Environmental policy of the Donald Trump administration

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The environmental policy of the Donald Trump administration represents a shift from the policy priorities and goals of his predecessor, Barack Obama. While Obama's environmental agenda prioritized the reduction of carbon emissions through the use of clean renewable energy,[1] the Trump administration has sought to increase fossil fuel use and scrap environmental regulations which he has often referred to as an impediment to business.[2] While campaigning Trump had proposed the elimination of the EPA[3] and following his election he proposed a 31% cut to the 2018 EPA budget.[4] Neither Trump nor his first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.[5] On July 5 2018, amid numerous ethics investigations, Pruitt resigned and was replaced by Andrew Wheeler.

Trump has announced plans to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.[6] Immediately upon his inauguration, the White House released an "America First Energy Plan", which focused on increasing combustion of fossil fuels without mentioning renewable energy. The plan would repeal many Obama policies including the Climate Action Plan, and limit the EPA's mission of protecting air and water quality. In April 2018, Pruitt announced plans to undo the Obama administration's auto fuel efficiency and emissions standards.

Within days of taking office he signed executive orders to approve two controversial oil pipelines and to require federal review of the Clean Water Rule and the Clean Power Plan.[7] Trump is calling for more drilling in national parks and has announced plans to open up more federal land for energy development.[8] Trump's Department of the Interior has announced plans to allow drilling in nearly all U.S. waters, the largest expansion of offshore oil and gas leasing ever proposed.[9] The administration has been charged with re-writing EPA pollution- control policies of chemicals that are known to be serious health risks to make them more friendly to the chemical industry. [10] A 2018 analysis reported that the Trump administration's rollbacks and proposed reversals of environmental rules would likely "cost the lives of over 80 000 US residents per decade and lead to respiratory problems for many more than 1 million people."[11]

Trump's appointments to key agencies dealing in energy and environmental policy reflected his commitment to deregulation, particularly of the fossil fuel industry. Several of his cabinet picks were people with a history of opposition to the agency they were named to head.[12] Three of the four chair-level members of Trump’s transition team commissioned to draw up a list of proposals to guide his Native American policies have links to the oil industry."[13] He also invited American manufacturers to suggest which regulations should be eliminated; industry leaders submitted 168 comments, of which nearly half targeted EPA rules.[7]

Appointments[edit]

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Trump's cabinet nominees reflect his desire to scale back federal environmental regulation and to promote domestic production of coal, oil, and natural gas. In some cases his appointees had a history of conflict with the agencies they now lead. [14] Although the scientific conclusion is that “it is extremely likely (95 to 100 percent probable) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” Trump's department head appointees do not agree that global warming has been man-made.[15]

EPA Administrator[edit]

As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Trump's choice for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt challenged EPA regulations in court more than a dozen times.[14] Some of those court cases are still pending, and Pruitt has declined to say if he would recuse himself with regard to those suits.[16][17] Pruitt hired former Oklahoma banker Albert Kelly to head the Superfund program, which is responsible for cleaning up the nation's most contaminated land.[18][19][20] Kelly completely lacked any experience with environmental issues, and had just received a lifetime ban from working in banking, his career until then, due to "unfitness to serve".[18]

Pruitt has said he plans to prioritize state and local control over federal land use and ease regulations on the environmental impacts of industries.[21] A March 2017 executive order allowed Pruitt to start a review process of the Obama Administration's regulations of the coal industry, reflecting Trump's repeated promises to support the coal industry and "bring back jobs" in coal mining.[22] Such changes are likely to affect America's ability to meet the climate emission goals of the Paris Agreement.[23] Pruitt has said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.[5] While admitting that the climate is warming, Pruitt believes that warming is not necessarily harmful and could be beneficial. "Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? That’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”[24] Climate experts, including Michael Mann and Chris Field who oversaw a United Nations and World Meteorological Organization scientific report on climate change, disagree with Pruitt's position. According to Field, "thousands" of studies document that a warming planet causes a host of problems, not just from high temperatures but also from heat waves, higher seas, heavier downpours, and more frequent destructive hurricanes and wildfires."[25]

In April 2018, Pruitt drew criticism for what some consider to be the excessive security expenditures which he had requested. Trump defended Pruitt in a twitter stating, "Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars." However, according to PolitiFact no new figures on air quality have been released since 2016. To state the nation’s waters as being at record clean levels is also inaccurate since while a report was issued in 2017, the information was gathered in 2012 or earlier.[26] Commenting on Pruitt's claim that his excessive security expenses are related to his need for security, the New York Times commented that the high expenses appear to be "driven more by a desire to avoid tough questions from the public than by concerns about security."[27] In April 2018, thirty-nine members of the Senate and more than 130 members of the House of Representatives called for Pruitt's resignation.[28]

