News & OpinionWater
by Mia DiFelice
The clock is ticking on President Joe Biden’s first term. The administration has made progress on several regulations that would defend our health, economic well-being, and environment. But these regulations would be right in the crosshairs of a second Trump administration, in the dire event he returns to the White House in 2025.
Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can more easily overturn regulations passed by the president in the previous 60 legislative days. It would just need presidential approval. That means, with Trump in charge, we could see swift rollbacks of anything Biden finalizes after May of this year.
These next few months must be a sprint for his administration. Despite setbacks and missteps, Biden has taken massive strides to protect our food, water, and climate. To fortify this progress, the administration needs to move fast. These four things should be at the top of its to-do list.
1. Stem the Flood of Toxic PFAS Forever Chemicals
PFAS, a class of toxic chemicals, pose one of the most widespread public health threats of today. For decades, corporations made and sold PFAS while knowing the harms, with hardly a slap on the wrist.
So far, Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed several measures to address this crisis. It proposed enforceable drinking water limits for two of the oldest and most common PFAS, PFOA and PFOS, as well as four other forms of PFAS.
It also proposed designating PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund program. This would allow the EPA to direct polluters to clean up their messes and pay for it — insulating everyday people from picking up the tab. Companies must be held accountable, and these rules, when finalized, would be an important first step.
2. Protect Communities from Dirty Infrastructure Projects
One of our bedrock environmental laws is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This law directs agencies to consider environmental impacts and frontline community voices when deciding whether to permit a new project.
In 2020, Trump gutted NEPA. His rules sidelined community participation and removed important factors, like climate, in agency assessments.
Thankfully, Biden began working to roll back Trump’s changes in 2021. Notably, the first new rule includes provisions that restore the Act’s definition of “indirect” and “cumulative” impacts, allowing agencies to examine the full consequences of proposed projects. The second, currently under review, cements environmental justice as a key consideration for agency assessments.
In order to lift up community voices, defend environmental justice, and protect the climate, Biden needs to finalize this rule.
3. Rein in Corporate Abuses Against Farmers and Growers
In our meat industry, just a handful of processing companies reign supreme. Because of this, many farmers have no choice but to sell to Big Meat. That has allowed these companies to dictate prices, labor conditions, supply chains, and more — and they’ll do almost anything to cut costs, even at the expense of families, farmers, and workers.
The Packers & Stockyards Act was passed more than 100 years ago to prevent this, but weak rules and enforcement have enabled Big Meat’s abuses to grow.
The Biden administration announced in 2021 that it would release new rules to strengthen the Act and rein in the meat giants. However, it has finalized only one rule so far, requiring basic transparency from poultry giants to the farmers contracted to grow their chickens. Three more rules are at various stages and each is critical to restoring competition and protecting farmers.
4. Get The Lead Out of Our Drinking Water
Last fall, the Biden administration announced groundbreaking rules that finally start to address our country’s lead-in-water crisis. For decades, communities across the country have been plagued by lead pipes that leach the toxic heavy metal into their drinking water.
Biden’s new rules set a deadline for most cities to replace lead service lines in the next 10 years. They also ban most partial lead service line replacements, which can actually increase lead levels in drinking water.
To protect our water and our health, Biden must finalize these rules ASAP and go further. He needs to pair them with funding to make sure low-income families don’t bear the cost of these replacements and include measures that ensure lead pipes aren’t replaced by PVC plastic, another toxic material.
Biden Needs to Act Fast to Keep His Promises
Biden has made important progress in protecting our food, water, and climate. Now, he needs to continue this progress and finalize vital rules in the next several months.
While we are fighting tirelessly against a second Trump presidency, we need to prepare for any outcome. We know that Trump is terrible on our issues. In his last term, he plowed through our regulatory system, gutting protections for our families and our planet. Currently, his allies and advisers are scheming toward even more rollbacks and cuts in a prospective second term.
To prevent this from happening again, we need every defense possible. And that means Biden must keep his promises and finish what he started.
You can help us defend our progress on food, water, and climate. Volunteer with us!