Commentary, Trump Administration

Trump environmental policies place eastern NC directly in the crosshairs

It remains one of the great conundrums of American politics: Why do so many people who will be the ones most directly harmed by the policies of the Trump administration and its allies in Congress continue to support leaders whose policies are hostile to their interests?

Yet another example of this tragic reality was illustrated this weekend in Raleigh’s News & Observer by contributor Dana Ervin in a fine op-ed about the disastrous impact that the Trump administration’s rollback of clean water rules is all but sure to have on vulnerable parts of eastern North Carolina (a section of the state that continues to support Trump and his minions by large voting margins).

This is from “Trump’s environmental rollback will be costly to NC”:

“Under the newly-announced EPA rule, builders will no longer need a permit to fill, dredge or pollute many waters that have no surface connection to larger bodies of water. That means they’ll no longer need to minimize their environmental impact. But the newly unprotected waters can feed into groundwater and affect drinking water. And wetlands provide important flood control for nearby communities. That’s why EPA’s own Science Advisory Board, which includes members selected by the Trump Administration, says the rule risks public health.

For North Carolinians, the change eliminates protection for almost 1.7 million acres of wetlands, most of which lie in coastal areas. Wetlands are nature’s sponges. They absorb floodwater, then slowly release it as flooding abates. They’re so effective that federal disaster programs encourage states to build new, man-made wetlands. That means taxpayer money could be used to rebuild wetlands eliminated under the new EPA rule.”

After exploring the bitter irony in the fact that EPA announced the rollback right after North Carolina scientists announced new findings about the rapidly growing flood risk posed to the state by the climate crisis and rising sea levels, Ervin concludes this way:

“It’s highly unlikely North Carolina will decide to impose clean water protections abandoned by the federal government. The General Assembly has already passed legislation prohibiting state regulators from imposing environmental standards that are more restrictive than federal ones. And, after years of cuts to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s budget, no one can reasonably expect the legislature to fund new positions.

Instead, we can expect natural flood protections to decline even as flooding increases. And we can expect an expensive lawsuit to stop a costly rule that should never have been promulgated if — as [EPA chief Andrew] Wheeler says — its costs can’t be quantified. Expect taxpayers to foot that bill, too.”

Click here to read the entire editorial and here to read some of Lisa Sorg’s fine reporting on the subject from 2019.


  1. Greg Hamby

    February 11, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Eastern NC is a magnet for taxpaying visitors who want to vacation in a environmentally clean area. These visitors fuel a booming business which provides a living for tens of thousands of people. It is true that some spots are overdeveloped, however for the most part Eastern NC’s beaches and estuarine waters are in good shape. This is due to the remote nature of the Barrier Islands, marshes and shallow waters that are not condusive to industrial development. These geographical and geological conditions have led to many areas being preserved by Federal,State and Local governments as well as Environmental Preservation entities.
    Our Coastal areas need to stay as they are. The vacationers who desire an urban coastal environment have many choices. Eastern NC does not need to become one of those choices.

  2. John

    February 11, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    With out regulations to protect the polluters, allowing them to pay to pollute, people who are harmed by filling in wet lands can sue under tort law, which is often more effective at recovering damages and forcing mitigation.
    Release the Kraken, send in the lawyers! Make tort law great again.

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