On July 5, 2018, President Trump tweeted, "I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this." At the time of his resignation Pruitt was facing numerous ethics investigations.[29]

Deputy Administrator of the EPA[edit]

In 2017 Trump submitted Andrew Wheeler as Deputy Administrator of the EPA. Wheeler has worked as a lawyer and lobbyist, specializing in energy and environmental policy. He is a critic of nationwide limits on greenhouse gas emissions and has supported the continued use of fossil fuels.[30] The Senate rejected him in 2017 and Trump resubmitted his name in January 2018.[31] In March 2018, Wheeler commented to CNN that the EPA is "brainwashing our kids."[32] His nomination was confirmed on April 12, 2018, by a mostly party line vote of 53-45, that included three Democratic Senators.[33] Ken Cook the president of the Environmental Working Group commented on Wheeler's appointment calling Wheeler a coal and chemical "shill" and saying, "Before the Trump administration, it would have been inconceivable that a coal and chemical industry lobbyist with a long history of hostility toward environmental policy would be the number two at the EPA."[32] Following Pruitt's resignation, Wheeler was appointed to head the EPA on July 5, 2018.

Department of Energy[edit]

The United States Department of Energy is tasked with developing technology for better and more efficient energy sources as well as energy education. Trump chose Rick Perry to head the department, who had called for eliminating it when he was running for the Republican nomination for President in 2012.[21] His confirmation as head of the Department of Energy was a source of contention among Democrats due to his previous denial of man-made climate change and his close ties to the Texas oil and gas industry.[34][35] During his confirmation hearing, Perry said he regretted his promise to abolish the Department of Energy.[35]

Department of the Interior[edit]

Ryan Zinke, Congressman from Montana, was appointed Secretary of the Interior. Zinke is an advocate for mining and logging on federal lands but opposes sale or transfer of such lands.[36] Following his appointment, Zinke said that he had made “probably the greatest reorganization in the history of the Department of the Interior." Some scientists have charged that some of the staff changes have been politically motivated. Zinke supported Trump’s plan to reduce the DOI budget by $1.6 billion in 2018, which would have caused roughly 4,000 employees to lose their jobs and a rollback of many of the regulations that Obama put in place.[37] When questioned about global warming during is senate confirmation hearing, Zinke replied, "...I don't know definitively, there's a lot of debate on both sides of the aisle."[38]

Department of Agriculture[edit]

Sonny Perdue, former Governor of Georgia, was appointed Agriculture Secretary. His supporters say that his experience in agriculture and conservative views on immigration make him an appropriate choice.[39] Perdue says that he plans to rid the department of "onerous regulations" that do not contribute to a better environment. Opponents fear that he will not sufficiently address the effects that farm pollution has on sources of drinking water.[39] Speaking on climate change, Perdue says that he agrees that the climate is warming but "we don't know definitively in my opinion what is causing climate change."[40]

Council on Environmental Quality[edit]

The Council on Environmental Quality is a division of the Executive Office of the President that coordinates federal environmental efforts and works closely with agencies and other White House offices on the development of environmental and energy policies and initiatives. In October 2017, Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White, former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to be chair of CEQ.[41] Some of Hartnett's energy views have been considered controversial. She has "called renewable energy unreliable and parasitic" and she has "suggested that climate regulation is a conspiracy pushed by communists." Her nomination was withdrawn in February 2018 as she did not garner enough support in the Senate.[42]

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration[edit]

Trump nominated Barry Lee Myers to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Myers is an attorney and businessman who has served as CEO of AccuWeather, a company that provides commercial weather forecasting services. The National Weather Service, provides most of the same information for free by placing it in the public domain. In the past he has strongly advocated against NOAA's capability to provide a weather information service directly to the public.[43]

Secretary of State[edit]

In March 2018, President Trump nominated Mike Pompeo as his new Secretary of State (succeeding Rex Tillerson). Pompeo has referred to the Obama administration's environment and climate change plans as "damaging" and "radical". He opposes the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and supports eliminating the United States federal register of greenhouse gas emissions. He has stated, "Federal policy should be about the American family, not worshipping a radical environmental agenda." [44] In 2012 he called for the permanent elimination of wind power production tax credits calling them an "enormous government handout".[45] In 2015 he voted against the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan resolution.

