Trump’s War on the Environment
President Donald Trump is a radical climate-change denier and crusader for deregulation who is trying to gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — an entity critical to protecting the health of all Americans. Trump initially selected as the Administrator of EPA Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, who made a career of attacking EPA and lobbying for the oil and gas industry.
The Environmental Integrity Project played an important role in forcing the resignation of Pruitt in July 2018. We were the first group to investigate Pruitt’s extensive travel to his home state of Oklahoma at taxpayers’ expense, uncover his first-class travel, and raise questions about his large and expensive security detail. EIP obtained scores of EPA public records about Pruitt’s travel and security through Freedom of Information Act requests and litigation when the agency refused to disclose public records. We shared this information with the press to expose Pruitt’s unethical behavior and taxpayer abuses.
We expect the new Acting Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, to further President Trump’s pro-pollution agenda. While we may see fewer of the most obvious outrages, we will continue to investigate mismanagement at EPA while tackling some of the worst attempts to weaken our nation’s environmental laws.
We aim to keep the Trump Administration from destroying the Environmental Protection Agency, diminishing the laws that protect our air, water, and natural resources, and reversing the modest progress we have made to address climate change.
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 hobble 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 working 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.
An Open Letter to EPA Employees
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 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. Under a new Democrat-led House in 2019, science will get a better much better representation, but progress will still be an uphill battle.
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 originally appointed ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, meaning that a lifelong fossil fuels advocate was representing the U.S. in climate discussions with foreign leaders around the world. Tillerson has since been replaced by Mike Pompeo, a staunch Republican who is highly unlikely to push for any action on climate change.
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 appointed as its secretary 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 has proposed regulations that would prop up coal-fired power plants. And he 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.
- Learn how to stand up for the Environmental Protection Agency and fight for strong environmental regulations with the “Save EPA” how-to guide.
- 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.