This article originally appeared on thehill.com
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pointed to a new study released Wednesday to emphasize what it characterized as the Trump administration’s achievements in decreasing air pollution.
The report showed that emissions from all six measured criteria air pollutants decreased between 2016 and 2018, the years Trump has been in office.
It hailed this as part of decades-long trend of falling pollution rates that began in 1970, when the Clean Air Act was implemented. The results of the annual national air quality report showed that the emissions of six key pollutants dropped by 74 percent in that time period. The pollutants measured do not include carbon dioxide or methane, known greenhouse gases.
A statement from EPA added that the U.S. economy has grown 275 percent since 1970.
“The U.S. is a global leader in clean air progress, and we’ve proven that we can protect the environment while growing our economy,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.
The arguments echo President Trump’s remarks last week from the White House that drew criticism from environmental groups for taking credit for long-term improvements in air quality that had little to do with his own administration’s actions.
“They are taking credit for long term improvements in air quality that are results of regulations we’ve had in place for many years,” said Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“The way they frame it is we’ve mostly seen improvements of air toxics emissions, but at the same time they are doing that, they are changing policies that will actually make it worsen air toxics emissions.”
Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate deal since entering the White House.
The administration in the last year also replaced former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan for regulating emissions from power plants and revoked the “once in, always in policy,” which loosened regulatory compliance standards for certain sources of air pollution previously considered “major.”
“Despite EPA’s press release spin, reductions in air pollution during the Trump administration have stalled, while the Department of Energy estimates C02 emissions alone actually spiked in 2018, something Administrator Wheeler and his agency conveniently failed to mention, of course,” said Alex Formuzis, a spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group.
Critics say the damage from Trump’s policies are unlikely to be measured for some time.
“This is a long-term thing, you don’t see improvements and declines with a quick turnaround, the way the process is, it’s a science based policy, often when you change a policy it’s years till you see the outcome, Goldman said.
Goldman pointed to the Obama administration’s 2015 ozone rule. Industry compliance results for that rule weren’t measured and released until this year.
“It’s going to be a while until we see the public impact of that but it’s 100 percent coming,” she said.
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) hailed the numbers released on Wednesday.
“America leads the world in keeping our air clean and our economy growing,” Barrasso, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, said in a statement.
“Unlike the previous administration who drove an environmental policy that suffocated rural America, this report reaffirms the environmental success of President Trump which includes clean air, clean water and cleaning up toxic land sites at a record pace across our country,” Braun said.