Domestic energy policy[edit]

America First Energy Plan[edit]

Trump unveiled what he calls the America First Energy Plan soon after his inauguration. His administration claims that "America has been held back by burdensome regulations on [its] energy industry".[46] America currently has 264 billion barrels of oil reserves, the largest oil reserve of any nation.[47] The United States also has a vast amount of coal reserves, amounting to 26% of the world’s total, more than any other nation.[48] Its untapped oil and coal resources are estimated to be worth about $50 trillion according to the Trump administration.[46] However, reports from the Natural Resources Defense Council show that coal consumption in the US has steadily declined by about 20% over the last 10 years, with natural gas and renewable energy quickly taking over.[49] Christina Simeone, director of policy and external affairs with the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, says that strict regulations aren’t the only reason for the faltering coal market; natural gas has now become a cheaper option.[50]

The White House estimates deregulation will increase wages by over $30 billion by 2024.[46] This figure specifically refers to the removal of Obama's Climate Action Plan and was drawn from a study from the Institute for Energy Research, a conservative non-profit organization specializing in research of global energy markets; the report actually based that figure on increased oil drilling on federal land and offshore, not on reduction of regulations.[50]

Trump wants America to achieve energy independence from OPEC and all nations hostile to the interests of the United States to ensure national security, and insulate it from any supply disruptions and price fluctuations from the global oil market.[51] However, fossil fuels are finite, and entities such as the Pentagon claim climate change also poses a threat to national security.[52] The NRDC argues that a more reliable long term solution would be to develop more of a reliance on renewable energy rather than maintaining a reliance on fossil fuels.[49]

Currently, the EPA focuses on a range of topics including air, emergency management, land and cleanup, pesticides, toxic substances, waste, and water.[53] Trump will refocus its efforts to solely protect clean air and clean water.[46] This has resulted in a 31% proposed budget cut to the EPA.[54] Environmentalists, current EPA staff members, and former EPA staff members believe that the EPA will have a harder time upholding environmental standards with a smaller budget.[54][55]

In a 2018 analysis, David Cutler and Francesca Dominici of Harvard University stated that under the most conservative estimate, the Trump administration's rollbacks and proposed reversals of environmental rules would likely "cost the lives of over 80 000 US residents per decade and lead to respiratory problems for many more than 1 million people."[56] The EPA responded to the analysis by stating "This is not a scientific article, it’s a political article. The science is clear, under President Trump greenhouse gas emissions are down, Superfund sites are being cleaned up at a higher rate than under President Obama". [57]

Renewable energy policy[edit]

The America First Energy Plan does not mention renewable energy and instead reflects the President's focus on fossil fuels.[58] During the campaign, Trump praised solar technology during a rally in California the summer of 2016 but then criticized it for being too expensive and has since complained about the subsidies renewable energy companies receive.[59][60] In June 2017, Trump said in a White House meeting that the wall with Mexico should be covered with solar panels. The statement was not taken seriously.[61] The Trump administration's 2019 budget proposes large cuts in programs that research renewable energy and that study the effects of and ways to mitigate climate change.[62]

Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline[edit]

Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (shown above) has resumed under the Trump Administration.

An executive order reviving the plans for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines was signed by Trump on January 24, 2017 with the hopes of creating jobs and bolstering domestic energy production.[63] The construction of the Keystone had been blocked by then-president Barack Obama, who considered it a major contributor to climate change due to the greenhouse gas intensive extraction of oil from tar sands.[64] The Dakota Access Pipeline was also on hold. After months of protest, in December 2016 the Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) under the Obama administration announced that it would not grant an easement for the pipeline to be drilled under Lake Oahe and that USACE was undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.[65]

Many Sioux tribes have said that the pipeline threatens the tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and that it has damaged and destroyed sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance. The tribe has expressed concern about leaks because the pipeline passes under Lake Oahe, which serves as a major source of water.[66] Protests at pipeline construction sites in North Dakota began in the spring of 2016 and drew indigenous people [67] from throughout North America as well as many other supporters, creating the largest gathering of Native Americans in the past hundred years.[68]

Executive order on climate change[edit]

Amid protests, on March 28, 2017, Trump signed a "sweeping executive order" instructing EPA "regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions and other environmental regulations." Trump was accompanied by "coal miners and coal executives" among others and he devoted his remarks on the executive order to "praising coal miners, pipelines and U.S. manufacturing."[69] He addressed the coal-miners directly, "Come on, fellas. Basically, you know what this is? You know what it says, right? You’re going back to work."[69] A Trump official said that the executive order plans to put American jobs first by not supporting climate change policies that place the economy at risk.[70]

Auto fuel economy and emissions standards[edit]

The Obama administration 2012 fuel economy plan called for a doubling in fuel economy for new cars and light trucks, to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025, equivalent to a real-world average of 36 m.p.g. In April 2018, saying "those standards are inappropriate and should be revised,” Scott Pruitt announced that the EPA was rolling back the Obama administration's fuel efficiency and emissions standards. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to the announcement saying:

"EPA Administrator Pruitt’s decision to begin rolling back fuel economy standards is a victory for big oil and major corporations at the expense of American consumers and clean air for our kids. As usual, the administration sides with big, powerful special interests over the interests of average American families, who will pay the price for lower miles per gallon and dirtier air.”[71]

