While you were attending to other matters …
“Melania Trumps jacket was, one must admit, a bit tacky. She wore it to see the refugee kids, but her jacket said she didn’t really care – didn’t care about what was left unclear. But she definitely made an impression. The First Lady and her sartorial splendor had starring roles on at least two days news cycles, plus late night television comedy and talk shows.
Meanwhile, while we were lusting after stories of EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s exciting hunts – directed, one might presume, from the safety of his $40,000 telephone booth – for his preferred hotel lotion and mattresses – he announced he would limit his agency’s authority to block permits for industries who’s work might pollute or otherwise harm the nation’s waterways.
And back in the Oval, the president has been busy directing the dismantling of our planetary protections in the name of profit-making for large companies.
In February this year, President Trump presided over a televised ceremony at which he signed House Joint Resolution 38, a Congressional agreement to reverse an Obama-era rule aimed at blocking coal-mining operations from dumping waste into nearby waterways.
In January 2014, 7,000 gallons of coal wash flowed from a burst storage tank into the Elk River in West Virginia. As it flowed past Charleston into the Kanawha River, 300,000 West Virginia American Water Company customers, who normally consume the precious liquid from an intake on the Elk, began drinking water trucked in from Pennsylvania. No matter. One of the speakers at the signing ceremony, lauded Trump for saving 70,000 coal miner jobs.
Alas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry only employed about 53,000 miners that month, and the number is trending downward as the nation switches energy sources and coal production companies find more efficient, less labor-intensive, ways to wrest the stuff from the earth – mostly for export. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, proclaimed his state’s miners to be conservationists – sportsmen and environmentalists intent on preserving the planet. What he left out was many of them have lost their jobs to mountain-topping operations – the practice of bulldozing Appalachian Mountain tops into adjacent valleys and streams, chasing away wildlife and killing fisheries. There is mounting evidence it’s detrimental to the well-being of unborn humans, as well.
Elsewhere, Trump has stroked his pen across orders to reduce the protected size of at least two national monuments, making the newly re-exposed land available for mining; He has promised to open more forest land in Minnesota to destructive exploitation.
In June, he erased a system of protections established by the Obama administration, that protected the nation’s oceans and Great Lakes. To be sure, some of the new industry is likely to be offshore wind farms, but more is promised to become oil drilling fields, and we know how well that turns out. Drilling companies promise to be careful, and each accident yields an oath that “it will never happen again.” But happen it does, and history is emblazoned with names such as Exxon Valdez and Deep Water Horizon.
Mr. Trump and his EPA have directed states to take over regulatory tasks, if they wish, and at their own expense, and “let us know if we can help create jobs and increase profit levels.”
The First Lady’s attire makes great news copy, and the proclivities of our political kings and queens do, indeed provide fodder for nighttime television pundits.
But if we intend to leave a planet for our great-grandkids to have a shot at fixing, we really must pay closer attention to the more mundane activities of legislative and executive mischief.