Trump’s EPA Has a Plan with a Death Toll

Sara Danver
6 min readAug 21, 2018

The Trump era is the quiet part made loud. The violent racism and misogyny that lurked just off stage pulling the strings now sits in the White House and makes immigration policy and calls Nazis and white supremacists very fine people. The insidious corruption of money in politics

reminds us that billionaires just got a huge tax break to appease their donors, and that millions more almost lost health care for the same reason. The hollowed out wreck of political discourse on cable news and in the depths of Washington becomes ever more apparent in its inability to reckon with the Trump administration’s casual disregard for the truth.

Look no further than today’s bombshell news about the administration’s answer to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and the push notifications that accompanied the announcement.

Washington Post: “Trump administration proposes rewriting rules for power plants, a move that could slow the decline of emissions.”

CNN: “The EPA announces its plan to roll back Obama-era coal pollution rules. Experts say the move will be bad for America’s health.”

Push notification news alerts are notoriously bad. It’s hard to get people to click on things these days. I assume most of you clicked on the link to this piece because you love me and I yelled at you, and that’s not the kind of criteria that works for most news organizations. But in this particular case, the notifications belie our inability to reckon with and articulate the chaos of the era. Because when you click through and read an actual article (I chose the NYT even though they haven’t push notified me yet, because I found this story on twitter first), the truth is much more terrifying.

The New York Times headline is actually pretty accurate, so the tenor of this piece might have been different if I hadn’t seen the push notifications before I started writing but, the headline reads: E.P.A.’s New Coal Pollution Rules Will Lead to More Deaths, Agency’s Numbers Show.

Think about that for a second. The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is about to put in place new rules for coal plants that will actively lead to more deaths than previous policy. And this isn’t some fringe environmental group’s estimate, and it isn’t a talking point put out by the Democrats (although I’m sure it will be). This is by the Trump administration’s own estimates. Trump’s EPA designed a plan with a death toll.

Per the New York Times analysis of the rules and the report, the new plan calls for minor efficiency tweaks to be made to coal burning plants and proposes extensions for plants that need upgrades.

Compared to the Obama-era plan, the analysis says, “implementing the proposed rule is expected to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health.”

The analysis also includes a section called “foregone” climate and human health benefits. That is, instead of listing the health gains of the Trump plan — preventing premature deaths, for example, or avoiding a certain number of increased emergency room visits from asthma attacks — it is instead describing the effect of the Trump plan as benefits lost.

The estimated premature deaths under the new rule would be between 470 and 1400 by 2030, as well as “48,000 new cases of exacerbated asthma and at least 21,000 new missed days of school annually by 2030.” This is in contrast to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan which would have prevented “between 1,500 and 3,600 premature deaths annually by 2030” as well as 180,000 missed school days.

The quiet part is this — the Republican party doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care if you can breathe comfortably. It doesn’t care if you can vote. It doesn’t care if you have access to health care and it doesn’t care if you can feed your family. The Republican party cares about political victories and the accumulation of power. There is no greater evidence of this than the very existence of the Trump Era.

It’s not just their subservience to Trump’s blatant corruption, white supremacy, and gross incompetence. It’s the years they spent crowing about the deficit until they needed to exacerbate it by over a trillion dollars to give their donors a tax cut. It’s lambasting Obama for saying he’d talk to foreign leaders of hostile powers without preconditions, upending the Iran deal, and then praising Trump for saying he’d talk to the leaders of Iran without preconditions. It’s decrying Obamacare as socialized medicine when it was a market based compromise based on a Republican health care plan whose creator, Mitt Romney, would later run against it.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, per Vox, was a fairly simple idea in which the EPA would set targets for each state to reduce their carbon emissions, and the states could decide how they wanted to tackle their goal. A global crisis like climate change requires global solutions, and some measure of direction from the federal government, but this plan was designed to pay homage to things Republicans claim to care about by letting each state deal with the problem in accordance with their own ideologies, politics, and voters. But Republicans don’t care about compromise, and they don’t care about states’ rights. They care about the accumulation of power.

And they are about to enshrine that value system in the Supreme Court for generations to come. (Call your Senators and tell them not to vote for Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court justice 202–224–3121).

We are ill-equipped to deal with this kind of hypocrisy, the kind of blatant, bad faith power grabbing practiced by those who preach a perverted, draconian patriotism out of the other side of their mouths. Our zeitgeist runs on outrage and our clickbait scandals are devoted to the immediate crises and the absurd and it’s difficult to fight with people who don’t believe in anything, but will say anything to hold onto power. But climate change is a long running scandal — a conspiracy of the highest order in which a segment of our government colluded to ignore our impending doom, and to demonize those who try to call attention to it.

In a recent episode of Pod Save America, Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer discussed the possibility of a tape of Trump saying the n-word. Their conclusion was that this would have an immediate impact on our politics, but that impact would be diluted by time, by our own media cycle and attention spans, and by the Russian roulette of crises that make up the Trump era. We are good at the immediate impact of a tape. But our capacity to deal with the systemic racism behind it is limited. We understand the terrible impact of a major hurricane, but we are ill-equipped to deal with a pattern of ever more violent storms.

We get clickbait push notifications about celebrities, food that’s bad for you, murders, and lewd questions suggested by Supreme Court nominees. But when it comes to an EPA report that says its own plan is going to have a death toll, we somehow find our moderation.

The climate is changing. And soon we aren’t going to be able to live on this planet anymore. And while we’re waiting around for that to happen, lots of people are going to die. Lots of homes will be destroyed. Diseases are coming out of the ice. Sea levels are rising. And the Trump administration is actively trying to make it worse.

We have to take this country back. And then we have to keep it. Find a candidate to help here.