A new Associated Press analysis shows that while the Trump administration's deregulation of the fossil fuel industry is likely to save oil and gas companies billions of dollars, the cost in terms of human death and suffering as a result of the environmental devastation will be incalculable.
"Tell me Donald. Exactly how much is a human life being sold for?"
While the report, published Sunday, estimates that the fossil fuel industry could save up to $11.6 billion, other consequences include up to 1,400 more premature deaths per year, a jump of about a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions that will further warm the planet, increased risk of water contamination, and fewer safety checks to prevent oil spills.
The study comes as scientists warn with mounting urgency that the global community must rapidly phase out fossil fuels to avert catastrophic global warming, and as people around the world are intensifying their demands for bold climate action.
The administration has targeted nearly 80 environmental rules, according to a New York Times investigation published last month, but the AP study focused on the impacts of efforts to rescind or scale back 11 specific regulations:
- the 2015 Department of Transportation (DOT) rule that required safety upgrades to prevent oil-carrying "bomb trains" from derailing and exploding;
- the 2016 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule requiring oil and gas companies to limit methane emissions during fracking and flaring;
- the Interior Department's 2016 rule that required dirty energy companies to reduce methane emissions on public and tribal lands;
- the EPA's 2015 rule that aimed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants;
- elements of the 2015 EPA rule designed to prevent spills from toxic coal ash dumps;
- the 2015 Interior rule that aimed to protect drinking water from fracking contamination;
- safety regulations implemented after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with the purpose of preventing future offshore drilling disasters;
- elements of the 2016 Interior rule that mandated more intense inspections of devices designed to prevent oil spills;
- reporting requirements from the 2015 EPA rule restricting toxic air pollution from refineries;
- the 2016 EPA rule stating it was "appropriate and necessary" to limit mercury emissions from oil- and coal-fired power plants; and
- a 2016 DOT proposal that aimed to implement stricter fuel efficiency standards.
While the rollbacks analyzed are at different stages of implementation—five are pending and six are final—environmental and consumer advocacy groups have launched various legal challenges, citing the public and planetary health risks that many, including University of Chicago professor Michael Greenstone, a top economist for the Obama administration, claim federal agencies are understating.
"When you start fudging the numbers, it's not that the costs just evaporate into thin air. We will pay," Greenstone told the AP. "They are reducing the costs for industries where pollution is a byproduct."
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The AP report sparked outrage online, with one Twitter user concluding, "Trump is letting his corporate friends wreck the planet and our health."
Trump is letting his corporate friends wreck the planet and our health: https://t.co/sYG5yTZnfQ
— feyandstrange (@feyandstrange) January 28, 2019
— Ted Dreier (@T3Doc) January 28, 2019
Trump rollbacks for fossil fuel industries carry steep cost https://t.co/kksOl15LCe
— Joda Latour (@jodalatour) January 28, 2019