Trump’s War on the Environment
President Donald Trump is a radical climate-change denier and crusader for deregulation who has pledged to gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — an entity critical to protecting the health of all Americans. Trump selected as the Administrator of EPA Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, who has made a career of attacking EPA and lobbying for the oil and gas industry.
In 2011, Pruitt signed and sent a letter to EPA on his own stationary that had been written — word for word — by lawyers for an oil and gas company in his state, arguing that the industry was releasing much less air pollution than the federal agency calculated.
“Scott Pruitt likes to take dictation from oil and gas lobbyists, who drafted a number of letters he signed as Oklahoma’s Attorney General,” said Environmental Integrity Project Executive Director Eric Schaeffer, former director of enforcement at EPA. “The Trump Administration could save money by just installing an auto-pen in the EPA Administrator’s office to sign whatever the industry’s lawyers deliver.”
Why EPA Matters
EPA, the linchpin of environmental protection in the U.S., is facing a mortal threat — from the very top. Created by a Republican President and a Democratic Congress in 1970, EPA is far more than a protector of wildlife, clean air and clean water. EPA saves the lives of Americans — especially the elderly and young — every day by enforcing the federal Clean Air Act and reducing soot and smog pollution that trigger heart and asthma attacks. Trump and his allies are now sharpening their knives to slice up this critically important environmental law and others.
From 1970 to today, the enforcement of the Clean Air Act has prevented more than 13 million premature deaths from lung disease and heart attacks, along with tens of millions of lost work and school days caused by asthma.
Because of EPA and its oversight of state environmental agencies, major air pollutants in the U.S. fell by almost 70 percent between 1970 and 2014, while America’s gross domestic product grew by 238 percent.
All of this progress could be reversed if Trump follows through on his threats to eliminate or gut EPA. During a Republican primary debate in Detroit on March 3, 2016, Trump said: “Department of Environmental Protection: We are going to get rid of it in almost every form. We’re going to have little tidbits left. But we’re going to take a tremendous amount out.”
Trump has also called climate change a “hoax” created by the Chinese and is promising to throw out EPA’s regulations for controlling greenhouse gas pollution. His climate change denial is despite the consensus of scientists globally that global warming is a real threat, as verified by NASA, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society, the American Physical Society, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and about 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists.
The Big Picture
The problem is, science itself appears to be under assault by Trump and Congressional Republicans. For example, the Republican-led House Science, Space and Technology Committee has held 24 hearings on environmental issues in 2015 and 2016, inviting 40 witnesses from industry but only sixteen scientists to testify before the “science” committee.
The oil and gas industry is not only at the table in the Trump administration, it owns the table and chairs, and is hosting the party. Trump has picked ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as his choice for Secretary of State, meaning that a lifelong fossil fuels advocate will be representing the U.S. in climate discussions with foreign leaders around the world. This is despite reports that ExxonMobil’s own scientific researchers confirmed the role of fossil fuels in causing climate decades ago, but that the company led efforts to block solutions to the problem.
“The nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, coupled with that of Scott Pruitt for EPA, shows that President-elect Trump is creating a government of, by, and for the oil and gas industry,” said Ken Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
At the Department of Energy, the Trump transition team launched an inquiry into the names of employees who had been working on climate science and this frightened career civil servants who worried about a possible “witch hunt.” The Trump team later backed off.
But Trump also sent worrisome signals to the department when he picked his choice to run it former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry is another climate science denier who once said of global warming: “It’s all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.” Perry pledged to eliminate the Department of Energy that he may soon be directing (if he can even remember its name, which was a problem for him — “oops!” — during a 2011 presidential primary debate).
Perry certainly won’t forget the oil and gas industry, which contributed $2.6 million to his two failed presidential campaigns.
Don’t Let Them Destroy Our Climate and Health
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and other federal agencies are not perfect — which is why our organization has, for example, sued EPA to push it to be more protective of the environment. But EPA should not be dismantled, as Trump has urged. Despite its flaws, EPA is the only entity capable of protecting the public from many threats, including violations of pollution law by multinational corporations, and air and water pollution that crosses state boundaries.
Trump and his allies have argued that the states should be left alone to manage pollution. But our nation has already tried this “states’ rights” approach, and it failed miserably — with low-oxygen “dead zones” growing in the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio catching fire, and children suffering brain damage from lead in gasoline. This is why Republicans and Democrats together created EPA in 1970 to work with the states but also provide federal oversight. We can’t go backward and jeopardize all of the environmental progress of the last four decades.
- We need your help! Donate to our organization so that we can step up our efforts to serve as a watchdog of the Trump Administration. We will be outspent by industry lobbyists. But we have the truth and the law on our side. And with your help, we can protect public health and our natural world.
- Speak out! Use this link to find the email addresses of your elected representatives. Let your Senators and Congressional representatives know that you will not tolerate the Trumping of public health and the environment.
A sample email could read:
Dear Senator/Congressperson ______,
I live and vote in your district and strongly oppose any efforts by the Trump Administration to undermine EPA and environmental regulations. There is a lot of disinformation out there from industry groups. But the truth is that EPA keeps pollution out of the air that I breathe and the water that I drink, and protecting public health must remain the top focus of the federal government, not serving the profits of the oil and gas industry and other polluters.