Trump presidency causes worries for local environmentalists

By Alaina Boukedes

President Trump has signed 12 executive orders and published numerous presidential memorandums since he was sworn into office. Many of these proclamations have been directed at the EPA, like freezing federal funding and restarting the notorious Dakota Access Pipeline. These declarations not only affect large environmental government agencies, but non-profits and local organizations in Chicago.

“We are deeply concerned about the Trump administration’s anti-environment, pro-polluter agenda. Their stated policy goals would be a disaster for clean water,” said Robert Hirschfeld, the Water Policy Specialist and Communications for the Prairie Rivers Network, “Their agenda isn’t just unwise, it is reckless and self-destructive.”

Hirschfeld and the non-profit network worry for the future of Chicago, based on the preliminary actions taken by the Trump administration. The Prairie Rivers Network focuses on keeping Chicago’s waterways clean, and Trump’s recent reversal of the Stream Protection Rule and the progression of the Keystone and Dakota Pipeline are a few of many concerns that the group has about polluted waterways.

“These protections directly benefit the people of Illinois, and that’s why we’ve worked to support them for years,” Hirschfeld said.

The Respiratory Health Association (RHA) in Chicago works with people affected by air-quality illnesses. Since Trump’s promised to create jobs in the coal mining industry, a large part of his campaign, the RHA work has increased. This work includes research, community-outreach and treatments for the prevention of lung diseases.

“The President’s views on climate science are especially concerning, as there are definite health impacts on people from accelerated global warming and the increasingly severe weather and landscape altering changes it will bring,” said Brian P. Urbaszewski, director of the environmental health programs at the RHA, “For people living with chronic lung disease this includes the dangers posed by long lasting extreme heat waves, longer summer smog seasons, and increasing risks of smoke from wildfires and mold-generating flooding events.”

Before his election, Trump’s twitter feed was littered with tweets denying climate change. Adding to the worries of environmental organizations is the appointment of Scott Pruitt as the head of EPA. Pruitt’s reputation includes suing the EPA and denying the science behind climate change.

“One final alarming trend that must be highlighted, and one not limited to the environmental realm, is the sheer quantity of lies coming out of the administration,” said Hirschfeld, “The American people depend on the government for accurate data on which we can make sound policy decisions, including how to best protect our air, water, soil, and climate. If we can’t rely on the government for honest data, we fear for our ability to address our most critical environmental problems.”