Under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Army Corps of Engineers promulgated the Waters of the United States rule, which defined “Waters of the United States” to include small bodies of water, such as rivers and wetlands. However, in early 2018, the Trump administration suspended the rule to re-assess the definition. By the end of 2018, the EPA and the United States Department of Army released a new definition of “Waters of the United States,” restricting the definition to traditional navigable waters and their tributaries, certain ditches, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments and wetlands that are adjacent to water specifically covered by the rule.
According to an Environmental Integrity Project report, an Illinois pork-processing plant discharged more nitrogen from animal waste into waterways than any other slaughterhouse in the United States. Yet, the facility has complied with the Clean Water Act since December 2015. Animal-processing operations are not only some of the top polluters, but the federal water pollution standards surrounding these operations are lacking.
The Trump administration recently delivered a one-two punch to late Obama administration environmental regulations designed to curb the release of methane gas into the atmosphere while simultaneously encouraging its capture for sale. Two Obama era regulations were modified. The first, from the Department of the Interior, was effectively abrogated, while the other stemming from the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA)” is expected to retain only a fraction of its original force. Environmental groups have already responded to the repeal of the department of interior regulation with a lawsuit in federal court. Methane gas pollution became a greater concern in recent years as the production and use of natural gas as an energy source continues to increase. Proponents of earlier regulations point to methane’s potent contribution to the greenhouse effect, while critics argued the regulations were unnecessary given the natural gas industry’s own efforts and incentives to reduce leaks and capture as much usable gas as possible.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations issued a special report on the impact of global warming. The report shared extensive research about our changing atmosphere and issued a grave warning: we must act immediately. The harrowing news came just over one year after President Trump ordered the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in June 2017. This begs the question: how will changes be made when the world’s most powerful and impactful hegemon refuses to cooperate?
The battle over pesticide use has long plagued the agricultural sector. The legal challenges to the use of chlorpyrifos has created a debate about how to protect our agricultural system and the harm caused by these dangerous chemicals. A lawsuit was filed based on the EPA’s failure to follow advice of their own scientists. The battle over the use of certain pesticides, and the shifting focus of the EPA has created concerns over the ethical standards of officials in key positions.
On March 14, 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture officially designated twelve Arizona Counties as primary natural disaster areas on account of agricultural loses brought on by intensifying drought. Despite being one the hottest and driest states in the nation, the state is one of the most agriculturally productive, sustaining a multi-billion dollar industry. As drought threatens this economic boon, competing interest groups petition the state legislature to adjust water-use regulations that have failed to stem shortages.
Since the Hanford Site stopped producing plutonium in 1987, contractors continue to clean up leftover radioactive contamination and hazardous solid and liquid waste. Although precautions are being taken to prevent workers from being contaminated by or exposed to the waste, the risk remains and worker’s compensation claims follow. The Department of Energy (DOE) OIG recently published an audit report concluding that the DOE does not have effective policies and procedures concerning the Workers’ Compensation Program at the Hanford Site.
Trump Tower is one of many buildings along the Chicago River that uses river water for its cooling systems. Trump Tower is the second largest intake system from the river. Illinois Attorney General, Madigan, filed a lawsuit against the property to ensure that such a large quantity user is not allowed to continue to violate the law. As the value of riverfront property rise, and development continues, enforcement of these types of permits is likely to increase.
President Trump has made his opinion of federal regulations known from the very start of his presidency. He clearly believes that federal regulations, especially those established by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), inhibit economic growth and unduly burden American businesses. However, it is equally unclear how his deregulatory efforts have benefitted anyone other than corporate America. Rather than utilizing his considerable influence to protect the health of the American people, President Trump and his administration have been hard at work unraveling such protections, much to the frustration of the states.
Congress has granted the President the authority to withdraw the Secretary of the Interior’s grants of mineral rights on public lands. However, President Trump has used that same grant of power to remove withdraws of some of the protections President Obama placed. On May 3, 2017, a group of environmental non-profits filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration in the Federal District Court of Alaska, alleging that his actions were an unauthorized use his Presidential power. On March 20, 2018, the Court denied the Defendant’s motion to dismiss.