Trump’s Environmental Racism

Here are just 10 ways Donald Trump’s environmental racism is targeting communities of color already suffering from polluted air, dirty water, and toxic chemicals.

1. Trump is silencing communities of color. On the same day tear gas was used to clear protesters outside the White House, Trump advanced a rule change that would stop communities of color from having a say on major polluting projects in their neighborhoods. A report from the NAACP, Clean Air Task Force, and National Medical Association found Black Americans are 75% more likely to live in fenceline communities that border polluting facilities like oil and gas refineries.

2. Trump used the pandemic as an excuse to roll back 69 environmental protections. Trump waived environmental safeguards, giving refineries and industrial facilities an “open license to pollute.” In Houston’s most heavily industrialized areas, air pollutants surged as much as 62% after Trump’s rollback, according to a Texas A&M analysis of air monitoring stations.

3. Trump ignored calls to limit dirty soot pollution linked to COVID-19 deaths. Scientists have warned that soot pollution disproportionately affects communities of color and can cause cancer, heart disease, and asthma, which kills Black children at 10 times the rate as white children. Soot in the air was linked to higher death rates from COVID-19 around the same time we learned that Black Americans were dying at three times the rate as whites from the disease. Still, Trump overruled calls from scientists to set tighter air quality standards on soot pollution after disbanding the panel of scientists created to determine what levels of these pollutants are safe to breathe.

4. Trump rolled back clean cars standards critical for protecting air quality. Car exhaust is another major source of the soot pollution that is killing people of color. One study found that communities of color in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic breathe 66% more air pollution just from car exhaust than white residents — exposure that was made worse when Trump insisted on rolling back clean cars standards.

5. Trump made it easier for coal power plants to keep spewing dangerous toxic pollution into the air. Coal power plants are the other major source of the soot pollution that is killing people of color. In addition to fine soot particles, coal power plants spew mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic into the air. An NAACP report found that six million Americans live within three miles of a coal power plant and that population is disproportionately people of color. Trump rolled back rules on pollution from coal power plants in order to help keep older, dirty coal plants in operation longer.

6. Trump pushed dangerous pipeline projects through tribal lands. Native Americans have been on the front lines of protecting their access to clean drinking water sources from irresponsible fossil fuel development. After fighting off permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, Trump’s response was to repeatedly change the rules to give the oil companies what they want and to silence the people fighting for clean water.

7. Trump tried to gut environmental justice enforcement. In his first budget request to Congress, Trump tried to completely eliminate the environmental justice office at the EPA. This is the office charged with addressing the disparities in pollution experienced by communities of color. In fact, in every single year of his presidency, Trump has sought to either eliminate or drastically slash funding for environmental justice at the EPA.

8. Trump’s EPA ignored pleas from a Black community affected by a coal ash dump. Residents in Uniontown, Alabama, a town that is 90% Black, filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. EPA over a toxic coal ash waste landfill containing arsenic, mercury, and lead.  Despite reports of odors,  nose, throat, and eye irritation, dizziness, and nausea, Trump’s EPA declined to test or monitor the site, instead relying on data from an air monitoring station miles away. Trump even took things a step further and relaxed rules for how this toxic coal ash is stored.

9. Trump rolled back chemical disaster rules, putting communities of color who live near chemical plants at risk. Refinery row” in Texas and “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana are places where oil refineries and chemical plants are located to next to predominantly Black and Latinx communities. In Cancer Alley, researchers found that the  neighborhoods with higher percentage, the higher the risk of cancer goes. During Hurricane Harvey, plants in Texas were allowed to release more than 1 million pounds of dangerous pollutants, but Trump actually rolled back the rule known as the “chemical disaster rule” which sets requirements for chemical plants to plan for emergency situations.

10. Trump called climate change a “hoax.” The denial of climate change is a racist act on its own. Everything about climate change has a disproportionate impact on people of color, and casting doubt of the reality of climate change devalues the Black and Latinx lives lost from lung disease, heat stress, and extreme weather that strike communities of color the hardest.

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