As I drove through Cincinnati, Ohio last week, electronic signs for miles along the interstate warned travelers that an Air Quality Alert was in effect.

Seeing the signs was a reminder that Ohio continues to be coal mining country.

Ohioans were suffering through an Air Quality Alert last week – the first week of summer – and perhaps have had others before then. How bad will it get before summer is over?

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, recommends to everyone the following:

• Travel by carpooling or combining trips, or bike or use public transportation.

• Turn off the motor if traffic is at a standstill, instead of idling.

• Avoid refueling your vehicle or wait until dusk if you need more gas.

• Avoid mowing the lawn on alert days.

• Avoid being outside for extended periods of time.

At the same time that Ohio and other areas are enduring these kinds of air quality issues, the Trump administration continues its steady pace of regulatory rollbacks that put air quality more and more at risk.

On June 19, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a new Affordable Clean Energy rule that repeals the Clean Power Plan of the Obama Administration, and is expected to increase carbon emissions. It will “eventually” require businesses to comply with clean power rules.

The same week that Wheeler signed the new rule, the Environmental Protection Agency, which he heads, reported that for the first time air quality is actually getting worse.

President Trump kicked off his re-election campaign that same week with many of his well-worn chants.

Of particular note here is his promise that he will “drain the swamp” of lobbyists: “Many times I said we would drain the swamp. And that’s exactly what we’re doing right now … We stared down the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests who made a living bleeding our country dry. That’s what we have done.”

Really?

The EPA’s Wheeler was a coal industry lobbyist before joining the administration, working diligently against environmental regulation. He is noted for rejecting any notion of climate change, and does not believe in imposing limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

I’m trying to wrap my head around the notion of keeping coal-fired plants cranking at full speed, and at the same time trying to “help improve air quality,” as the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission urges, by bicycling to work through Air Quality Alerts, all the while wheezing and coughing from exhaust fumes and coal plant emissions.

The Trump administration wants us to believe two opposites simultaneously.

As he pledges to “drain the swamp,” the president is placing long-time swamp-feeders at the helm of agencies that affect our daily lives:

• U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar was president of the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company and a member of the board of a pharmaceutical industry lobbying organization.

• U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt was a shareholder in a Colorado law firm whose primary responsibility was lobbying for the oil industry.

• Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was lobbyist with a major defense contractor before being appointed to serve as undersecretary in the department.

Apparently “drain the swamp” doesn’t mean what Trump says it does, or maybe he thinks no one will notice that his promises and claims seldom match his actions.

LENA MITCHELL is a retired Daily Journal reporter who continues to write a regular column. Contact her at lena.mitchell.dj@gmail.com.

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