A week after rolling back a major Obama-era protection for clean water in the U.S., the Trump administration now claims that “piles of human feces” on sidewalks in San Francisco and Los Angeles are a water pollution violation. Both cities struggle with homelessness and, yes, poop on sidewalks. But environmentalists point out that the current head of the EPA, who wrote a letter to California’s governor threatening enforcement action, has little interest in actually protecting the environment.
“We welcome EPA’s sudden interest in enforcing the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, which has been conspicuously absent since President Trump took office,” Eric Schaeffer, former director of civil enforcement at EPA and the executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement.” But a regulatory agency’s enforcement authority is not supposed to be used as a political weapon, which is obviously happening here.”
On September 19, the Trump administration announced that it was repealing a major clean water regulation, the Waters of the United States rule, that had limited pollution near streams and wetlands to protect sources of drinking water. Polluters will now be able to dump dangerous chemicals into waterways without permits. The Obama-era rule had also clarified that the definition of “waters of the United States” applied to agriculture, a major source of water pollution. Previously, the Trump administration revoked a rule to stop coal companies from dumping mining debris in streams and weakened another rule that aimed to stop coal plants from dumping out toxic wastewater. Trump has also rolled back more than 80 other major environmental regulations.
After a visit to San Francisco last week, Trump said, “They have to clean it up. We can’t have our cities going to hell,” and claimed that pollution was flowing from city sidewalks into the ocean, although the storm drains actually lead to wastewater treatment plants. (The San Francisco Bay and the surrounding ocean is also full of nuclear waste, thanks to the U.S. government, but no matter.) As he criticized the homelessness crisis, his administration also rejected any further aid to California for affordable housing—even though the lack of affordable housing is one major reason why so many people there now live on streets.