The Slatest

Trump Thinks San Francisco Homelessness Is Polluting the Ocean, Threatens EPA Action

A close-up of Trump pointing on the South Lawn of the White House.
No, you’re destroying the environment. Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Donald Trump, known lover of the environment, has some (more) environmental thoughts he’d like to share with you. Following a trip to San Francisco, Trump blamed the city’s homelessness problem for waste, specifically used needles, that he says is getting swept through the city’s storm drains and into the ocean. It’s unclear who told him this was the case—or a real problem—but it was clear Trump liked the idea of big city burn, so whether it’s true or relevant or not doesn’t really matter to the president of the United States.

“It’s a terrible situation that’s in Los Angeles and in San Francisco,” Trump, who is currently fighting California to reduce state fuel efficiency standards, told reporters on Air Force One. “And we’re going to be giving San Francisco—they’re in total violation—we’re going to be giving them a notice very soon.” Trump didn’t give any indication of where he got his information, but San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement that the sewer system functions effectively, keeping waste from making it to the Bay or the Pacific Ocean. “In San Francisco we are focused on advancing solutions to meet the challenges on our streets, not throwing off ridiculous assertions as we board an airplane to leave the state,” Breed said.

The environmental angle seems to be the latest attempt by Trump to paint America’s diverse, liberal-leaning cities as decrepit and dysfunctional. In typical Trump fashion, the attack uses something that his opponents hold dear—in this case environmental protection—and then affixes it to something unrelated in an attempt to stir up controversy and confusion. The cherry on top is Trump’s roping in the Environmental Protection Agency—which has actively worked to undermine environmental protection under the Trump administration—to sanction a city run by people who disagree with his politics and policies. “The EPA usually sends such notices to companies, not cities,” the Wall Street Journal notes. “In 2015, the EPA sent a notice to Volkswagen AG charging the auto maker with rigging their cars to pass emissions tests.”

“They have to clean it up,” Trump said. “We can’t have our cities going to hell.” Spoken like someone expressing true concern for the plight of homeless people and the environment around them, not at all like your racist uncle.