We bid farewell this week to a particularly pernicious period in President Trump’s and the congressional Republicans’ double-barreled assault on public health and our environment.
The window finally closed on their legal ability to annul a handful of Obama-era safeguards through an obscure measure known as the Congressional Review Act.
Moreover, we ended the week with a notable victory, one that may bode well for our chances against other harmful proposals expected to surface soon, such as an antiregulatory measure that would virtually shut down any “future health, consumer, or environmental safety protections for Americans,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh.
That win on Wednesday, on May 10—when the Senate failed to approve a CRA measure blocking Obama-era limits on dangerous methane pollution—served as a reminder that a raft of anti-health, anti-environment executive orders signed by the president cannot be pushed through simply by fiat. There’s often an extensive administrative process, public engagement period, and rulemaking required. All that takes months, even years, to complete. Much can also be slowed, stopped, and reversed, as illustrated by some key legal challenges that NRDC and our allies have already initiated to thwart this dangerous agenda.
But make no mistake. After nearly four months in office, both Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress have more than lived up to their growing reputation as perpetrators of the worst-ever environmental assault in U.S. history.
One more win for energy—for now
In the we’ll-see-how-it-plays-out category, Congress preserved funding for key clean energy programs that create jobs and save people money. Elizabeth Noll, legislative director in NRDC’s Energy & Transportation program, writes that the just-passed fiscal year 2017 budget sustains funding for efficiency standards, advanced research, renewable energy deployment, and other important clean energy initiatives.
It’s unthinkable, Noll wrote, that such effective clean energy programs could ever be slashed. “Sadly, under the current administration no federal clean energy effort is safe, which is why we will be watching closely when lawmakers turn to the budget for 2018,” she said.
CRA actions approved
Other moves under the CRA were bad news right out of the gate. After Trump’s inauguration, the GOP-led Congress approved and sent Trump more than a dozen CRA measures to sign, including some addressing the environment.
On February 16, Trump approved rolling back the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Stream Protection Rule, freeing Big Coal to bury pristine streams beneath toxic waste. In early March, a Congress-passed CRA repealed a federal effort to improve management of the ecological and economic resources of 247 million acres of public land under the Bureau of Land Management’s oversight. And in mid-February, a Congress-passed CRA made it easier for oil, gas, and coal companies to bribe foreign governments without accountability, noted Franz Matzner, director of NRDC’s Beyond Oil Initiative.
NRDC’s latest lawsuit: Pruitt’s ethics
Since he was sworn into office, NRDC has worked to hold Trump accountable by filing 18 lawsuits to try to reverse his administration’s moves against clean air and water, air pollution, protected oceans, toxic chemicals, and climate action. The latest dropped in federal district court for the Southern District of New York on May 10.
NRDC’s suit asks the court to order the release of records pertaining to whether U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is meeting his ethical obligations and whether he’s favoring industry. The EPA, under Pruitt, appears to be acting like an industry cheerleader rather than fulfilling its mission as a public health agency, said NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine.
Pruitt purges scientists, climate info for kids
On May 8, news broke that 9 of the 18 outside experts on the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors wouldn’t serve a second three-year term. “Trump EPA, afraid of science, dismissive of climate change, purges EPA science advisory board,” tweeted John Walke, director of NRDCs Clean Air Project.
Another mad May act: On the May 8, the EPA shut down its website that helped educate kids about climate change. Just another reckless revamp of the agency’s website to scrub all things climate.
Paris pullout postponed―again
Several White House meetings have revealed deep divisions within Trump’s cabinet and among key advisers over his longstanding promise to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. A decision now looks delayed for several more weeks.
Meanwhile, supporters of the climate accord pile up. More than 1,000 businesses—including heavyweights like Walmart, ExxonMobil, and Apple―are on record in favor of staying in the agreement, NRDC International Program Director Jake Schmidt observed.
And Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz and Climate Leadership Council President Ted Halstead wrote in a May 9 New York Times op-ed: “If America fails to honor a global agreement that it helped forge, the repercussions will undercut our diplomatic priorities across the globe, not to mention the country’s global standing and the market access of our firms.”
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.
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