The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 35

The GOP tax scheme sells out America’s last truly wild place, and EPA’s Scott Pruitt continues to disregard public health and climate change.
Credit: RaisbeckFoto/iStock

The GOP tax scheme sells out America’s last truly wild place, and EPA’s Scott Pruitt continues to disregard public health and climate change.

“Happy holidays!” rang out this week from Capitol Hill and the White House. But that year-end cheer was not directed at hardworking Americans. No, congressional Republicans and President Trump reserved their best wishes for a select set, the superrich and corporations—which the GOP seems to view as people, too—by approving a major tax scheme.

It was more a holiday heist, a bit of Robin Hood in reverse, that sought to reward the well-off and the well-connected with double-digit tax cuts, hand out crumbs to middle- and lower-income Americans, and saddle our children with unconscionable debt.

“This is fraud. It robs our kids and raids our lands for two things we can’t afford: tax cuts for the rich and dirty fuels that imperil the planet,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh. “No one who cares about the pursuit of equity, justice, and opportunity at the heart of the American promise can in good faith support this scam.”

Tax Theft, Part 2: Handing Over the Pristine Arctic Refuge to Big Oil

Tucked into the lopsided tax bill approved on December 20 was a long-sought present for Big Oil: a measure opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. That could turn America’s last truly wild place into a wasteland.

“This is a shameful betrayal and a fraud on the American people,” said NRDC’s Suh. “The purpose of setting a sanctuary aside is to keep it safe from exactly this kind of industrial—and permanent—ruin. The last thing the country needs is more fossil fuel development in a pristine and ecologically vital area.”

The GOP gift isn’t about whether to allow drilling in Alaska. The oil and gas industry already holds active leases in Alaska to drill on or in nearly 7,000 square miles of public lands and coastal waters, an area three times the size of Delaware. It’s about turning public wilderness over to private exploitation to develop more of the fossil fuels advancing dangerous climate change.

Pruitt’s EPA Issues Notice It May, Someday, Replace the Clean Power Plan—with Weak Tea

On December 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency led by Scott Pruitt issued an “advance notice” seeking public comment on whether the agency should develop a replacement—undoubtedly weaker or outright worthless in seriously curbing harmful power plant carbon pollution—after it lays waste to the Clean Power Plan.

“This is just another ‘repeal and replace’ scam,” said David Doniger, head of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Air program, alluding to the GOP efforts to kill Obamacare. “Everyone knows President Trump and Scott Pruitt want to gut the Clean Power Plan, taking our best fire truck away from a blazing fire. They should be strengthening, not killing, this commonsense strategy to curb the power plant carbon pollution fueling dangerous climate change.”

NRDC and Others Sue Trump for Allowing More Methane Waste

NRDC and allies sued the Trump administration on December 19 to reimpose rules it suspended earlier this year that require companies drilling on public and tribal lands to use proven measures to reduce the amount of natural gas that is leaked, vented, or flared.

“Undoing these commonsense measures is senseless when they prevent unnecessary waste that fuels climate change, creates smog, and can cause cancer—all while saving taxpayers money,” said Meleah Geertsma, senior attorney at NRDC. “Once again, when the oil and gas industry says ‘Jump,’ the Trump administration says, ‘How high?’”

While Trump’s EPA Appeases Polluters, Chicago Residents Urge Mayor to Step In

The Trump EPA has delayed taking enforcement actions against air pollution violators on Chicago’s Southeast Side. On December 19, community and environmental groups sent Mayor Rahm Emanuel a letter urging him to step in and protect the public’s health from neurotoxic manganese stored near neighborhoods and schools.

“As Trump’s EPA holds back action on polluters,” the Southside Coalition to Ban Petcoke, NRDC, and other groups wrote in the letter, “we urge the Mayor to show the same leadership and concern for the health of Chicagoans [as] when he threatened to sue U.S. Steel and demand that manganese, another toxic product associated with the steel industry, be banned from our neighborhoods.”

Trump Picks Climate Denier for Chicago EPA Office

On December 19, Trump announced his choice to head the Region 5 EPA office in Chicago. It’s Cathy Stepp, a former Wisconsin state official who made a name for herself by rolling back enforcement of pollution violations, curbing funds for scientific research, and removing from government websites references to human-caused climate change.

“Groups like ours are going to be very, very busy because it’s unlikely the feds will come riding in to deal with messes on Chicago’s Southeast Side or in northwest Indiana," said Henry Henderson, director of NRDC’s Midwest office in Chicago.

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 and fact-checking President Trump’s misstatements in Trump Lies.

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