The state of California has a waiver that allows it to set its own auto emissions standards, which it has used to combat smog and, more recently, global warming. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia have adopted the California standards as their own. Arguing that the Pruitt plan violates the federal Clean Air Act and doesn't follow the agency's own regulations, in April California sued the Trump administration. Joining California were Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia. All have Democratic attorneys general.[72]

Proposed EPA budget cuts[edit]

While campaigning for office Trump had proposed the idea of eliminating the EPA in order to help balance the United States' budget. Trump said, "We're going to have little tidbits left but we're going to get most of it out".[3] Following his election, in March 2017, he announced plans to cut the EPA 2018 budget by 31%, by far the largest budget cut to any federal agency. The cut would result in a loss of 19% of the workforce or roughly 3,200 employees, through both staff buyouts and layoffs.[4] The choice to remove the Clean Power Plan, which was put in place to reduce carbon dioxide emissions chiefly from coal-fired power plants, would effectively eliminate Obama's efforts to curb climate change. This plan would also remove the $100 million allocated to fund research combating climate change.[73] The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides $250 million for programs which aid countries with high risk of impacts from rising and increasingly warm and acidic sea water levels. These programs would be eliminated under the new set of budget cuts.[74] If enacted, this would mean the elimination of up to 38 of the agency's programs.[4] Programs to be eliminated include the radon program, grants to clean up industrial sites ("brownfields"), climate change research, and the Office of Environmental Justice.[75]

Trump‘s objectives include the lifting of regulations from various energy industries to boost domestic energy production.[76] Trump asked American manufacturers which regulations made production the most difficult. The industry leaders responded, and an overwhelming number of them recommended lifting restrictions related to the environment and workers' rights.[76] In an open letter to Scott Pruitt, Mustafa Ali, former head of the EPA's Environmental Justice Program who resigned in protest to Pruitt's budget cuts, expressed concerns with how the budget cuts will effect pollution in poor and minority neighborhoods.[77]

The administration says it plans to refocus the EPA mission on clean water, air, and other core responsibilities. It also plans to delegate more of the EPA's enforcement activities to the states, while decreasing the amount of money given to states for that purpose by 30%.[75] Issues like greenhouse gas emissions would be trimmed significantly or eliminated from the budget.[78]

In May 2017, Congress approved a budget for the balance of the 2017–18 fiscal year which cuts EPA funding by only 1% and does not cut staffing or any specific programs. Republicans said they expect to make much larger cuts in the 2018 federal budget.[79]

Department of the Interior[edit]

The Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of natural resources, most federal lands such as national parks and forests, wildlife refuges and tribal territories. Trump accused President Obama of “denying millions of Americans access to the energy wealth sitting under our feet” by his leasing restrictions and the banning new coal extraction on federal lands. Trump campaigned on a promise to “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.”[80] Trump's proposed 2018 budget proposes decreasing funding for the Department of Interior by $1.5 billion.[81]

Trump appointed Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana as Secretary of the Interior. Zinke is an advocate for mining and logging on federal lands.[36] Commenting on the Trump presidency, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, a Washington DC-based lobby group, said, "This opportunity is unique, maybe once in a lifetime,” in regards to increased access to federal leases.[80]

The Trump Administration plans to open up more federal land for energy development, such as fracking and drilling.[8] The Clean Water Rule, issued by the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers in 2015, is also a target for possible repeal. The rule clarifies the federal government’s jurisdiction to protect small streams and wetlands from pollution. Developers, business, and agriculture groups oppose the rule because they believe that their private property rights are violated and that undue regulatory burdens are created.[82]

National monuments[edit]

In April 2017, President Trump directed the Department of the Interior to review 27 monuments of at least 100,000 acres in size through Executive Order 13792.[83] The vast majority of the lands under review were set aside by President Obama.[84]

In June 2017, Zinke issued an interim report as requested in the Executive Order. He proposed a scaling back of the Bears Ears National Monument.[85][86] In August 2017, Zinke delivered a final report to Trump. The report called for the reduction of Bears Ears (established by Obama - 2016), Cascade–Siskiyou (Clinton - 2000), Gold Butte (Obama - 2016), Grand Staircase-Escalante (Clinton - 1996), Pacific Remote Islands Marine (Bush - 2006), and Rose Atoll Marine (Bush - 2009).[87]

Zinke's recommendations have been met with both approval and criticisms by state lawmakers, environmentalists, and tribal governments. In particular, Native Americans in the Southwest were fundamental in getting the Bears Ears designated as a national monument. Members of the Navajo tribe were integral to the monument's passage. A tribal spokesperson stated that a reduction in the size of the Bear's Ears Monument would be “an attack on a significant part of the foundation of American conservation law.” A Navajo elder commented, “It was always and has been a spiritual place. It’s the white people that came and tried to nullify that. And we had to fight to get it — to play the game the Western way, the government way, to have it reestablished as a national monument, as a sacred place for us. Now there is a stupid guy trying to take it away.” A different opinion is offered by a Republican Utah state representative who sees a shrinking of the Bears Ears Monument as a victory over federal restrictions over mining and animal grazing. “When you turn the management over to the tree-huggers, the bird and bunny lovers and the rock lickers, you turn your heritage over."[88]

