› Trump v. Earth

Week 3: The Environment Strikes Back, with Lawsuits

Resistance grows as President Trump and the GOP continue to cozy up with the fossil fuel industry.

Welcome to our weekly Trump v. Earth column, in which onEarth reviews the environment-related shenanigans of President Trump and his allies.

Scott Pruitt arriving at Trump Tower in Manhattan, December 7, 2016

Reuters/Brendan McDermid

Missing E-mails, Part 2

The office of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has failed to respond to at least nine requests for e-mails between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies like Koch Industries. Some of those requests are more than two years old, even though the Oklahoma Open Records Act guarantees the public “prompt and reasonable” access to such records.

On Tuesday, the Center for Media and Democracy and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to compel the disclosure of the documents and to prevent Pruitt’s office from destroying them. Pruitt’s office insists it has held “ongoing communications” with the plaintiffs, but it still hasn’t released the e-mails. The watchdog groups are seeking an emergency hearing to take place before Pruitt’s confirmation vote next week.

“For years, Republicans have been crowing about e-mails,” said Democratic senators Charles Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Elizabeth Warren in a joint statement. “Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Republicans aren’t outraged by secret e-mails; instead, they are fast-tracking Pruitt’s nomination.”

Dakota Access on the Move

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday that it will grant the easement required to finish construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project the threatens the drinking water and sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux. The news came after President Trump ordered the Army Corps to move forward on the project. When the Corps did, it shut down a mandatory environmental review process.

The Oceti Sakowin camp, where people gathered to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline

AP Photo/David Goldman

This is just another reminder of Trump’s contempt for those outside of his core constituency, like tribal governments. The president didn’t even have the courtesy to address the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux. The tribe filed a legal challenge against the easement on Thursday.

Selective Science

A disagreement broke out last weekend between climate scientists. Former NOAA scientist John Bates accused Tom Karl, the former director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, of rushing to publish a 2015 paper that purported to disprove the much ballyhooed “global-warming hiatus.” (The study was one of many to do so.)

Chairman Lamar Smith at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

NASA/Aubry Gemingnani

Bates went to great lengths to emphasize that global warming is beyond dispute and that he was not accusing Karl or NOAA of abusing data. “It's really a story of not disclosing what you did,” Bates told the Associated Press. “It's not trumped up data in any way shape or form.”

In fact, this is a story about an abuse of political power to bring scientists to heel. Climate-denying politicians have twisted the dispute into an argument about whether climate change is real.

Who’s Running Congress?

The president and Congress have moved with amazing efficiency to fulfill the desires of the oil and gas industry. In a damning piece of reporting, the New York Times detailed on Saturday how a Koch-backed organization wrote the playbook for the current regime’s first 100 days. Many of the deregulatory schemes Congress has aggressively pursued come straight from “Roadmap to Repeal,” the document that Freedom Partners, a nonprofit associated with the Koch brothers, circulated to members of Congress.

Oil pump jacks near Watford City, North Dakota

Eric Gay/AP/REX/Shutterstock

By revoking rules to limit methane leaks and prevent the clogging of streams with mining debris, the GOP has given enormous gifts to the fossil fuel industry. But do they serve the people who voted for him? There were a lot of angry chants at Trump rallies, but I don’t recall “repeal the methane rule” among them.

Clean Up Your Mess

In 2010, Donald Trump, Jr. helped start Titan Atlas Manufacturing in South Carolina. When the company failed two years later, Donald Trump, Sr. bailed his son out. What a swell dad.

While Trump felt responsible for cleaning up his son’s financial mess, he apparently felt little responsibility for his son’s chemical mess. Titan contaminated the groundwater on its property in North Charleston. Rather than simply paying to remedy the site, the Trump-affiliated business entity that took over applied to limit its liability, arguing that it had nothing to do with the previous managers (some of whom were also named Trump).

South Carolina regulators saw through the Trump shell game. On Tuesday, after the Trumps refused to disclose information about the relationships between Titan and the subsequent owner, the state rejected the liability limitation application.

Maybe Trump should have told South Carolina about all his environmental stewardship awards.


onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Join Us