Credit: US EPA

Peter Dykstra: “The heavy stuff’s not gonna come down for quite a while.”

When it comes to the Trump Administration's purge of environmental regulation, it may look like the deluge has already started, but I'd advise taking shelter for what's on the way.

In one of my all-time favorite movies, Caddyshack, Bill Murray is caddying for Bishop Pickering, cleric and member in good standing of the Bushwood Country Club.


In lightning and a deluge of rain, Murray urges the Bishop to play on: "I think the heavy stuff's not gonna come down for quite a while."

That pretty much sums up how I feel about the Trump Administration's purge of environmental regulation. It may look like the deluge has already started, but I'd advise taking shelter for the much worse impacts that could be on the way.

On Wednesday, former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler carried out a potentially lifesaving feat for his ex-clients by reversing Obama-era rules designed to wean the U.S. off coal. Wheeler's new rule would defer many decisions now made federally to individual states. This trumps Wheeler's previous-week highlight, in which he said that taming the plastic waste crisis, not climate change, was the EPA's greatest international priority.

A few months earlier, Wheeler said safe drinking water was a much bigger priority than climate change.

Also, well underway are efforts to cancel Obama-era targets for car and truck fuel efficiency. Get this: The auto industry recently pleaded with the White House to retain the more ambitious fuel efficiency standards – a cornerstone of the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Translation: While we're growing accustomed to any number of industries having their way, the Administration's anti-regulatory Jihadists have more pull over auto industry regs than the auto industry has.

Wheeler is also advancing efforts started by his scandal-plagued predecessor, Scott Pruitt, to tone down the use of EPA's Science Advisory Board in establishing new pollution regulations. Inside Climate News reported earlier this month that SAB meetings, once convened six to eight times annually, dwindled to one meeting in the past year.

The Administration is expected to soon take a run at NEPA, an obscure but critical half-century old statute. The National Environmental Policy Act requires that an environmental impact assessment be prepared for every major development project.

Had enough? The Endangered Species Act faces a Trump makeover, soon. Budgets and morale at EPA, Interior, NOAA and other agencies are racing each out the door, with institutional knowledge swirling the drain. Fringe scientists, like climate denier William Happer, have a seat at the Trump table.

Superfund cleanups, never a roaring success, are slowing. And like Wheeler, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is an ex-fossil lobbyist with a quiet insider's style.

So amid the deluges, the weather report isn't getting any brighter any time soon. The heavy stuff could be in our future.

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