The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 14

While America was riveted by former FBI director Comey’s testimony, the Trump administration put marine mammals and sage grouse at risk, continued to lie about climate change, and changed the DOI’s mission statement to favor polluters.
Demonstrators protest President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, June 3, 2017.
Credit: Susan Melkisethian/Flickr

While America was riveted by former FBI director Comey’s testimony, the Trump administration put marine mammals and sage grouse at risk, continued to lie about climate change, and changed the DOI’s mission statement to favor polluters.

With most of Washington riveted by former FBI director James Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill, President Trump and his team quietly kept putting our health and environment in jeopardy—and meeting more resistance. 

Over the past week, the Trump administration moved against marine mammals and sage grouse and recast the U.S. Department of the Interior’s purpose to promote fossil fuels rather than conserve public lands in the public trust for future generations.

At the same time, though, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt drew harsh criticism as he attempted to put a positive spin on Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. And NRDC sued the Trump administration, seeking to protect Americans from dangerous methane pollution. 

Seismic Steps Toward Drilling in the Atlantic

On June 5, Trump put marine mammals at risk. He proposed to allow four companies to blast huge stretches of undersea waters with air guns as they prospect for oil and gas deposits. NRDC, which produced the movie Sonic Sea, about threats to ocean life from seismic testing, decried Trump’s move.

“Lawmakers, commercial and recreational fishermen, hundreds of communities, and tens of thousands of coastal businesses strongly oppose this reckless giveaway to the oil and gas industry and will stand in the way of final permits,” said Michael Jasny, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. 

Sage Grouse at Greater Risk

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order on June 7 calling for a “review” of plans to protect the greater sage grouse, upending years of work on the grouse’s behalf. “It is going to create huge uncertainty for land managers, developers, and the western states,” said NRDC wildlife expert Bobby McEnaney

A Pack o’ Prevarications from Pruitt

Three days after Trump announced that he’ll pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, Pruitt the Prevaricator hit the Sunday talk show circuit. His performance was so bad on ABC, NBC, and FOX that it earned him the Washington Post fact checker’s worst rating, four Pinocchios.

That was mainly for saying that since the fourth quarter of last year, “we’ve added almost 50,000 jobs” in the coal sector, or in both coal and mining. The Post found that, with the widest interpretation of job growth, Pruitt’s “data is not made up out of whole cloth, but the claim is so tortured that it screams.” 

Also in defense of Trump’s move, Pruitt cited a study purporting that the Paris plan would cost billions and hurt jobs. NRDC analysts Kevin Steinberger and Amanda Levin thoroughly debunked the study, saying it grossly inflated costs and ignored health and economic benefits. 

Finally, Pruitt suggested the Paris climate agreement would mitigate global warming by less than 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, citing an MIT study. Problem is, the author piped up and said he “disagrees completely” with Pruitt’s characterization of the study.

Americans Respond to Trump’s Paris Pullout: “We’re Still In”

The reviews keep coming on President Trump’s Paris pullout. Spoiler alert: They’re anything but boffo. 

Trump is far out of step with the American people about addressing climate change. A full 6 in 10 oppose withdrawing from the Paris plan. And more than 1,200 mayors, governors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities have signed on to the message “We Are Still In” the Paris Agreement. 

NRDC Sues Over Trump Illegal Methane Pollution Rollback

On June 5, NRDC sued the Trump administration for acting illegally by suspending Obama-era protections against methane leaks and other air pollution from new oil and gas wells.

“Stopping methane leaks is a no-brainer—avoiding wasted gas, creating jobs, fighting climate change, and cutting cancer-causing pollution all at once. We will not stand for this blatant polluter giveaway,” said NRDC senior attorney Meleah Geertsma.

It’s the first NRDC suit to stop Pruitt from dismantling climate and clean air protections advanced under Obama, wrote David Doniger, head of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Air program.

Mission Makeover: Interior Department Favors Fossil Fuels

In ways large and small, Team Trump is all-in for fossil fuels. Around June 6, that again became clear in a mission makeover at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Here’s the Obama-era mission statement: “The Department of the Interior protects and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and other information about those resources; and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities.” 

And here’s the Trump era’s: “Our Mission: Protecting America’s Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future. The U.S. Department of the Interior protects America’s natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future.” 

Trump’s Mexico Border Wall: Pay for It with Solar

The president's 2018 budget proposal guts a number of clean energy programs and initiatives, leaving many to wonder: Where in the world would he back clean power? In a meeting in early June with GOP leaders, Trump suggested sticking solar panels on top of the wall he wants along our southern border. They'll pay for the cost of the wall, Trump suggested.

But Greentech Media outlined the costs and potential power generation involved and determined that logistical issues would “make building a solar wall very difficult and unlikely to become a reality.”

That’s this week’s Real Lowdown. In this era where our health and environment are under assault by Trump and congressional Republicans, NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we’re vigilantly reporting on the administration’s attack on the environment through Trump Watch

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