Editorial: King Trump and the EPA exodus

File Photo By Kasey Brammell/Cronkite News: Maricopa County is failing the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest ozone standards. The EPA has reclassified the county from marginal to moderate for non-attainment of ozone limits.

Column By John Young

Looking back, it all seems so long ago – another era entirely, an epoch committed to dusty catacombs and flaking Sanskrit.

Surely it couldn’t be just two years since the end of Pharaoh’s reign.

We sang songs about his departure. We celebrated his exile to his gold-plated compound.

But King Trumptankhamun — “King Trump” of popular parody — remains a player.

Not because the people want him back.

Not because the times call for his return.

Then why is he still an influence? Largely it’s because of the wreckage he left behind.

In this installment, we speak not of the destruction and carnage of Jan. 6, the criminal effort to subvert the people’s will.

Today we’ll talk of what he did to subvert the Environmental Protection Agency. Specifically the exodus he triggered, like a biblical king of old.

The New York Times used that word — “exodus” — to describe what happened in the EPA under the Golden Pharaoh.

More than 1,200 scientists and policy experts either resigned in protest or lost their jobs with programs halted and funding slashed.

The Trump administration rolled back more than 100 environmental rules.

It took a wrecking ball to key initiatives to protect our air, our water, our natural resources, and, in general, to extend Earth’s life.

It replaced the Clean Power Plan with something much less clean.

It redefined critical terms under the Endangered Species Act.

It lifted regulations on the disposal of toxic materials like coal ash.

It carved away at standards for mercury and methane.

Those alarmed by this can feel good today that a true environmentalist is in the White House.

The problem is that so much damage was inflicted on environmental policy and the infrastructure supporting it that restoring sound policies will take excruciating amounts of time – time we don’t necessarily have.

That’s the verdict of a National Geographic analysis: “The most consequential impact of Trump’s climate policies? Wasted time.”

A horribly understaffed EPA is racing to piece together the mechanisms to reverse what Trumpism has done.

Take the air we breathe and the carbon load that has Earth’s climate on a string.

Independent think tank Rhodium Group calculates that Trump’s actions on clean air would add 1.8 billion tons of extra CO2 to the atmosphere by 2035. That’s 30 percent of what our entire country emitted in one year — 2019.

Everything Trump did was reversible, said the analysts. But time is of the essence.

The more delay, the more costly and difficult the measures.

Unquestionably the brain drain at the EPA, courtesy of Donald Trump, is a major factor.

A former top EPA scientist told the Times that career employees are “being worked to death,” saying, “They’re under the greatest pressure they’ve ever been.”

Trump tried to slash the EPA budget by 30 percent each of his four years. Joe Biden has worked to reverse that matter, with the EPA getting its first substantial increase in years.

However, with a downward EPA funding curve from a peak in 2004, the Times reports, the agency’s staffing levels are only slightly higher than during the Reagan administration.

Under said conditions, Biden asks a lot of the EPA to ramp up important initiatives.

Max Stier of the Partnership for Public Service, which promotes environmental action, told the Times, “You have an organization that was at some level traumatized to begin with,” which has faced “massive divestment, and now you have a new set of requirements that are going to call for new capabilities.”

Columbia University climate expert Noah Kaufman told National Geographic, “What hasn’t happened over the last four years is much more important than what has happened. That’s the impact of the Trump years.”

So we spin our wheels, coughing in our toxins, while the Pharaoh tees it up at his peninsula paradise.

As pertains to agencies that serve us all and seek to ensure a future for life here, voters must see that Trumpism remains in its sarcophagus.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.