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Clearing the Air: Air Quality & Trump

By Tom Frantz

The regressive policy proposals of Donald Trump will almost certainly be implemented during his first year in office. These will likely include federal changes weakening low-income safety nets, education subsidies, social security, and healthcare. Civil Rights may erode, replaced by arbitrary police state rule under the guise of preventing terrorism and cleaning up crime. Minority rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and rights of association will become unenforceable in many states.

Our prisons will probably overflow with people of color providing a form of cheap labor subsidized by middle-class taxpayers. Immigrants, who are currently working and paying taxes, will be denied any opportunity of citizenship. Deportations will routinely clear out neighborhoods of these immigrants in both cities and rural communities except when crops need to be harvested and sweat shops need low paid workers.

As Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, and the agency itself, are gutted and international climate goals are discarded, it will become obvious that the disasters of global warming are again accelerating unabated. The United States will quickly regain its status as the world’s number one source of greenhouse gas emissions. A border wall will indeed be built to keep out increasing, climate change-related floods of starving and landless refugees.

On the home front, here in the San Joaquin Valley, our air quality will likely deteriorate. It is awful today and will probably get worse under a Trump administration. Currently, the EPA is a backstop preventing our air district from exempting local polluting industries from federal clean air rules. These protective rules, requiring strict smokestack controls will be stripped of enforcement requirements and our air district will freely grant wholesale variances to industries not wishing to maintain expensive pollution control equipment.

New federal legislation, already proposed by our air district, will effectively remove the current mandates we have to reach national air quality standards. We may see coal burning power plants come back to the San Joaquin Valley and trash incinerators everywhere. Certainly, federal subsidies for clean solar power and electric vehicles will come to a halt.

Our air district has already formed an ad-hoc committee of board members to make sure the Trump transition team is aware of their desire to eviscerate the Clean Air Act and at the earliest possible moment. This attempt to kill us and our children by our local air board may become more of a national issue because other places also have bad air to breathe. A Senate filibuster led by Democrats may be able to stall devastating changes to the Clean Air Act. But, Trump is likely to succeed with his stated environmental goals of getting rid of the EPA and giving big polluters a free market scenario so long as people like the politicians on our air board push for it.

In the past, California has been able to enforce some of their own air cleanup rules with permission from EPA. That permission will likely be withdrawn. California will also have to deal with their own greenhouse gas goals and plans to trade emissions with other states without any federal cooperation.

There is current hope by state leaders that California will be able to defy this new federal paradigm and enforce its own environmental rules in the future. But, the state may have to give up federal subsidies such as highway funding in order to go it alone. Loss of highway funds may not be counterproductive in terms of air quality but would require big changes in Sacramento regarding how money is collected and spent. A huge public transportation program is necessary with wholesale conversion of freight movement from diesel trucks to electrified rail.

It is not too early to begin fighting the incoming Trump administration. Our very lives are at stake.

*****

Longtime clean air advocate Tom Frantz is a retired math teacher and Kern County almond farmer. A founding member of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, he serves on the CVAQ steering committee and as president of the Association of Irritated Residents. CVAQ is a partnership of more than 70 community, medical, public health, environmental, and environmental justice organizations representing thousands of residents in the San Joaquin Valley unified in their commitment to improving the health of Californians. For more information, visit www. calcleanair.org.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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