The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 17

Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Our modern-day P.T. Barnum of dirty energy that harms our health and environment could hardly hide his glee. Speaking on June 28 at the Department of Interior, President Trump crowed that the United States has a “near limitless supplies of energy” and is on “the cusp” of an energy revolution.

Trump boasted that the nation has “more than 250 years’ worth of clean, beautiful coal” and a 100-year supply of natural gas. “We’re a top producer of petroleum and the number one producer of natural gas . . . We are really in the driver’s seat.” Trump said.

What about clean energy? What of the roughly three million Americans, and growing, who earn a living in wind, solar, and energy efficiency jobs?

Not a peep from the president.

In that speech and during what the White House dubbed “Energy Week,” Trump kept up his assault on our health and environment, and so did, in other ways, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt—but not without hitting some speed bumps and another legal challenge from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Trump’s dirty energy nightmare

Also on June 29, Trump promised to expand fossil fuel development on federal lands and in federal waters, while the Interior Department announced plans to open new ocean areas in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico to the hazards of oil and gas operations.

“Trump’s dirty energy nightmare is a wake-up call for the country,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh. “He wants to retreat from millions of clean energy jobs, expose our oceans and coasts to the next BP-style disaster, and turn our country into a national sacrifice zone to fuel prosperity abroad.”

Trump’s EPA budget “downright offensive”

Meanwhile, in Pruitt’s second trip to Capitol Hill stumping for Trump’s gut-the-EPA budget plan, things didn’t go any better than they did the first time. During his testimony on June 15, House appropriators in both political parties objected to proposed cuts to Superfund cleanups; to Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound protections; and more. When Pruitt appeared before a similar Senate panel on June 27, senators, too, gave the Trump EPA budget a thumbs-down.

Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said Congress had rejected cuts in aid to Native Alaskan villages and radon protections in the past, “and I will certainly push my colleagues to do so again this year.” And New Mexico Democratic Senator Tom Udall labeled the Trump plan “downright offensive.

Congress may be heading toward writing its own budget for EPA.

Pruitt muddies clean water protections

During his Senate testimony, Pruitt brightened at least once—for the wrong reason—when he declared that the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are sending to the Federal Register a proposal to repeal the years-in-the-making Clean Water Rule.

That’s a move against public health, because it would strip protections for streams that feed drinking water sources for one in three Americans, said NRDC’s Suh, who added: “The Clean Water Rule provides the clarity we need to protect clean water. Its repeal would make it easier for irresponsible developers and others to contaminate our waters and send the pollution downstream.”

Pruitt met with Dow exec before quashing ban on its pesticide

In the cause and effect department, we learned this week that Pruitt met with Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris in Houston on March 9. And just 20 days later he reversed his agency’s move to ban Dow’s chlorpyrifos pesticide, which health studies say can harm brain development in children. The Associated Press discovered that from records it obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.


EPA scientist stands up to Pruitt aide’s bullying

A not-so-funny thing happened on Deborah Swackhamer’s journey to tell Congress the truth last month, it was revealed this week. As Swackhamer, the top scientist on EPA’s scientific review board, prepared to testify before the House Science Committee, Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, reportedly told her to stick to the agency’s “talking points.” He urged her to play down the agency’s purging of dozens of outside scientists from its advisory boards.

“I was stunned that he was pushing me to ‘correct’ something in my testimony,” said Swackhamer, a retired University of Minnesota professor. “I was factual, and he was not. I felt bullied.”

She didn’t alter her May 23 testimony.

NRDC sues EPA over scrubbing website

On June 26, NRDC sued EPA in federal court for failing to disclose records NRDC sought under a FOIA request.

NRDC filed a FOIA on March 14 seeking information about EPA’s policies for its website content, after numerous federal agencies—including EPA—began purging information about public health, environmental, and climate issues from their websites. Examples for EPA are here, here, here and here.

NRDC wants the courts to order EPA to disclose any written policy or guidance it has for scrubbing important information from its website.

That’s this week’s Real Lowdown. NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we’re vigilantly reporting on the administration’s assault on the environment through Trump Watch.