Opinion: Trump is taking advantage of our distraction

While you’re sheltering in place, or holding your breath when you pass too close to someone at the grocery store, President Trump and his swamp full of former lobbyists are attacking the environment. Forever with an eye to the main chance, Trump is doing exactly what you’d expect him to do in times of confusion and fear... wait for distraction then ram through his bought-and-paid-for agenda.

What better time to reverse a bunch of irritating environmental regulations? Maybe roll out a plan to loosen limits on coal-fired power plants leaching heavy metals into the water supply, or relax restrictions on their mercury emissions.

Or work to weaken automobile fuel efficiency standards that will increase air pollution at the same time the country is grappling with a respiratory pandemic. (“Given the catastrophe they’re in with the coronavirus, they’re pursuing a policy that’s going to hurt public health and kill people,” Chet France, a former EPA senior official over emissions and mileage standards, told the Associated Press.)

Or push forward plans to exclude climate change from consideration in developing infrastructure projects, or limit public discussion on a plan to protect oil companies from prosecution when they kill wild birds.

“The administration is essentially taking advantage of the fact that the public is distracted and in fact disabled from fully engaging against this ideological push,” said David J. Hayes, executive director of New York University’s nonpartisan School of Law State Energy and Environmental Impact Center in the March 25 New York Times. The Center, launched in 2017, has worked with state attorneys general (including Colorado’s) to fight for the environment against the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks.

Since they came to office, the president and his helpers — especially former coal lobbyist and current EPA head Andrew Wheeler — have worked diligently to roll back more than 90 planet-protecting environmental rules. But now, some suggest, the GOP is getting a bit twitchy about the possibility that they’ll lose the White House and Senate in November while Democrats hold on to the House. Hence their current push to deliver the very last Earth-killing goodies on the corporate Christmas list.

They’re hoping you’ll be too freaked out by COVID-19 to respond during public comment periods. Plus, much of the public discussion has been moved to the internet or conference calls, silencing the voices of almost 20 million Americans, most of them living in rural areas and including Native American tribes, who don’t always have access to broadband internet or other required technologies.

Yes, Americans are unnerved by the coronavirus pandemic, but many of you are also not used to being sequestered at home and are looking for distractions — especially the kind that, unlike making shadow puppets on the walls or building Rube Goldberg gadgets to pass the time, can actually do some good. Your kids are home from school, too, and fighting Trump’s assaults on the planet as a family will offer a bounty of teachable moments.

So here are some resources that will bring you up to speed on Trump’s regulation rollback efforts, and help you fight back:

• The Brookings Institution’s downloadable “How to effectively comment on regulations” and their Deregulatory Tracker.

• NYU’s School of Law State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.

• Columbia Law School’s Climate Deregulation Tracker.

The Regulatory Rollback Tracker, from Harvard’s Environmental & Energy Law Program.

Get up off the couch and fight the good fight.