The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 36

The Trump administration’s New Year gift to polluters: opening up nearly all of America’s coasts to oil and gas drilling, plus more ongoing attacks on our health and planet.
Credit: iStock

The Trump administration’s New Year gift to polluters: opening up nearly all of America’s coasts to oil and gas drilling, plus more ongoing attacks on our health and planet.

We’re closing in on a year since Donald J. Trump’s inauguration with little hope he’ll grow into the office.

The patterns of his presidency seem set: He’s waging the worst assault in history on public health safeguards and environmental protections that most Americans support, depend on, and expect from their government. While he’s achieved some tactical successes and run into a buzz saw of litigation trying to stop him, he’s clearly not done.

Exhibit A: On January 4, Ryan Zinke, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, announced plans to open vast areas of our oceans—from Maine to Florida and California to Alaska—to destructive drilling. This means every coastal community in America is at risk.

“The administration’s backward-looking approach puts oil and gas profits first—and will place our coastal communities and all they support at risk of the next BP-style disaster,” says NRDC President Rhea Suh, who adds that Americans don’t want to sacrifice our marine life, ocean habitat, and local economies to “Trump’s big-polluter play.”

Zinke aims to replace the five-year oceans plan issued by former president Obama, which put the Arctic and Atlantic oceans off-limits to drilling through 2022. The Obama administration’s plan was finalized after an exhaustive multiyear process that included the submission of more than 1.4 million comments from the public.

Trump doesn’t think much of public opinion. Let’s review, for his actions in Year One are likely to continue in Year Two:

  • Seven in ten registered voters oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Trump and congressional Republicans opened it to drilling.
  • Nearly three million said protect Bears Ears. Trump destroyed it.
  • Nearly eight in ten say carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant, but Trump is trying to kill the single-most important measure we have to do that: the Clean Power Plan.

“This is not populist government,” says Ana Unruh Cohen, director of government affairs at NRDC. “It’s not government by the people. It’s a pollute-ocracy, plain and simple. And we’re going to fight Trump every step of the way.”

Trump Lies―Again

The president is also likely to continue stumbling over the truth in Year Two.

On December 28, while the eastern U.S. was in a deep freeze, Trump tweeted: “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!” That prompted an update of NRDC’s “Trump Lies” project to hold the president accountable for his environmental misstatements.

As we indicated in our update on Trump Lies, in this case, the president ignored the fact that average global temperatures have been rising over time, as NASA makes clear. Nor does the cold snap negate the fact that 16 of the 17 warmest years on record since 1880 have occurred since 2001 (except for 1998). Moreover, significant warming in the Arctic may shift the jet stream south, nudge storms into new tracks, or change atmospheric circulation in other ways that bring unseasonably cold air to our latitudes.

Trump-Pruitt Move to Kill Chemical Hazard Program

As administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt dismissed dozens of respected scientists from EPA science advisory boards and moved to replace them with industry-tied nonexperts.

He’s also moving to kill the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which identifies harmful industrial chemical pollutants, assesses the harm they can cause, and determines how much exposure can lead to how much harm.

Polluters hate IRIS because its assessments are used by the EPA’s various offices—air, water, solid waste, toxics, and others—and by states and other countries to set cleanup standards and emissions limits for toxic chemicals.

NRDC health expert Jennifer Sass expects EPA’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 will undermine, if not kill, IRIS. “Congress should reject this proposal when it is sent to the Hill for consideration,” she says. 

Upcoming EPA Hearings on Clean Power Plan Repeal—and Counter-Hearings in New York, Maryland, Delaware

In December, the EPA announced it will hold three public listening sessions on its plan to kill the Clean Power Plan, prompted by complaints that the single public hearing last month in Charleston, West Virginia, was woefully inadequate. No dates have yet been set for the hearings in San Francisco; Kansas City, Missouri; and Gillette, Wyoming.

But several states are taking the issue into their own hands by holding “People’s Hearings” to show support for the landmark climate action plan. They are on January 8 in Wilmington, Delaware, on January 9 in New York City, and on January 11 in Annapolis, Maryland. "These hearings will provide a much-needed forum for more voices to show how implementing the Clean Power Plan will turbocharge a clean energy economy that brings investment, jobs, and energy security,” says David Hayes, a former Interior Department deputy secretary. NRDC experts will be offering testimony at these hearings.

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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