EPA highlights decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and deregulation in annual review

EPA highlights decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and deregulation in annual review
© Thinkstock

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promoting its deregulatory agenda while also highlighting a measured drop in greenhouse gas emissions as part of its list of 2018 achievements.

Accomplishments highlighted in the agency’s annual year in review, released Monday on the first workday back after the end of the partial government shutdown, include accomplishments that have been highly criticized by environmentalists as well as contradicted claims.

ADVERTISEMENT
The review highlights regulatory reform, a reduction in air pollution, deletion of Superfund sites and sizable grant funding numbers as some of the major accomplishments it achieved in a year where leadership was split between former EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Chaotic Trump transition leaks: Debates must tackle how Democrats will govern differently The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions MORE and current acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

“Over the past year, the Trump Administration has continued to deliver on its promises to the American public. Not only are the economic prospects of Americans brighter and improving by the day, but so are environmental and public health conditions. Under President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE, America is on a path to a stronger, safer, and cleaner future,” Wheeler said in a statement.

Items the EPA highlighted as accomplishments include a number of policy points the Trump administration has long advocated.

The document counted 13 deregulatory actions that were finalized in 2018 and a total of 33 major deregulations done under Trump that EPA says saved Americans nearly $2 billion. Actions mentioned included the replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and proposed changes to the national vehicle emissions standard.

However, many policies highlighted have drawn past criticism.

One highlight EPA promoted was its annual enforcement against corporate polluters, saying in Fiscal 2018, EPA enforcement actions lead to the treatment or disposal of 809 million pounds of pollutants and waste, “almost twice as much as FY 2017.”

“The focus on these areas has resulted in larger, more complex cases with greater reductions in Pollution,” the review reads.

However, EPA under Trump has pivoted from an emphasis on legal enforcement against polluters, towards a push towards remedial compliance. The agency’s 2017 enforcement numbers showed a dramatic decrease from the number of civil cases settled and remediated under Obama. And numbers for 2018 are anticipated to be much lower.

Another item highlighted by EPA involved grant funding. The agency in Fiscal 18 awarded more than $4 billion in grants. But EPA has also fought to narrow who can receive grant funding. In 2017 former Administrator Pruitt instituted an agency rule that no scientist who currently received an EPA grant could also sit on its science advisory board. That rule has been challenged in court.

The White House has also made moves to dramatically cut the agency’s grant funding. The proposed EPA budget submitted last February aimed to reduce categorical grants by $469 million from the 2017 enacted budget's $1 billion in order to "better focus and prioritize environmental activities on core functions required by Federal environmental laws."

The agency's review also highlighted an October study released this year that found greenhouse gas emissions had dropped in 2017. In addition to emphasizing the lofty environmental deregulations the Trump administration enacted since the president took office, the review lauded Trump for being responsible for the drop in emissions.

“EPA reported that, during President Trump’s first year in office, greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial sources decreased by 2.7 percent,” the review read.

Experts have largely attributed the new trend to the cheaper price of natural gas, which is cleaner when burned than traditional coal and emits less carbon. Coal is a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally.

The fossil fuel industry, which the EPA is tasked to oversee was mentioned multiple times throughout the review. With Coal, natural gas, and oil receiving 13, 43 and 36 mentions each in the 44-page report. Climate change was not mentioned once.