Deep dive into Trump’s record on environmental issues
Dear EarthTalk: I’m wondering what President Trump’s perspective is on our environment? He doesn’t seem to be doing much about preserving it let alone healing it? -Sheila Kaye, via e-mail
From the get-go, Donald Trump has been no friend to the environment, and he has used the highest office in the land to gut environmental protections and conservation initiatives—and open up natural resources to the highest bidders—at every opportunity. That the public hasn’t heard much about this is most likely due to the fact that Donald Trump has given the media so much else to worry about, leaving environmental coverage more of an afterthought in the constantly evolving “breaking news” cycle.
Even before he took office in 2016, Trump had declared global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to hurt our economy, and vowed to overturn Obama’s huge win to curb U.S. emissions, the Clean Power Plan. Trump also threatened to pull the U.S. out of the landmark (but voluntary) Paris climate accord. When he became President, he made good on those promises, horrific as that may have been to environmentalists who had worked a lifetime to achieve the goals thrown asunder.
But Trump wasn’t done there. He then got busy loosening regulations on everything from toxic air pollution to methane flares to fuel economy standards to wildlife protections. Criminal prosecutions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are at a 30-year low thanks to lack of inspiration from above.
Trump, once and always a developer lest we forget, has also worked to weaken the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as well as to downsize two recently designated national monuments (Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante). He also went against the better judgement of his joint chiefs in December 2017 and took climate change off of the list of national security threats, despite that fact that extreme weather events pose a bigger risk to the American people than terrorism.
More recently, under the radar compared to higher-profile scandals, the Trump administration finalized rollbacks to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that speeds up permitting for federal projects like pipelines, highways and power plants. Long gone are the onerous and time-consuming permitting procedures that used to dog unscrupulous developers and protect key wildlife habitat.
And in July 2020, the Trump administration started moving forward quietly with petroleum exploration in the sacrosanct Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which environmentalists have been trying to protect from drilling since it was established by Jimmy Carter executive order in 1980.
“All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year,” said The New York Times. Simply put, if you care about clean air and water and public health in general (which is what environmentalism is mostly about), Trump is not your man.
CONTACTS: “What is the Trump administration’s track record on the environment?” brookings.edu/policy2020/votervital/what-is-the-trump-administrations-track-record-on-the-environment/; “15 ways the Trump administration has changed environmental policies,” www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/02/15-ways-trump-administration-impacted-environment/; “The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules,” nytimes.com/interactive/2020/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html.