A Betrayal of the Public Interest

Credit: Light Brigading

Less than a week into his presidency, President Trump has aligned himself with Republican leaders in Congress to launch a full-on assault on the nation’s environment and health. 

President Trump fired a broadside at the nation’s environment and health on Tuesday, striking out, in the process, at the public’s right to know what our government is doing. Please join me in telling him that this all-out assault on our common values and basic rights will not stand.

In a presidential memorandum, Trump revived long-dormant Republican efforts to force the Keystone XL dirty tar sands pipeline down our throats. He invited the Canadian oil giant TransCanada to reapply for permission to build the pipeline and gave the U.S. State Department 60 days to determine whether the project is in our national interest.

We’ve already spent years, as a nation, looking at this. We determined it’s not in our national interest to send some of the dirtiest oil on the planet across more than 1,000 American waterways, thousands of acres of wetlands, and more than 2,500 wells that our ranchers, farmers, and communities depend on for clean irrigation and drinking water—all so that most of the fuel can be shipped overseas. It’s not in our national interest to expose the breadbasket of America to the risk of pipeline blowouts, explosions, and leaks. And it’s not in our interest to enable the production of dirty tar sands crude oil that, from wellhead to tailpipe, is 17 percent worse for our environment than traditional forms of crude oil.

The dirty tar sands oil pipeline is about big profits for Big Oil—and environmental destruction for the rest of us. It’s a bad idea that needs to be rejected.

Trump signed a second memorandum ordering a rubber-stamp review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, sweeping aside the legitimate concerns of our indigenous people. Once again, this is an issue the country has looked at during months of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux, who rightly fear that Dakota Access would threaten important tribal lands and the source of drinking water for their nearby reservation.

The way to address those concerns is to complete the Environmental Impact Statement that was ordered in December. That way all voices can be heard, alternative routes can be examined, and a reasoned decision can be made that fully protects the people most directly affected. That’s how American democracy works. And that’s what needs to be honored here—not trampling upon the rights of indigenous people or any other Americans.

Credit: Tony Webster/Flickr

Finally, it was reported today that Trump has put a freeze on all grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This isn’t some academic gesture. The EPA relies on private contractors to do much of the vital work of protecting our environment and health, like testing lead levels in drinking water, monitoring pollution in the air we breathe, and cleaning up toxic wastes from industrial sites around the country. Quashing this work is a direct blow to clean air, safe water, and habitable lands. It’s a threat to the public health. On top of that, Trump issued a gag order meant to prevent EPA staff from sharing the impact of this move with the public.

The EPA is the guardian of our environment and health. Its work is vital. Mr. Trump, let the EPA do its job—and shoot straight with the American people about what our government is doing.

On this, of all days, Trump told a group of auto executives that “I am, to a large extend, an environmentalist. I believe in it.” He then went on to assail the commonsense safeguards we all depend on to protect clean air and water, and healthy public oceans and lands.

Mr. President, what matters in the White House is what we do.

In 2012, the carmakers agreed to a plan by the EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation to double the gas mileage of new cars by 2025, cut the carbon pollution that’s driving global climate change, and save our families real money at the pump. We can’t say that on one hand, we care about the environment, then try to undo that agreement and all the benefits it will bring to our people. That’s not great—it’s a betrayal of the public interest.

This extremist agenda threatens to undercut the clean energy transition that has put 2.5 million Americans to work helping us to not only build the energy-efficient cars, homes, and workplaces of tomorrow but also power our future with more clean energy from the wind and sun. It puts polluter profits first—and puts the rest of us at risk. We’ll stand up to this extremist assault. We’ll stand up for our children’s future. And we’ll stand up for American values and rights.

Related Blogs