Offshore drilling[edit]

In January 2018, the Interior Department announced plans to allow drilling in nearly all U.S. waters. This would be the largest expansion of offshore oil and gas leasing ever proposed, and includes regions that were long off-limits to development and more than 100 million acres in the Arctic and the Eastern Seaboard, regions that President Obama had placed under a drilling moratorium.[9]

Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling[edit]

The Trump administration tax bill passed in December 2017 includes a provision introduced by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski that requires Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to approve at least two lease sales for drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Scientists, environmentalists and former Interior Department officials have warned that fossil fuel extraction in the ANWR could harm the landscape and the species that live there. Speaking in February 2018, Trump said he had little interest in opening the refuge to drilling until a friend told him Republicans have been trying to open it to drilling for decades. “After that I said, ‘Oh, make sure that’s in the [tax] bill.' I really didn’t care about it, and then when I heard that everybody wanted it — for 40 years they’ve been trying to get it approved — I said, ‘Make sure you don’t lose ANWR.’”[89][90]

Privatization of Native American reservations[edit]

Within the Interior Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs handles some federal relations with Native Americans. Native American reservations are estimated to contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. In December 2016, a Trump advisory group put forth a plan to privatize Native American reservations to open them up to drilling and mining. Many Native Americans view such efforts as a violation of tribal self-determination and culture.[13][91]

Trump’s transition team commissioned a Native American coalition to draw up a list of proposals to guide his Indian policy. According to a Reuters investigative report, "The backgrounds of the coalition’s leadership are one sign of its pro-drilling bent. At least three of four chair-level members have links to the oil industry."[13]

Endangered species threat[edit]

In February 2018, Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke presented their recommendation for the 2019 budget. Their proposed budget does not grant any funding for state efforts for the recovery of endangered species. The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, a program authorized by the Endangered Species Act, supports conservation planning, habitat restoration, land acquisition, research, and education. To qualify for funding, a state or territory must put up at least 25 percent of a project’s cost. The administration justifies the budget change saying that it “is not requesting funding for these activities in order to support higher priorities.”[92]

A senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity said gutting the fund would push endangered species toward extinction. “This is especially damaging because [the] funding is often the backbone of state non-game programs and helps animals across the country, from bats and butterflies to salmon and grizzlies.” The former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who served during Obama’s time in office said, “We were very proud of the record we set, that we had recovered and delisted more species than all previous administrations combined. And that didn’t happen by accident. It happened because we applied the resources to get species over that last mile.”[92]

In July 2018, more than two dozen pieces of "legislation, policy initiatives and amendments designed to weaken" the Endangered Species Act were introduced or voted on by congress. Former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt, the deputy interior secretary, has led the push to review the endangered species act. Utah Republican Representative Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. “We’re all aware that the Endangered Species Act hasn’t undergone any significant updates in over 40 years. Now is the time to modernize this antiquated law to simultaneously benefit both endangered species and the American people.” Bruce Babbitt, who served as the interior secretary under the Clinton administration, commented, "This is the first time that we’ve seen an orchestrated effort by the president, the Republican leaders in the House, the industry and the Interior Department all working together in a concentrated effort to eviscerate the act." Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, commented, "I think the Endangered Species Act is endangered. They haven’t been able to do this for 20 years, but this looks like their one chance.”[93]

Mexico border wall concerns[edit]

large spotted cat running right to left
Male jaguar from the Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona, in 2015

Trump's proposed border wall will block the movement of threatened wildlife and interfere with the movement of animals in response to climate change. The wall could prevent genetic exchange.[94] Critical habitats are on the border with Mexico in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 and candidates for that list from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service includes ninety-three species whose ranges are near or cross the border.[95]

In July 2018, citing "bypassed environmental laws, habitat destruction, and losses to conservation and scientific research", in a report published in the scientific journal BioScience thousands of scientists "expressed alarm" over the expansion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The report has 16 co-authors and as of July 24, 2,700, signatures from almost 50 countries. [96]

Among the threatened species are the jaguar (the largest cat native to North America), the ocelot (30 pound cats that could be making a comeback), the Mexican wolf (the smallest gray wolf in North America), the Sonoran pronghorn (related to giraffes, they can run 60 mph and are North America's fastest land mammals), the tiny cactus ferruginous pygmy owl (who fly at about 4.5 to 13 feet, lower than the wall), and the Quino checkerspot butterfly (who fly no higher than 6 to 8 feet).[95]

Regulation of hazardous chemicals[edit]

