The Trump presidency hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing so far. He’s made it clear where his priorities lie on many issues: he prefers Nazis over people who protest Nazis, he prefers a tanning bed over a regular bed, and he prefers the almighty buck over the environment. Recently, he hammered that last one home with another strangely useless move: he overturned a policy that banned the sale of plastic water bottles in a few national parks.
The policy, introduced by Obama six years ago, didn’t actually do all that much. Still, though, it was a step in the right direction–and, like so many of Trump’s decisions, this feels like a pointless step backward. To begin with, the policy was a little strange. It didn’t actually ban water bottles entirely; instead, it was enforced only in 23 of 417 parks. It also said nothing about plastic soda bottles, so people just chucked their plastic Dr. Pepper bottle on the ground instead of their Evain.
Like I said, though, it was better than nothing. It was, at least, an indicator that the old white men who wield the government’s heavy swords had at least some idea that maybe, just maybe, we should keep our house clean.
So why’d Trump decide to overturn a relatively innocuous policy? Well, it seems to be for a few reasons, the first of which you can probably guess: Obama. If Barack did it, Trump wants to undo it. The second is because the International Bottled Water Association lobbied the shit out of the people with the power. Oh, and the new Department of Interior Secretary is a guy named David Bernhardt, who, according to some, just so happens to have very close ties to industry leaders and a history as a lobbyist.
“It happened just weeks after Trump appointed a deputy secretary of the Interior with deep ties to Nestlé, a water-bottling giant that has pushed to stop parks from going bottled water free for years through its trade association,” wrote Lauren DeRusha Florez, from Corporate Accountability International. “This is just one more extreme example of corporations wielding their power to protect profits.”
Nestlé denied any involvement in an email from their Corporate Affairs Manager, Kristina Wilson-Rocheford. “Claims by Corporate Accountability International that Nestlé Waters North America unduly influenced the National Park Service to rescind its ban on bottled water are categorically false,” she wrote. “No one in the General Counsel’s office at Nestle Waters North America has ever met or spoken to Mr. Bernhardt, and frankly was not familiar with him until these irresponsible claims were made. Moreover, Mr. Bernhardt has never worked on Nestle Waters North America matters while at Brownstein Hyatt. Brownstein Hyatt, for the last number of years, has mainly handled some employment law matters in Colorado for Nestle Waters North America.”
Of course, anyone not making a buck off trashing the environment isn’t all that happy. “Actions that roll back protections for our National Parks and public lands only move our country backward – putting the importance of local economies, wildlife, and communities on the backburner,” Sierra Club’s public lands policy director, Athan Manuel, said in a statement. “The reversal is but a symbol for this administration’s larger attacks on environmental safeguards and protection of public lands. Our National Parks have and should continue serving as an example of how to treat our natural environment. This action is in clear contradiction to this agency’s mission of protecting the planet.”