The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 9

Paris climate agreement at risk, the EPA gets an earful, methane and coal are coming back—again.
The 2017 Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C.
Credit: Bobby Bruderle for NRDC

“Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”

That chant thundered from the voices of 200,000 strong marching in the steamy streets of D.C. on April 29 and reverberated in other cities across our land. It is the calling card of the resistance, and it literally surrounded President Trump at the White House on his 101st day in office.

The noisy, sign-waving throng registering loud opposition to his full-scale assault on our health and environment and called for our country to keep moving forward, not backward, in addressing the growing dangers of climate change.

NRDC President Rhea Suh, who joined the Peoples Climate Movement march, wrote that “we showed, in numbers too great to ignore, that we’ll rise up together to resist these attacks―on the streets, in the halls of power, and in our courts.”

Trump didn’t appear and apparently didn’t tweet a response. Instead, he and congressional Republicans kept taking steps to put polluters first and the rest of us at risk―and firing up the resistance that will try to thwart them.

Will we always have Paris?

Trump signaled again that he’s strongly considering pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement. The consequences of withdrawal would be swift and disastrous for Americans and the planet. It would turn us into a global pariah. It would handicap our competitiveness in the worldwide clean energy race. And it would sound the retreat from our obligation to leave our children a livable planet.

There’s a strong case for why the Paris Agreement is good for us, laid out by NRDC International Program Director Jake Schmidt. Still, news reports reveal that Trump may be leaning toward leaving the international accord reached by nearly 200 nations or will try to weaken the U.S. target to reduce climate-harming carbon pollution.

Remarkably, it all may come down to what Ivanka Trump can persuade her father to do. A decision is possible the week of May 8.

Going to court over the Arctic and Atlantic

On April 27, Trump signed an executive order seeking to open the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to oil and gas leasing. On May 3, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice responded by filing a lawsuit in federal court aiming to block the president’s move.

“These areas have been permanently protected from the dangers of oil and gas development,” said Niel Lawrence, director of NRDC’s Alaska program. “President Trump may wish to undo that and declare our coasts open for business to dirty energy companies, but he simply lacks the authority to do so under the law.”

Pruitt pumps up coal—again

Astonishing views continue to flow from our so-called top environmental steward.

Speaking May 3 on Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co., Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said that coal-fired power plants, with stockpiles of coal reserves, could prove more reliable in a crisis than natural gas plants.

Nonsense, responded John Moore, NRDC’s Sustainable FERC Project director. Moore rebutted Pruitt’s fiction with facts. First, many gas plants have dual fuel capability (gas plus oil) to protect against supply disruptions, which occur mainly in winter. Second, reserve margins and transmission contingency plans—put in place in case a line or two fails or a large plant abruptly shuts down―mitigate the impacts of supply disruptions. And third, more efficiency and renewable wind and solar power (and other clean energy resources) are much more capable of protecting against disruptions.

2017 budget avoids most environmental damage

Thanks to Democratic leaders, Congress wrapped up the 2017 budget battle by rejecting a “truckload” of add-on measures called riders that would have harmed our health and environment, said NRDC’s Legislative Director Scott Slessinger. The one bad rider that did squeak through ignores the scientific consensus that burning trees for power damages the climate.

Now attention turns to the 2018 federal budget, due to be signed by September 30. We’ll see how many of Trump’s proposed massive cuts to the EPA, health and environmental safeguards, energy efficiency initiatives, and public lands protections see the light of day.

EPA gets an earful

In the be-careful-what-you-ask-for department, the EPA held a virtual listening session on May 2 to solicit the public’s views on so-called burdensome regulations. News outlets reported that the phone-in session and nearly 6,000 written comments submitted and published on a federal website were dominated by staunch opponents to the planned regulatory rollback and attacks on such protections for clean water.

Ahead, possible weakening of methane protections

Congressional Republicans, doing the bidding of polluters, have just a few days remaining to use the Congressional Review Act to try to undo an Interior Department rule that curbs greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas flaring, venting, and leakage on public lands. These commonsense safeguards are supported by 81 percent of westerners.

In this era in which our health and environment are under assault by Trump and congressional Republicans, NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we will be vigilantly monitoring and reporting on the administration’s attack on the environment through Trump Watch.