It has been charged that the Trump administration has attempted to change the way the federal government evaluates hazardous chemicals that may pose a risk to human health, making them more aligned with the chemical industry’s wishes. Trump appointed Nancy B. Beck as a top deputy of the EPA’s toxic chemical unit, while during her previous five years she had been an executive at the industry trade association American Chemistry Council for American chemical companies. Shortly after her appointment in May 2017, Beck rewrote, among others, the regulations covering the chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which has been linked to many serious health problems. Her revisions make it harder to track the health consequences of the chemical, and therefore harder to regulate.[97][10]

Chlorpyrifos[edit]

In March 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied that he had met with Dow Chemicals CEO Andrew Liveris before making a decision to deny a petition to ban Dow's chlorpyrifos pesticide that had been initiated by the Obama administration. Research has concluded that even minuscule amounts of chlorpyrifos can disrupt the development of fetuses and infants. In August, it was revealed that in fact Pruitt and other EPA officials had met with industry representatives on dozens of occasions in the weeks immediately prior to the March decision, promising them that it was "a new day" and assuring them that their wish to continue using chlorpyrifos had been heard. Ryan Jackson, Pruitt's chief of staff, said in a March 8 email that he had "scared" career staff into going along with the political decision to deny the ban, adding "[T]hey know where this is headed and they are documenting it well." Emails also indicated that the decision was closely coordinated with the White House and the Department of Agriculture.[98] Following the decision, the American Academy of Pediatrics said they were "deeply alarmed" and urged Pruitt to take chlorpyrifos off the market saying, "There is a wealth of science demonstrating the detrimental effects of chlorpyrifos exposure to developing fetuses, infants, children and pregnant women. The risk to infant and children's health and development is unambiguous."[99][100]

Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, the agency’s previous top official overseeing pesticides and toxic chemicals, said she first felt concern when the EPA's new leadership decided to reevaluate a plan to ban methylene chloride, and trichloroethylene, two chemicals that have caused deaths and severe health problems. “It was extremely disturbing to me. The industry met with EPA political appointees. And then I was asked to change the agency’s stand.” In March 2017, Hamnett was again instructed to ignore the recommendation of EPA scientists and deny the ban of chlorpyrifos. Hamnett retired in September and was replaced by a toxicologist who has spent years helping businesses fight EPA restrictions.[10]

In 2017, a coalition of attorneys general for several states, farm workers, and environmental groups sued then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt over his chlorpyrifos ban reversal. Saying that the EPA had "violated federal law by ignoring the conclusions of agency scientists that chlorpyrifos is harmful," on August 9, 2018, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the EPA to remove chlorpyrifos from sale in the United States within 60 days. [101]

Lead paint standards[edit]

According to the EPA, lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat for children ages 6 and younger. No new standards have been set since 2001, though it is agreed that the old standards need to be updated. In December 2017, after Pruitt requested six more years to regulate lead levels, a divided federal appeals court issued a writ of mandamus ordering Pruitt to regulate lead within the next 90 days. The Court called the lead paint risks for children "severe".[102]

PFOS and PFOA study publication withheld[edit]

Using information gained through a Freedom of Information Act request, in May 2018 it was learned that January 2018 emails between the EPA, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) showed an apparent decision to withhold the results of a study done by the DHHS Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) that was planned for publication. Looking at the chemicals widely known as PFOS and PFOA, the study showed that they endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe. They have been found to contaminate several areas, reaching water supplies near military bases, chemical plants, and other sites in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. One White House email said, “The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge. The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.” When questioned about the release of the study the White House referred questions to DHHS, which confirmed that the study has no scheduled release date. Pruitt‘s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, defended EPA’s decision to withhold the results of the study to “ensure that the federal government is responding in a uniform way to our local, state, and Congressional constituents and partners.” [103]

Members of Congress had a very strong reaction to the release of information regarding the withholding of the study, including several Republican lawmakers from states which have been affected by chemical contamination. Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (American politician) said in a statement:

"It would be unacceptable if the political considerations of those at the highest levels of the EPA led to the suppression of information concerning the public health of Americans. The EPA must provide my constituents with answers to these allegations immediately.”[104]

Faced with several contamination sites in their state of Vermont, several Vermont lawmakers also voiced strong opinions. Representative Peter Welch commented:

"I am outraged, but not surprised, that Scott Pruitt's anti-science EPA is suppressing research that would shed light on the health threats posed by PFOA contamination of the water supply. Last year, I visited with homeowners in Bennington whose water was rendered undrinkable due to PFOA contamination. They have a right to see this information, which was gathered by federal employees and paid for with taxpayer funds. EPA should immediately make it available to the public and end its practice of choosing polluters over the public's right to know."[105]

Senator Patrick Leahy wrote:

