The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 18
We saw a major victory against the administration’s pro-polluter agenda—but the attack continues on our public lands, science, and clean energy.
Something interesting—a first―happened this week to President Trump’s unabashed agenda to put our health and environment in danger.
It ran into a brick wall.
The brick wall was the law. Trump and his allies may have an ideology-driven drive to dismantle our bedrock health, safety, and environmental protections. But it won’t happen just on their say-so.
Team Trump learned that tough lesson when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit slapped down U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for violating the Clean Air Act by “staying”―essentially halting—the Obama-era EPA’s curbs on the potent climate pollutant methane and other smog-forming pollution from oil and gas operations.
In June, Pruitt announced a 90-day suspension of the methane rule. He followed up shortly thereafter by extending the stay another two years, despite acknowledging that this pollution has a “disproportionate effect on children.”
NRDC and five other groups filed suit against the delay on June 5. And less than a month later, on July 3, the federal appeals court ruled that Pruitt lacked the legal authority to delay the methane protections. The court ordered the rules immediately back into effect. And NRDC stands ready to go back to court if Pruitt tries to finalize the two-year extension.
David Doniger, who heads NRDC’s Climate & Clean Air program, took some hope from the nation’s independent courts standing up for the rule of law just ahead of Independence Day. “This is the first of what we hope will be many court setbacks for Scott Pruitt, whose devotion to the law is rhetorical and not real,” Doniger said.
So far, NRDC, often with others, has filed 16 lawsuits against the Trump administration for ignoring or violating the law on a host of anti-health environmental and climate moves.
In other ways, with Congress out of Washington for the July 4th week, our health and environment and the science to protect them continued to fall under fire.
Who Needs Science When You Live for Fake News?
Agencies such as the EPA have been purging their advisory boards of scientists. The White House, too, has gotten into the act. It has come to light that with the departure of three scientists who had worked under the Obama administration, the science division in the Office of Science and Technology Policy is now devoid of anyone trained as a scientist.
Under Obama, the OSTP had more than 100 experts, most of them scientists, to advise on issues ranging from the Ebola crisis to the Deepwater Horizon spill. Now just 35 work there, none of them scientists. One former OSTP scientist described the impact: “This administration is flying blind on a range of science and technology issues.”
Efficiency Standards Targeted Next?
On July 3, the U.S. Department of Energy said it was gathering information about an Obama-era energy efficiency standard for air compressors, which could be the next thing targeted in the Trump era. Savings for consumers could go out the window.
A draft copy of a DOE Federal Register filing suggested that the agency was responding to complaints from small businesses. On June 13, NRDC and a coalition of states sued the Trump administration for illegally delaying the compressor standard and other efficiency standards. At that time, Kit Kennedy, director of NRDC’s Energy & Transportation program, said, “We’re standing up today for American families and businesses. These delays are hurting their budgets and creating uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers that need to make critical decisions about their product lines.”
Interior Department Fast-Tracking Polluter Profits
U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on July 6 that he was signing an order to give a faster green light to oil and gas interests seeking to exploit our public lands. NRDC lands experts Theo Spencer and Amy Mall observed, “It’s clear that the oil and gas industry already has dominance of our public lands. Dirty, polluting, dangerous oil and gas drilling and fracking do not need any more special favors or shortcuts to environmental review. Today’s move benefits oil and gas company executives. The rest of us Americans stand to lose.”
NRDC Land & Wildlife program director Sharon Buccino added, “We’ll continue to resist this and every other payoff to the oil and gas industries. Our precious public lands should be held in trust for all Americans, not sold off to those who would desecrate them for profit.”