By Gerald Winegrad
2020 was a very bad year for our nation and its citizens. It was also a terrible year for our environment — for the land, water, and air all living things depend on. The Trump Administration’s destructive warfare against longstanding conservation laws, many enacted under Republican presidents, trickled down to state and local levels including collapsing formal Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.
My New Year’s list of items needing resolution includes none more critical than ending the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats. They must join together again to work for the common good. Here’s the rest of my list:
The EPA must reverse its refusal to enforce Clean Water Act mandates for states not planning for or not meeting mandated nutrient and sediment pollution reductions and impose sanctions including on Maryland and Virginia.
Maryland must: strictly regulate manure land disposal particularly from industrialized chicken operations and enforce improved nutrient management plans on all farms; enact a statewide no net loss of forest law from development as Annapolis did; require stormwater management from development so as not to increase pollution loads from a 25-year storm; end wild oyster harvest switching watermen to aquaculture as has occurred with 95% of oysters harvested globally; and impose greater restrictions on rockfish harvest to prevent a collapse.
The environmental community needs to unite and prioritize actions on these measures especially controlling farm animal manure and other agricultural pollutants fouling the Bay.
Green Washing do nothing half-measures must end by elected officials and the environmental community.
The U.S. must exert international environmental leadership again and start by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, making climate change a high national priority. It should prioritize efforts to stop the 6th Great Extinction including ending the trade in wildlife facing massive declines which includes animals captured, butchered, and sold in markets such as the bats sold in Wuhan, China that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
President-elect Biden has to continue appointing the highest caliber professionally qualified individuals to cabinet level posts and throughout federal agencies to replace the corrupt Trump sycophants running our nation’s environmental programs. No more coal lobbyists running the EPA. The president needs to restore the science-based environmental missions of the EPA, Interior, and other agencies.
Congress should enact Biden’s Green New Deal, creating millions of jobs and advancing clean cars, solar installations, and energy efficiency in homes and other buildings to achieve a 100% clean energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050.
These Trumpian transgressions should be reversed: significant weakening of the Endangered Species Act; emasculation of the 102-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the bedrock law protecting birds from wanton killings including from oil spills; excluding 45 million acres of freshwater wetlands and streams from protection opening a majority of wetlands and 18% of streams to draining, development, and agricultural operations, affecting drinking water, wildlife especially waterfowl, and flood control; and weakening the 50-year-old critically important National Environmental Policy Act that requires environmental review and public input on major federal projects including highway construction.
The Obama Clean Power Plan must be restored and also restrictions on mercury and other toxic chemical emissions discharged into air and water from coal-fired power plants. Particulate matter that attacks our lungs must be better regulated after the EPA recently declined to do so. Federal auto fuel-efficiency requirements set under Obama and agreed upon by car manufacturers need to be restored. Common-sense switches to efficient LED lighting and appliances must be resuscitated. These measures would save more than 50,000 lives annually, make us less vulnerable to COVID 19, fight climate change, and save consumers billions of dollars.
The Trump war on wildlife must be reversed. Restoring ESA protection for wolves would stop their wanton slaughter. ESA protection was denied for 100 species including wolverines and walruses. A federal ban must be restored stopping the baiting and killing of Alaskan hibernating grizzly bears and their cubs. Bans on importing trophy hunted ESA-listed black rhinos and elephants and lions and leopards also must be renewed.
The largest reversal of national monument protections in U.S. history covering 2 million acres in southern Utah and opening the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante wildlands for oil and gas development and ranching must be stopped as must granting oil and gas permits in the pristine Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Obama era ban on the widely used nerve agent insecticide chlorpyrifos must be reinstated to protect children’s brains from impairment and protect endangered wildlife.
Some 2021 resolutions may be instituted on January 20, others may take years to accomplish. If Congress and the president work together, I am convinced our democracy can work again, science can prevail, and our great nation can lead the world in protecting our natural heritage and public health.
Happy Green New Year!
Gerald Winegrad represented the greater Annapolis area in the Legislature for 16 years, where he championed efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay. He served on the tri-State Chesapeake Bay Commission and taught graduate courses in bay restoration and wildlife management he authored. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.