"My opinion of this White House and of EPA leadership, already quite low, hits rock bottom when I see them block the release of a scientific report meant to protect nursing mothers and pregnant women from toxic exposure, because they believe it will cause a `public relations nightmare' or concern from the public and Congress. The anti-science know-nothingism of this administration causes real harm to real people, including Vermonters. It's cynical; it's playing with people's lives, and it's wrong."[106]

Pruitt conceded that his agency should take "concrete action" related to chemicals like PFAS, but testified that he was unaware of any delay in the release of the study.[107] On May 16 Pruitt announced a “leadership summit” on PFOA, PFOS and related chemicals scheduled for the following week.[108]

When the "invitation only" leadership summit was held on May 22 and 23, news agencies, including Politico, E&E News, and CNN were initially barred from the hearing. An Associated Press journalist was told she was not on the invitation list and forcibly removed from the room. CNN commented, "We understand the importance of an open and free press and we hope the EPA does, too,”[109]Jahan Wilcox, speaking for the EPA, justified the agency’s actions by claiming the summit was not a “federal advisory committee event, ” to which the public would be entitled to access, but instead was an opportunity “for EPA’s state, tribal, and federal government partners and national organizations to share a range of individual perspectives” regarding PFASs.[110] Senator Tom Udall, the ranking Democrat on a committee with oversight of EPA, did not agree. He sent a letter to Pruitt saying "Clean drinking water is a public health issue that does not belong behind closed doors.”[111]

Toxic waste clean-up[edit]

In attempts to lift regulations on oil, mining, drilling, and farming industries, the Trump administration proposed a 31% budget cut to the EPA that would result in reduced initiatives to protect water and air quality, leaving much of the effort up to the states.[112][73] Environmentalists fear that these cuts will result in health problems.[112] EPA budget cuts are also expected to lead to decreased regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which would result in less federal oversight of clean-up projects in these areas.[112]

EPA Administer Scott Pruitt hired former Oklahoma banker Albert Kelly to head the Superfund program, which is responsible for cleaning up the nation's most contaminated land. Kelly completely lacked any experience with environmental issues, and had just received a lifetime ban from working in banking, his career until then. [113]

Clean water legislation[edit]

Much of the Trump administration's efforts to decrease pollution regulation involved directly rescinding or overturning pollution regulations enacted under the Obama administration.[112] In February 2017, Trump signed a resolution overturning President Obama's Stream Protection Rule,[114] after being in effect for less than 30 days. When he signed the resolution repealing the rule, Trump predicted that striking down the rule would save thousands of U.S. mining-related jobs.[115][116] The administration has also proposed a rollback on the Obama administration's extension of federal jurisdiction over lands protected by the Clean Water Act in attempts to reduce water pollution in areas surrounding toxic waste facilities.[112]

Clean Water Rule[edit]

On February 28, 2017, President Trump enacted an executive order to allow the Administrator of the EPA to revise or rescind the Clean Water Rule, also referred to as Waters of the United States (WOTUS), in the name of economic growth and eliminating ambiguous regulations.[117] Research cited by the EPA shows that one in three Americans get their water from public drinking water systems which are partly sourced from streams protected by the Clean Water Rule. These streams may be in danger of pollution by industrial and agricultural waste, sewage, radioactive materials and a large number of other pollutants now covered by the Clean Water Rule.[118] The Audubon Society has expressed concerns about a repeal of the Rule. They write at their website: "...the Trump administration’s intent is clear: to reverse Obama-era environmental protections no matter what, even if they have been effective at protecting avian and human life."[119]

Clean Air Act standards[edit]

In June 2017, Pruitt announced that he would delay designating which areas met new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone.[120] Ozone is a byproduct of pollutants from burning fossil fuels: it is linked to respiratory ailments such as asthma attacks. In August 2017, Pruitt said he would reverse that decision after being sued by 16 state Attorneys General.[121] In March 2018, Pruitt was finally ordered to do so by U.S. District Judge Haywood Stirling Gilliam Jr.[122][123]

Climate change[edit]

Although in the scientific literature there is overwhelming consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases, neither Trump nor Pruitt believe that global warming is human-related. During the campaign, Trump expressed the view that global warming and cooling is a natural process.[124] He often described global warming as a "hoax"; and sometimes attributed the "hoax" to the Chinese government as a plot to sabotage American manufacturing, but later claimed that had been a joke.[125][126] As a candidate Trump said he would rescind Obama's Climate Action Plan, cancel U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Agreement, and stop all U.S. payments towards United Nations global warming programs.[125] [5]

Following Trump's election large amounts of climate information from the EPA website has been altered or removed. There was widespread concern among environmentalists and scientists and a coalition of scientific and academic groups began to make copies of the EPA webpages before they were deleted. According to the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative which tracks changes to government websites under the Trump administration, over 200 webpages providing climate information have been omitted during Trump's first year in office. Other pages have been altered to remove mentions of climate and climate change.[127]

