Environmental impact of Project 2025

Phil Anderson

The Republicans have a plan – called Project 2025 – to make many drastic changes to the federal government if they win control in November. 

Last week I discussed the basic agenda to dismantle or weaken many federal government functions and services (“Project 2025 is on the ballot” June 6, 2024). 

In May I talked about their  plans to restructure federal taxes (“Taxes are on the ballot in November” May 16, 2024). 

This article discusses their plans to change the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and environmental protection. 

Reading the “Mandate for Leadership” one soon discovers the goal of the Project 2025 is not to protect or improve the environment. The real agenda is protect polluting industries, watering down standards, reducing regulations and cutting funding and staffing to reduce enforcement.

This should not be surprising as Republicans have always opposed any restrictions on business no matter how harmful to the public. In their minds any limitation on the “freedom” of business to do whatever they want to make the most money is anathema. 

When Republicans pontificate about “law and order” and getting “tough on crime” they are not talking about white collar crimes like violating anti-pollution laws.

In the chapter on the proposed conservative EPA the “mission statement” sounds good. It states the goal is “Creating a better environmental tomorrow with clean air, safe water, healthy soil, and thriving communities.” 

But deeper in the details the real agenda becomes clear. 

When President Nixon signed the EPA into existence in 1970 everyone recognized the need to “clean up and protect the environment.” Support for creating the EPA was bi-partisan when the black belching smoke stacks, filthy rivers and soot filled air could not be ignored. But many of today’s Republicans are calling for it to be abolished. 

The Project 2025 EPA chapter claims that under “liberal” administrations the agency has “experienced massive growth...exceeded its congressional mandates and purpose”...“ignored the will of Congress,” “aligned with the “wants of politically connected activists” and “embedded activists [have pursued] “a global, climate-themed agenda..”

But this is twisting the history. The EPA has grown as the science matured, the obvious pollution was cleaned up and the new, more difficult, environmental problems became apparent. 

The real change has been in the attitudes of conservatives and especially the MAGA extremists. These Know Nothings reject everything to do with science, whether climate change, evolution, immunizations, green energy or environmental protection. 

Returning to the “Mandate for Leadership” they say the, “EPA’s structure and mission should be greatly circumscribed to reflect the principles of cooperative federalism and limited government. This will require significant restructuring and streamlining of the agency...” 

This involves emphasizing “state control,” promoting a “culture of compliance” and creating “earnest relationships among local officials and regulated stakeholders.” 

The problem with these “customer friendly,” PR buzzword approaches to law enforcement is  that they are merely a smoke screen for watering down compliance. Allowing state control is a  known tactic for weakening regulation. Most environmental problems are not local. They cross state lines and can only be effectively addressed with regional or national action. 

Most states (especially with Republican controlled legislatures) do not have the resources or staff to effectively monitor or regulate large, multi-national companies. 

Another problem is the Republican emphasis on costs. They say environmental laws should result in “practical, cost-beneficial, affordable solutions..” Republicans constantly whine about   “job-killing regulations that serve to depress the economy.” They say “EPA should consider and reduce...the economic costs of its actions...on local communities...” 

But communities with extractive or highly polluting industries historically have suffered lower economic stability, more boom and bust unemployment and higher levels of poverty. These problems were not caused by efforts to control the pollution. They are a natural result of the polluting industries. This is especially true after the industry closes down and leaves the pollution behind. 

Of course the most cost-effective solution is to not make a mess in the first place. But requiring that companies be responsible for what they make, what they take in natural resources, what they waste, or what toxic waste they leave behind is not part of Republican cost-benefit analysis. Shifting costs to others is a common business tactic. This is what business subsidies, tax avoidance, outsourcing, paying low wages with no benefits or leaving Superfund toxic waste dumps for the public to deal with are all about.

The chapter on the EPA also advocates a process of “pause and review.” The incoming Republican EPA should, “Identify existing rules to be stayed,” rules to be reconsidered, “grants to advocacy groups” to be stopped, court cases to be reassessed, staff to be “downsized” and senior staff to be “relocated.” 

Farther into the details they get more blunt about the actions they plan including to “...cut costs, reduce the number of full-time equivalent positions, and eliminate duplicative programs.”  

In other words they intend to gut the agency.

More alarming the new conservative EPA  will, “...not conduct any ongoing or planned activity for which there is not clear and current congressional authorization.” 

This is about the bogus notion that no regulatory agency can create rules, to implement legislative intent, that have the force of law. Only Congress can create “law.” Agency rule making is essential because Congress does not have the time or expertise to establish detailed rules to implement the laws they pass. 

The Republican position is an excuse to gut every “regulation” they don’t like. It is another tactic to make government oversight of business ineffective.

The conclusion of the Project 2025 chapter on the EPA makes it crystal clear that the real intent is to gut the agency. It states, “A more conservative EPA that aligns with the policies outlined in this chapter will lead to a better environmental future...prevent unnecessary expenditures by the regulated community, allowing for investment in economic development and job creation, which are keys to thriving communities. Cutting EPA’s size and scope will deliver savings to the American taxpayer.” 

This shortsighted emphasis on economic development, cutting costs, cutting taxes and putting profits before regulation will only lead to harm for people and the environment. 

The attitudes expressed above are a recipe for business as usual and the gutting of real environmental protection. 

The public will ultimately pay greater costs in more cancer, childhood asthma, poisoned water wells, and environmental “sacrifice zones.” 

Voters should not be fooled by the lies in Project 2025.