During the Covid-19 economic downturn, the Trump EPA continues to weaken core environmental protections in the United States. On June 1st, the administration announced more environmental rollbacks: cutting reviews for large infrastructure projects and bypassing current environmental laws.
States such as New York and Washington have used previous environmental regulations to block natural gas pipelines, coal terminals, or other fossil fuel-related activities. While this may seem beneficial to the economy, the rollbacks do not affect everyone equally — especially for people of color.
According to April’s CDC data, African-American patients accounted for 33% of the Covid-19 hospitalizations and 23% of the deaths. These numbers are disproportionately high for only 18% of the United States identify as Black.
The connection between pollution, Covid-19 and race
Almost 30% of employed African-Americans work in the education and health services industry and 10 percent in retail, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. African-Americans are more prone to Covid-19 because they work more front line work — jobs that can’t be made remote.
Due to decades of residential segregation, African Americans tend to live where there is greater exposure to air pollution. Poor communities have always been vulnerable to air pollution, resulting in different respiratory and heart diseases.
A Harvard research study shows that even small increases in fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, corresponds to about an 8% increase in Covid-19 deaths. Yet, the Trump EPA has chosen to ignore the climate crisis. The Trump EPA has focused on the economic benefits of removing environmental laws, accelerating the approvals for different highways, and oil and gas pipelines.
As the Trump EPA focuses more on the commercial value of production, people of color will be the ones who face the greatest repercussions of these effects. This will further the amount of Covid-19 deaths, especially in African-American communities.
What Trump EPA rollbacks mean for the future
Not only will these environmental rollbacks affect people now, but the consequences will be more drastic in the future. For instance, previous projects that couldn’t pass the old environmental regulations will now be resubmitted. Then, they will be judged under the new regulations. The approval of more infrastructure projects will further the problem of pollution in communities, especially Black communities.
Jalen Xing is a Writer at theRising and the co-founder of Students For Hospitals. You can pitch him stories at jalen.xing [at] gmail [dot] com.