There's a common thread between man-made environmental disasters. Greed.
Follow the money to see who profits and who dies when safety standards are ignored, or weakened by complicit politicians in return for political donations. Who gets richer? Who gets sick? Are corporate profits worth human lives? This infographic highlights ten of the worst mad-made environmental disasters in America. Click on an item for more details.
Follow the money behind environmental disasters
Weakening safety standards
Speaking to investigative news outlet The Lever, Steven Ditmeyer, a former top official at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), said the "severity" of the accident was likely increased by the lack of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes. A rule was passed under President Barack Obama that made it a requirement for trains carrying hazardous flammable materials to have ECP brakes, but this was rescinded in 2017 by the Trump administration.
The National Transportation Safety Board, a federal agency responsible for investigating rail accidents, told The Lever that the Ohio train that derailed was not fitted with ECP brakes. "Would ECP brakes have reduced the severity of this accident? Yes," Ditmeyer said. - Newsweek
Republicans have gutted environmental and public land protections
Under former EPA administrator Scott Pruit and his successor Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, the EPA has aggressively tried to eliminate or roll back Obama-era environmental protection rules related to minimizing pollution and mitigation of climate change... this paved the way for an uptick in offshore drilling and drilling on previously protected public lands and national monuments, many of which President Donald Trump reduced in size with executive orders. - Business Insider
- The Trump administration has proposed getting rid of an Obama-era clean emissions plan that aimed to cut carbon emissions by a third by 2030, partly on the basis that the plan "waged a war on coal."
- The EPA also scrapped planned regulations on pollution from sewage plants, and proposed new guidance that reduced the number of waterways and other bodies of water protected from pollution under the Clean Water Act.
- Gutted the Stream Protection Rule, a regulation requiring coal companies to minimize pollution of nearby waterways, including sources of drinking water.
- Proposed phasing out Obama-era federal regulations on coal plants requiring them to reduce emissions of harmful mercury pollution.
- Pushed off compliance reviews for the 2015 Power Plant Water Pollution Rule, which sought to reduce water pollution emitted by steam electric power plants.
- Cut back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards that would have required most new cars to average 54 miles per gallon by 2025, reducing the target to 34 miles per gallon.
- Approved offshore drilling in the Arctic, despite warnings from scientists that drilling would harm the environment and wildlife.
Republican packed Supreme Court cripples EPA
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday (June 30) severely limited the federal government's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, in a 6-3 ruling split between the court's conservative majority and liberal minority. Ruling on the case, called West Virginia v. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the court's six conservative justices held that the EPA — which was established in 1970 to curb widespread pollution and implement national environmental protection policies — does not have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions on a national scale without express approval from the U.S. Congress. - Live Science
Corporate profits over public safety
- Instead of investing in the safety feature, the seven largest freight railroad companies in the U.S., including Norfolk Southern, spent $191 billion on stock buybacks and shareholder dividends between 2011 and 2021, far more than the $138 billion those firms spent on capital investments in the same time period.
- The same companies also slashed their workforces by nearly 30 percent in that timeframe as part of what they called “precision scheduled railroading.” Such staffing cuts are likely contributing to safety issues in freight railways. In a recent investor presentation, Norfolk Southern disclosed an increase in train accidents over the past three consecutive years.
“The massive reduction in the workforce, attendance policies that encourage people to come to work when they’re sick or exhausted, lack of access to [paid] leave, the stress that is constantly put on workers because of how lean the workforce has become, it creates a negative culture in terms of safety,” Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, told The Lever. - Lever News
Erin Brockovich is a 2000 American biographicallegal drama film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Susannah Grant. The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts, who fought against the energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) regarding its culpability for the Hinkley groundwater contamination incident. The film was a box-office success, and gained a positive critical reaction.
TakeAway: Vote to curb the corporate greed behind environmental disasters and Republicans who weaken safety regulations for political donations.
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