Here's how the Trump administration enabled polluters without cutting regulations

The president only seems to limit the government when it comes to essential things like stopping pollution

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 11, 2017 1:33PM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

President Donald Trump has focused on weakening environmental protections and significantly reducing the number of government regulations, often characterizing these efforts as part of the same larger movement. Unfortunately for both him and most Americans, it seems he has been far more successful in helping polluters than he has been in actually causing sweeping deregulation overall.

There has been a significant drop in activity by the Environmental Protection Agency since Trump took office, according to an analysis of EPA enforcement data by The New York Times.

The Trump administration's war against environmental protection has even impacted some of his own supporters. The town of East Liverpool, Ohio, sent a letter of protest to the Trump administration about a hazardous waste incinerator that it claimed had repeatedly emitted harmful pollutants into the air. East Liverpool went overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 election.

The EPA only started roughly 1,900 cases in the first nine months of Trump's presidency, approximately one-third less than the number pursued by President Barack Obama's EPA during the same period and approximately one-quarter fewer than the number pursued by President George W. Bush's EPA within that same span.

There were similar figures when comparing civil penalties and required factory retrofitting within the first nine months of the Trump, Obama and Bush presidencies. The Trump administration's EPA has only pursued civil penalties amounting to roughly $50.4 million from alleged pollutions, which is approximately 39 percent of what the Obama administration pursued and approximately 70 percent of what the Bush administration pursued.

The Trump administration has only required factories to retrofit themselves in order to cut pollution to the amount of $1.2 billion, which equals roughly 12 percent of the figure from Obama's administration during its first nine months and roughly 48 percent of the figure from Bush's administration during its first nine months.

While the Trump administration has succeeded in gutting environmental regulations, this has not translated into nearly the overall record of anti-regulatory achievement that they have tried to depict as existing. The administration's official claim is that it has "removed or withdrawn" 860 pending regulations, yet that figure is wildly exaggerated, according to Bloomberg.

The news site reported that the administration has only repealed 27 regulations and only withdrawn 271 regulations. Of the remainder, 282 regulations were simply reclassified as long term and 109 were reclassified as inactive, meaning they could still be implemented in the future, while 15 were withdrawn under Obama and 183 were never actively considered under Obama or were listed by the Trump administration in error.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency Pollution Scott Pruitt