Trump Wants to Kill Research Into How Oil and Gas Impact Health

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

The White House’s proposed budget deals a whopping blow to environmental programs of all kinds, but the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would lose an invaluable asset: research into environmental health impacts.

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The scientific agency studies natural threats to human life and wildlife, including climate change and extractive industries. The administration is requesting to reduce the USGS’s budget from $1.1 billion to $860 million, a similar request as the White House made last year.

If these cuts were made, the environmental health program would lose its $21 million in funding, associate director, and all 119 full-time staff. That money would be reappropriated “to address higher priorities” like mineral and energy resources, which would receive more money under this proposal than they did in 2017.

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This USGS’s environmental health program is responsible for looking at how things like abandoned uranium mines, oil spills, pesticides, and air pollution are impacting human health. It also oversees a lot of research on hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. The USGS under the Trump administration, however, is focusing more on finding and developing energy and mineral resources (like coal, oil, gas, and rare metals) than, say, how that very development might get people sick or pollute a stream and devastate its fish population. Research already shows that the people closest to oil and gas development are disproportionately low-income or communities of color.

Last year, Trump tried to cut the environmental health area’s budget by more than $4 million to $17 million, but that didn’t happen. Still, the administration made its intentions clear then—and now they are even clearer.

Public health and safety rely on every federal agency to take environmental health impacts into consideration. Luckily, most of Trump’s budget isn’t expected to go through, but it’s an eerie reminder of where he and his administration’s values lie.

[h/t E&E News]

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Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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DISCUSSION

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As they say in the environmental consulting business working on say petroleum hydrocarbons in groundwater, soil, surface water, and air, “we don’t do science - we do clients.” I’m going to guess that Sonny Perdue over at USDA is hoping USGS stops tracking agriculture inputs (chemical herbicides and insecticides and nutrients) that leave the farm and enter the common land, water and air, too.

It appears that corporate America’s version of government agency will soon be using high school mass shootings as the chemical risk baseline for all its operations going forward. More value is probably assumed to be added by a good publicist like Kellyanne Conway than an entire science agency.

The oil and gas business used USGS for free subsurface characterization for years. USGS geologists were sent to Saudi Arabia to map anticlines - at taxpayers expense. It’s not like the House of Saud bedouins migrating around the desert were doing petroleum geology back in the day.

edits: desert is spelled with one “s” and dessert with two because you want more of the latter - Miss Whatshername, 4th grade.