What’s Up With Key Climate and Clean Water Regulations? An Explainer

By Kosoko Jackson

For our generation, climate change is fertile common ground. Across the political spectrum, young people continue to cite climate change and clean energy as top political priorities.

That’s why we need to pay attention to the emerging trend coming out of this administration:

  1. On January 24, the president signed an executive order that expedites the review process for all environmental regulations and approvals for infrastructure projects.
  2. A subsequent executive order rolled back the Clean Water Rule.
  3. An executive order aimed at dismantling previous climate protections can have horrific long term effects on climate.
  4. The removal of the US from The Paris Accord.

So what does this mean for us? Let’s break it down.

What’s up with the Jan 24 executive?

It forces the EPA to take another look at the rule, effectively “halting” any programs directly related to the preservation and purification of waterways and estuaries. The reworking has no real guidelines and allows for President Trump and his advisers to shoot down any alternative rules put forth by the EPA, until they find a rule and regulation that fits their needs. Consequently, the ambiguity is a little unsettling, especially in an administration so heavily business focused.

Source: World Resources Institute

This means less regulation for industries, and less water for…you know, living.

Shady, we know.

WHAT IS THE CLEAN WATER RULE?

The Clean Water rule was a piece of legislation issues in 1972 with the purpose of regulate pollution and curb the growing problem of pollution across the nation. Authorities were able to control pollution contributors by putting sanctions on them and strict regulations, that would in turn protect major waterways such as the Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River, and Puget Sound. As a result, over 65% of major waterways, including wetlands, showed a significant drop of population and were considered “protected”.

This isn’t the first time the Clean Water Rule has come under attack. In fact, The Clean Water rule, and President Obama’s additions to it came under attack in 2015. But this is the first time, since the enactment of the rule 45 years ago, that a President has openly opposed — and acted against — it.

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT YOUNG PEOPLE?

Pollution is a major issue for young people, directly, and indirectly. Not only does pollution contribute to climate change, it is one of the issues young people are most vocal about. Gutting the clean water act is a direct action, completely opposite, of what young people have expressed they care most about.

Also, pollution always affects those who are least fortunate enough to live in the most wealthy of areas. With young people graduating, on average, with 30K in debt (without interest), and a starting salary range of 35–50K (depending on discipline) a year, living in metropolises (most detached from the effects of climate change) becomes close to impossible. Consequently, environmental racism, nationally and globally, come into play — small choices, creating big changes. Clean, potable water, also is a deciding factor of health of a nation.

Source: Environmental Working Group

WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

Climate change, and pollution, are not only an American issue, but global ones.. As a nation, we are not only responsible for ourselves, but our neighbors too. More than 20% of young people are first generation or immigrants. Consequently, more than 20% have attachment to another culture, another part of the world who take the brunt of our (negative) choices in America. We don’t live in a world anymore where issues are simply “one countries” problem; its everyone’s problem. Like climate change.

Climate change isn’t only a domestic issue. It ignores country lines and as a global citizen, what happens in our country, effects our neighbors near, and fear. Removal from The Paris Accord nullifies submitted plans the USA submitted to curb greenhouse gas emissions and do what we can to repair the ozone layer. Only 2 other countries, Nicaragua and Syria, didn’t sign the Accord. Removing ourselves from this isn’t only a statement of how we view the importance (or lack there of) in bettering our world, but a firm stance on how much we value our environment. This choice will effect not only our air, but our weather, our industry, and most importantly, our clear water.

Clean water is a right all individuals, especially those working to make ends meet — a defining characteristic of millennials — should be afforded. We shouldn’t live in a world where clean water isn’t a given. The effects of gutting the Clean Water Act will be able to be felt for years to come, and once the seal is broken, it’s not easy to go back and fix the past.

Just ask Flint.

Illustrated by Philip Blum

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