In yet another move that favors big business over the environment, the Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era policy prohibiting the sale of plastic water bottles in some of America's national parks. This follows a review "in close consultation with Department of the Interior leadership," says a statement issued by the National Park Services.
First, let's be clear, it was never an outright ban. The policy was introduced six years ago to help reduce plastic waste and pollution, but was enforced on a park-by-park basis. In the end, only 23 of the country's 417 parks banned the sale of disposable plastic water bottles outright and, in these cases, efforts were made to improve access to safe drinking water.
Still, the policy was criticized for limiting access to drinking water and, because the ban did not extend to soda, some argued it encouraged people to make unhealthy drink choices.
The decision to reverse the policy comes after several months of lobbying by members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) and the appointment of David Bernhardt as the Department of Interior Secretary, a man who has come under fire for his close ties to industry leaders and his history as a lobbyist.
Environmental campaigners have argued that many groups opposed to the ban (including the IBWA) had a strong economic incentive to support its reversal.
"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."
Others point to the big picture – this administration has repeatedly put the interests and needs of big business above those of the environment.
“Actions that rollback protections on our National Parks and public lands only move our country backward – putting the importance of local economies, wildlife and communities on the back burner," 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.”