Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is visiting Flint, MI, a city that is still struggling to recover from a drinking water crisis that Trump claimed “would have never happened if I were president.” Media should be wary if Trump repeats this claim, given his plans to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and rescind the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, as well as his energy adviser’s reported statement that the Clean Water Act would likely be “rolled back" by a Trump administration.
Trump, Who Is Visiting Flint, Previously Said Flint Water Crisis Would Not Have Happened If He Were President
Flint Still Recovering From Drinking Water Crisis. Flint, MI has been suffering from dangerously high levels of lead contamination in its drinking water. The problem arose when Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager made the decision to source the city's water from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron (via the Detroit water system). The new water supply was highly corrosive and improperly treated, causing the city’s pipes to deteriorate and leach lead into the drinking water supply, and leading to a lead poisoning epidemic among the city’s children. A state of emergency was declared on January 5, but the city’s drinking water has reportedly not fully returned to normal, and many of the city’s lead pipes have yet to be replaced; Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says $55 million is needed to fully replace them. The U.S. Senate passed a bill on September 12 that reportedly provides “$100 million in grants and loans to replace lead-contaminated pipes in Flint and other cities with lead emergencies.” [Media Matters, 2/2/16; CNN.com, 2/9/16; Reuters, 9/14/16; The Associated Press, 9/12/16]
Trump Visiting Flint After Claiming Crisis “Would Have Never Happened If I Were President.” GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump is visiting Flint and touring a water treatment plant on September 14, The Detroit News reported. In an interview with the News published on September 3, Trump claimed that the crisis would not have occurred if he had been president:
“I think it’s a horror show that it was allowed to happen and to be honest with you it should have never, ever been allowed to happen,” Trump said Saturday in an interview with The Detroit News. “That was really the problem.”
[Michigan Gov. Rick] Snyder has said he accepts responsibility for the crisis and for taking bad advice from what he now calls “so-called “experts.”
Media Coverage Of Trump’s Visit Should Mention His Proposals That Threaten Clean Water
Trump Has Said He Would Dismantle The EPA, Which Enforces Clean Water Safeguards. Trump has repeatedly indicated that he would “cut” or “get rid” of the EPA, the federal agency chiefly responsible for enforcing federal drinking water protections. The EPA has received some criticism for its handling of Flint, but experts say eliminating the EPA would “cause an unravelling of basic protections of air and water,” as The Guardian has reported. In October 2015, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would “cut departments” if he were elected president, and Trump replied in part: “Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations.” Wallace then asked, “Who’s going to protect the environment,” and Trump answered: “We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.” Additionally, during the CNN/Telemundo Republican debate held in February, when asked how he would pay for his proposed tax cuts, Trump replied that “we’re going to get rid of so many different things,” including “Environmental Protection -- we waste all of this money. We’re going to bring that back to the states.” And during a Fox News town hall in April, Fox host Sean Hannity asked Trump if he would eliminate any federal departments as President, and Trump responded: “Department of Environmental (sic), I mean, the DEP (sic) is killing us environmentally, it’s just killing our businesses.” [EPA.gov, accessed 9/14/16; The Guardian, 2/26/16; Media Matters, 10/18/15; 2/25/16; 4/4/16; Grist, 2/27/16; Talking Points Memo, 4/5/16]
Trump Plans To “Rescind” EPA’s Clean Water Rule, Which Would Threaten The Drinking Water Of 117 Million Americans. Trump’s economic policy page on his website includes a plan to “rescind” the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” rule, also known as the Clean Water Rule. The Clean Water Rule clarifies the scope of the Clean Water Act, protecting streams and wetlands that feed into sources of drinking water for 117 million Americans. [DonaldJTrump.com, accessed 9/14/16; EPA.gov, accessed 9/14/16; Media Matters, 7/1/14]
Trump’s Energy Adviser Expects Trump To “Roll Back” Clean Water Act. In May, Trump announced that he had chosen Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) as an energy adviser. E&E News reported that Cramer said he expects the Clean Water Act to be among the statutes “rolled back in the first 100 days of a Trump administration, or over the two-year course of a Republican-held Congress”:
Rep. Kevin Cramer will be advising GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on another hot-button issue -- the Obama administration's Waters of the U.S. rule.
The North Dakota Republican, an energy adviser to Trump, told E&E Daily yesterday that he “fully intends” to discuss the U.S. EPA-Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act jurisdictional rule in more detail with the presumptive White House nominee.
Cramer said he first discussed the rule -- which would redefine which streams, rivers and wetlands receive automatic protection under the Clean Water Act -- with Trump at a town hall meeting in Iowa.
If he were to advise Trump as president, Cramer said, he would suggest that he “tackle the Clean Water Act itself” rather than simply address the question of which waters fall under the scope of the law.
"[Let's] bring more clarity and specificity, more prescription to [the Clean Water Act], as well as the Clean Air Act and other broad authorities that have provided this opportunity for this type of mischief by administrations, be they Republican or be they Democrat," he said.
Cramer said he would expect the statutes to be rolled back in the first 100 days of a Trump administration, or over the two-year course of a Republican-held Congress. [E&E News, 5/24/16]