” “It is exhausting.” “It feels like all the clean water, climate, and clean air protections we have achieved, have been destroyed with the stroke of a pen.”
Sound familiar? For many of us who believe that sound science should trump greed in determining our nation’s environmental and public health policies, the aforementioned comments recall the early 2000s. At that time, President George W. Bush – since dubbed as the “worst environmental president in our nation’s history” was making a then-unprecedented assault on our water, land, and air. In his first 100 days, President Bush bailed on his campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and froze dozens of Clinton-era rules, ranging from limiting how much arsenic should be in drinking water to protecting national forests from road building to protecting wetlands under the Clean Water Act. After taking considerable heat on various rollbacks in the early years, the president then attempted to fool many with his down is the new up program names like the “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” programs. Over the course of eight years, President Bush amassed a record of more than 400 environmental rollbacks.
Now that President Trump has surpassed 100 days, is he giving “worst environmental president in our nation’s history” a run for fossil fuel money? News outlets report that President Trump has rolled back 23 significant environmental rules in his first 100 days – or almost one every four days. These gifts to carbon cronies include lifting the freeze on new coal leases on public lands, approving the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, rejecting a ban on a pesticide that carries a risk to fetal brain and nervous system development (and recently poisoned farmworkers in California), and revoking a rule that prevents coal miners from dumping debris into streams.
History will crystallize which president had a more significant adverse impact on our environment – assuming by then our future hasn’t been irrevocably damaged. Until then, George W. Bush can take comfort in the small fact that he at least had a 62% approval rating after his first 100 days – President Trump’s is currently hovering at 42%, a new low.
For those active on clean water and clean air issues in the 2000s, it indeed does seem like deja vu. The good news is that, as a country, we survived eight years of a President who started a war with the wrong country, pushed the country into its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and treated our natural resources like a gift basket for his fossil fuel tycoon friends. The bad news is our climate and water crisis is growing and the time to act is running perilously thin. Please get involved, make your voice heard, and support your local Waterkeeper.
*Photo by Josh Edelson/Getty