Our air and water are much cleaner than they were four decades ago, when Ohio’s Cuyahoga River caught fire, and the skies in Houston and other cities were gray with pollution.
Still, our environment still isn’t as clean and safe as it needs to be. Global warming is threatening our health and the planet, dirty runoff from big cities and big farms is polluting our waterways, and the oil and gas industry is moving to expand into pristine areas such as the Big Bend region.
Unfortunately, President Donald Trump has done virtually nothing in his first four months to improve the quality of our environment. Instead, he’s taken numerous actions that will threaten Texas’ air, water, and land. This puts him at odds with the environment, with public health, and with the will of the people.
When it comes to the biggest challenge of our time, President Trump has shown time and time again that he would rather put Texans’ future at risk than tackle global warming. We’re quickly approaching the point at which scientists say we won’t be able to avoid the most disastrous impacts of climate change. Storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events will become more disruptive, and rising sea levels will flood our coasts.
We have the resources and technology that we need to quickly transition to cleaner ways of generating energy. Texas is already the nation’s leading producer in wind power, and it could easily take the top spot in solar power too.
Instead, President Trump has chosen to undermine the climate progress that our country has already made. He’s proposed dismantling the Clean Power Plan, which placed the first-ever federal limits on global warming pollution caused by power plants. He’s stacked his cabinet with Big Oil allies like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and climate change deniers like EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. And he’s doubled down on the dirty energy of the past by approving projects such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The president has also failed to make innovation and research in the clean energy sector a priority. In one of his most shortsighted acts, he’s refused to invest in more than 300 universities and 10 national labs across the country that focus in part on renewable energy research.
Fighting climate change is more urgent than ever, and the president has a vital role to play at home and abroad when it comes to taking strong climate action. President Trump’s plans and policies, however, move us in the wrong direction.
If we fail to act on climate, we fail to stand up for our families’ health. Global warming pollution is extending the smog season. The San Antonio-New Braunfels area experienced 48 days with elevated smog levels in 2015, according to the most recent EPA data. Smog pollution causes health impacts such as coughing and throat irritation, as well as asthma and permanent lung tissue damage.
But it isn’t just the climate that will be impacted by President Trump’s actions. Our open lands and natural waters are a major part of what makes Texas great. In addition to being home to countless species of wildlife, they’re the places that we go to for recreation.
Our most famous national parks, including Big Bend and Padre Island, are already suffering from underfunding. The National Park Service has had to defer $294 million in necessary maintenance for its Texas locations. Yet despite this existing shortfall, President Trump has proposed even more cuts for the NPS and the Department of Interior. His budget would also severely underfund the acquisition of new lands, which would leave open spaces and sensitive areas at risk to development and privatization.
President Trump’s actions additionally threaten our water. Though we depend on our streams and rivers for safe drinking water, he has proposed getting rid of vital protections such as the Clean Water Rule. Without it, half of the nation’s streams – which provide drinking water to one in every three Americans – will be at risk. Here in Texas alone, 143,000 miles of streams that provide more than 11 million Texans with drinking water will be dirtier as a result.
The president’s budget further eliminates $330 million in funding for cleaning up toxic waste sites. The federal Superfund program tracks down polluters and makes them pay not only the costs of the clean-up, but also penalties for the mess they created. Here in Texas, we have 66 toxic waste dumps that have already been designated as Superfund sites. To protect our environment and our health, it’s essential that these sites are cleaned up – but that can only happen if the Superfund program is fully funded.
No matter who any of us voted for last November, none of us voted to move backwards on the climate, to make our air and water dirtier, to expose our kids to more toxic chemicals, or to sell our public lands to the highest bidder. On both the environment and public health, President Trump has put himself at odds with the American people.