The environmental policy of the Donald Trump administration
Trump background on environment[edit | edit source]
Donald J. Trump, the flamboyant businessman and celebrity who has turned into the unlikely United States president, has always appeared more interested in profits and prestige than in protecting the environment. Before his November 2016 election, the 70-year-old native New Yorker was well known for his conspiracy theories about climate change being a Chinese hoax, and his consistent remarks such as his January 2014 tweet about how “this very expensive global warming bullshit has got to stop.”
As a real estate developer and business tycoon, Trump was always given to ostentatious displays of wealth and the cultivation of image rather than substance – and certainly not sustainability and stewardship. His own business dealings have run afoul of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including Clean Air Act violations at Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino in New Jersey with at least three straight years of noncompliance with nitrogen oxide emissions standards. It’s currently under violation now.
In Chicago, it was a Clean Water Act violation at Trump International Hotel and Tower that resulted in a $46,000 fine in 2012; at one of his golf courses, it was a failure to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. At the storied Trump Tower in New York City – which now costs between $100,000 and $300,000 every day to protect, depending on whether the president is there or not – Trump once settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of undocumented, underpaid Polish laborers exposed to asbestos while working there.
That’s the same asbestos that Trump, in his 1997 “Art of the Comeback” book, insisted was regulated by “this stupid law” only because mob-related companies found asbestos removal lucrative and pushed it. No surprise then that Trump, the successful presidential candidate, seeks to reverse American progress.
Corporate-friendly campaign[edit | edit source]
Since the announcement of his presidential run in June 2015, Trump has emphasized the commitment to corporations rather than climate. Beginning with a speech that celebrated fossil fuels with a “thanks to fracking,” Trump campaigned on the promise that he’d put a pro-business end to climate action.
He has brought to the Oval Office the same ethos he maintained in 2010, when he joked that the Nobel Committee should revoke climate activist and Clinton-era vice president Al Gore’s prize for insisting that Americans need to “clean up our factories and plants.” To get to that office, he courted some of the nation’s most avowed climate skeptics, railed against everything from renewables to laws protecting endangered species, and vowed to roll back EPA provisions and environmental laws in his first 100 days.
Administration and appointments[edit | edit source]
Trump’s anti-environment proposals align with those of the climate deniers that make up the majority of the elected Republican Party lawmakers. They are facilitated by the key “appointments” in his new administration – although though those are real disappointments to Americans concerned about the planetary future. Those appointments include Steve Bannon, senior counsel to the president and White House Chief Strategist, who “blames a conspiracy of shadowy ‘globalists’ for the UN’s Paris Agreement on climate,” in what appears an even more paranoid view than Trump’s own claim of a Chinese hoax.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is now the Secretary of Energy, an agency he once vowed to abolish. He resigned from serving on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the environmental justice debacle that is the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Trump has issued two presidential memoranda to expedite construction of the long-protested DAPL and the previously halted Keystone pipeline. Further, Trump’s choice for U.S. Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, a company that actively worked to undermine the science behind climate change in a bid too boost their bottom line.
Perhaps most disturbing is the selection of Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick for the Environmental Protection Agency. As attorney-general of Oklahoma he sued the EPA 14 times in attempts to defeat former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and Pruitt continues to be a climate skeptic who maintains the science on anthropogenic causes is in question.
Environmental Protection Agency[edit | edit source]
The EPA Office of Science and Technology website no longer includes “science” in its mission statement. It refers instead to that which is "economically and technologically achievable,” signaling new priorities.
Among Trump’s proposed cuts to the EPA is a 40 percent budget reduction to its Office of Research and Development, with impacts on research in climate change, air and water quality, and chemical safety. These cuts will reduce the regulatory burden on industry and local authorities, as part of a 25 percent overall agency budget cut that includes a 20 percent reduction in EPA workforce. A list of 42 program cuts obtained by The Oregonian includes total funding cuts to state grants covering diesel emissions reductions, radon programs, targeted air and watershed management, and Great Lakes protections.
They also include deep cuts to lead contamination programs, water pollution controls, wetlands protection, environmental justice efforts and public education. Brownfield restoration funding would be cut by 40 percent, and funding for enforcement – presumably of Trump himself – by 11 percent.
Other U.S. environmental obligations[edit | edit source]
Separately, Trump proposed cuts of 17 percent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, specifically targeting satellite programs that support weather forecasting and coastal climate research.
Proposed reforms to the Endangered Species Act would limit protections in favor of business interests. Trump campaigned on a promise to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate, and refused to provide funding for the United Nations global initiative to secure a sustainable future. Top Trump advisors are split on following through on “Clexit,” however: Tillerson opposes it while Bannon supports it, for example. Ryan Lance, head of American oil major ConocoPhillips, has joined other oil companies including ExxonMobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell in supporting the Paris climate deal.