In August 2017, the Trump administration rolled back regulations that required the federal government to account for climate change and sea-level rise when building infrastructure.[128]


Paris Climate Agreement[edit]

On June 1, 2017, Trump announced United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, causing the U.S. to become the third out of 197 nations worldwide to not sign the agreement.[129] As of 2018 the remaining two nations signed and the U.S. is the only nation that have not ratified the Paris Agreement.[130]

Prior to withdrawal, the U.S. had pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 and assign $3 million in aid to foreign countries combating climate change.[131][132] The withdrawal was supported by several Republican lawmakers who felt that backing out was in-line with Trump's "America First" policy and goals to diverge from the environmental policies of the Obama administration. The announcement has been criticized by many national and international leaders, domestic politicians, business leaders and academics[132] as well as a large majority of American citizens (7 out of 10 according to a study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication).[133]

Trump opposed the agreement on the grounds that it would compromise U.S. sovereignty and cause many Americans to lose their jobs. Proponents of the agreement argue, however, that backing out will result in a loss for our economy as new green jobs are offered instead to competitors overseas.[132] Trump also announced his attempts to reach a negotiation with leaders involved in the agreement, who responded saying that the accord was "non-negotiable".[132]

The process of withdrawal is expected to take several years, and in the meantime there has been a vocal resistance on the state and local levels. Hawaii became the first state to independently commit to the goals initially lined out by the accord.[134] Shortly after Trump's announcement, state governments in California, New York, and Washington founded the United States Climate Alliance to continue advancing the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The sentiment has also been expressed by other state governors, by mayors and businesses, and the alliance now has 10 states with governors of both the Democratic and Republican parties pledging to abide by the agreement.[135][134] Additionally, shortly after withdrawal California governor Jerry Brown met personally with President Xi Jinping of China to declare the states' compliance with the Paris Accord.[134][136] In September 2017, some administration officials stated that the administration remains open to staying in the agreement "under the right conditions." [137]

Climate Action Plan[edit]

Trump has committed to the removal of regulations on industry that he deems an unnecessary burden on energy industries.[46] Specifically, he has cited Obama's Climate Action Plan as a priority among these regulations. The Climate Action Plan, issued in June 2013, includes regulations to industry with the ultimate goal of cutting domestic carbon emission, preparing the U.S. for impending effects of climate change, and working internationally to address climate change.[138] Among the regulations outlined in the plan are initiatives to increase natural disaster preparedness, create and improve existing hospitals, and modernize infrastructure to better withstand extreme weather.[138]

Clean Power Plan[edit]

The Clean Power Plan was an Obama administration policy aimed at combating global warming that was first proposed in 2014. In March 2017, Trump signed an executive order to officially withdraw and rewrite Obama's Clean Power Plan in an effort to revive the coal mining industry.[139] Trump has called Obama-era fuel standards a burden on the U.S. automotive industry and has instructed EPA Administrator Pruitt to review them.[140] EPA began its formal repeal of the Clean Power Plan in October 2017.[127]

Carbon Monitoring System[edit]

The Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) is a NASA remote monitoring system used to measure carbon dioxide and methane, using instruments placed in satellites and aircraft. The information provided by the CMS can be used to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords. CMS has also supported other research projects including providing information that has helped countries assess their carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. In April 2018, President Trump ended funding for the CMS.[141]

Lawsuits[edit]

During its first few months in office the Trump administration rescinded rules limiting mercury and air toxins from power plants,[142] limiting water pollution from coal plants,[143] banning the pesticide chlorpyrifos,[144] and banning methane emissions from landfills,[145] among other rules, which has resulted in lawsuits from various environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council.[146] The litigation director of the NRDC commented, “It all shows that this administration won’t protect the environment unless they are sued. They have been reckless and not followed the basic requirements of the law.”[147]

Saying, "Over and over again, the Trump administration has put the profits of multinational polluters over the health and well-being of everyday Americans,” New York's attorney general Eric Schneiderman has filed over 50 lawsuits opposing Trump's environmental revisions. He comments, “We’ve already beaten back several of this administration’s toxic policies, from energy efficiency rollbacks to smog. [...] I expect we will see a number of further losses for the administration on similar grounds. If they keep showing the same disregard for the law, their attempt to repeal all these environmental regulations will go badly for them.”[147]

Some of the lawsuits have already been successful, such as a lawsuit from the Environmental Defense Fund and other environmental groups against the Trump administration's decision to suspend a rule which limited methane emissions from oil and gas wells, a decision which was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.[148] Following legal action the Administration also reversed its decision to do away with an Obama-era plan requiring dentists to prevent about five tons of mercury, used in their practice, from getting into the nation's waterways.[147]

See also[edit]

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