As President Trump seeks to burnish his green credentials before Election Day, he’s poised to zero in on a major crisis from the Obama era with environmental justice implications: water contamination in Flint, Mich.
EPA is putting the final touches on new water quality standards for old lead and copper pipes like those that caused trouble in Flint.
The problem continues to plague cities across the nation, particularly those with large Black populations that Trump is trying to win over politically.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has repeatedly highlighted the Flint crisis in touting the new rule.
“On the campaign trail, President Trump said he wants to make sure that there were no more Flint, Michigans, and that has been a guiding principal that he directed us to,” Wheeler told ABC News earlier this month.
“One of the reasons why we’re requiring notification if lead is found in the water within 24 hours — he was very disturbed with what happened in Flint,” Wheeler continued. “It was a failure of communication by both the local, state and the EPA during the Flint crisis. So this was a huge priority for him — it’s been a huge priority for us at the agency.”
And in September, the EPA chief lambasted the Obama administration for claiming to have worked on the Lead and Copper Rule for eight years “with nothing to show” and tied the rule to the crisis that unfolded in Flint. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden served as vice president under President Obama.
“They even had a wake-up call in Flint, Mich., in 2014 but still did nothing,” Wheeler told the American Enterprise Institute. “We will finalize our Lead and Copper Rule in the next several weeks, which, for the first time ever, will call for the testing of lead in all schools and day care centers.”
Despite the timeline given, the rule has yet to be released and is currently with the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. Sources are unsure what is holding up its release.
The Flint water crisis exploded in 2014 when the central Michigan city changed its water source. Flint River water was pumped through the city’s pipes without being treated with inhibitors, allowing dangerous levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin, to leach from the pipes and into the city’s water supply.
It was a black eye for the Obama administration, which otherwise earned high marks from environmental groups.
Democrats, however, say politics is afoot. The administration is attempting to appeal to swing voters such as suburban women who, according to polling, the president is losing by significant margins.
Indeed, they pointed to the recent efforts by EPA to tout environmental initiatives across the country, including a plan to clean up ocean plastic (E&E News PM, Oct. 19). Trump has also stopped talking about reviving the country’s sagging coal industry (Greenwire, Oct. 15).
“It’s impossible for Donald Trump to successfully paint himself as anything but the worst environmental president in American…