The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 12

A budget that puts our health and environment last, reopening the door to highway pollution, and more attempts to squash progress on climate action.

Scarlet Sails/iStock

Presidents’ budgets are about values, putting money behind what matters most. And they lay out a vision for our country’s future. That’s why President Trump’s newly released fiscal year 2018 budget is such a startling document.

Through its thousands of pages and voluminous tables, a clear picture emerges: Trump’s vision is to put polluters and dirty fossil fuels first—and all the rest of America last. He strives to take us backward, and in doing so continues his all-out assault on our health and environment. The Trump budget, NRDC President Rhea Suh said, is a “scorched-earth campaign, literally and figuratively.”

Trump’s proposed cuts—from deep to drastic—would jeopardize everything from scientific research to Chesapeake Bay protection, from toxic-chemical cleanup to energy efficient appliances. It would threaten conservation, cleanup of climate pollutants, protections for our air and water, and steps to avoid climate chaos.

“Congress must ignore Trump’s reckless assault on the priorities we share and the progress we’ve made,” Suh also said, “and instead invest in what we all hold dear: our health, our environment, and our children’s future.”

There’s reason for hope. On Capitol Hill, his budget met strong resistance, including from leading Republicans, such as senators John Cornyn of Texas and John McCain of Arizona, who labeled it “dead on arrival.”

NRDC Experts Reveal Why the Budget Should Be D.O.A.

NRDC experts delved into the budget to determine the work that Trump values least in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, and the State Department. They found ample reasons why Congress should agree with McCain and Cornyn and forge ahead with writing its own budget to fund the federal government in fiscal year 2018. The president seeks to recklessly cut global climate action; to increase water pollution; to slash climate research; to starve renewable clean energy and clean energy jobs; to end successful and popular energy efficiency programs like Energy Star; to sharply curb coastal and ocean funding; to endanger wildlife; and to attack the Montreal Protocol’s phaseout of climate-polluting HFCs.

Under Pruitt, EPA readies Clean Power Plan Cancellation

Meanwhile, inside the EPA—under leadership from pro-polluter Administrator Scott Pruitt—the agency is moving to undo the most important step our country has taken to curb climate change. A draft of the initial rulemaking rescinding the Clean Power Plan is underway, news reports affirm.

But Pruitt has made no commitment to replace it. “On CPP, I think it’s yet to be determined,” he said about a replacement during a discussion on May 24 at the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Scientists Contradict Pruitt on Climate Change

Perhaps that’s because Pruitt doesn’t believe global warming is happening, so there’s no need to act. Earlier this year during his confirmation process, he submitted written comments asserting that over the past two decades satellite data indicate there’s a “leveling off of warming.”

On May 24, scientists countered. They published a scientific paper in the journal Nature Scientific Reports that reviewed temperature trends in three satellite data sets going back to 1979 and found Pruitt was wrong. “Satellite temperature measurements do not support the claim of a ‘leveling off of warming’ over the past two decades,” the authors wrote.

Trump Holds Up Stop Sign on Addressing Highway Pollution

On May19, the Trump administration indefinitely delayed a new requirement to measure greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s highways and transportation systems. In doing so, Trump is brushing off not only the fact that the transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to climate-changing pollution but also ignoring significant efforts—supported by key transportation planners and underway in California―to develop a smarter, cleaner transportation system.

“This commonsense performance standard simply requires that regions and states measure carbon pollution from transportation sources so their effects are clear and help to improve their plans to reduce pollution,” said Deron Lovaas, senior policy adviser in NRDC’s Urban Solutions program. Federal highway staff, he added, “are prepared to implement the rule, and political appointees should let them do their jobs.”

The Road to Paris Is Uncertain

Looking ahead, Trump seemed poised to finally decide whether to withdraw the United States from the global climate agreement approved in Paris. Backing out would go against the recommendations of dozens of world leaders, hundreds of U.S. businesses, hundreds of city and regional leaders, millions of Americans—even the pope.

When Trump met with Pope Francis on May 24, the Vatican urged the United States to stay a party to the agreement approved by nearly 200 nations. Says who? Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon and Trump’s secretary of state, who reportedly is among those in favor of staying in the Paris climate agreement.

Energy efficiency standards stand tall

One point of good news from the Trump world: The Energy Department signed off on three Obama-era efficiency standards for dedicated-purpose pool pumpsresidential central air conditioners and heat pumps, and miscellaneous refrigeration products. They were set for publication in the Federal Register on May 26. The standards were developed via an Energy Department advisory board in which efficiency advocates and industry negotiated the standards. Earlier in the week, the Energy Department upheld another Obama-era efficiency standard for ceiling fans.

That’s this week’s “Real Lowdown.” 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.

Trump Watch: NRDC tracks the Trump administration’s assaults on the environment and health

About the Authors

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In a series of legal actions, NRDC and our allies have thrown up significant legal blocks to slow, and possibly derail, Trump's environmental runaway train.

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The Republican-controlled Congress was on spring break, but that hardly deterred President Trump and EPA AdministratorScott Pruitt from pressing full speed ahead with their assault on public health and the environment.

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Paris climate agreement at risk, the EPA gets an earful, methane and coal are coming back—again.

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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.

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More pro-polluters appointed, a barrage of dangerous bills advanced, and Bears Ears under threat—again. But there’s one bright spot: bold climate action in Virginia.

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A day that will go down in history as the time America turned its back on the world, plus more climate denial and attacks on our health from the EPA.

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While America was riveted by former FBI director Comey’s testimony, the Trump administration put marine mammals and sage grouse at risk, continued to lie about climate change, and changed the DOI’s mission statement to favor polluters.

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