For the Record
The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has put the nation's climate policy and environment in peril. As a candidate, Trump went so far as to label climate change a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese, and he is loading his administration with climate-change deniers. While ecoRI News is dedicated to covering issues in southern New England, we felt that the gravity of the situation at the national level made it incumbent upon us as journalists and keepers of the truth to keep a running record of Team Trump's comments and policies on climate and the environment. We call this special feature "For the Record: Climate Change."
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) gets 30 percent of its budget from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including funding for the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) and climate-related programs.
Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) gets 60 percent of budget from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The Endangered Species Act is a target of the Trump administration and Congress. At least 11 pieces of legislation that could weaken the act or prevent some threatened wildlife from being protected have been introduced.
In an Environmental Protection Agency budget draft, the Trump administration wants to remove programs that slow climate change and help air and water quality and use that money for military spending instead. Congress wants to roll back the act because of complaints that it impedes drilling, logging and construction.
The 1973 act helps to protect more than 1,600 animal and plant species considered threatened or endangered. It has helped protect many iconic species, including the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and gray wolf.
Here is a look at a few of the more significant bills that have been introduced this year that would impair the 44-year-old act:
The Stopping EPA Overreach Act would amend the Clean Air Act to prevent the federal government from regulating the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The bill stipulates that the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and several other environmental laws can’t regulate climate change in any way.
The Listing Reform Act aims to reduce the economic impact of listing a species as endangered by preventing the federal government from considering proposals for protecting a species based on how urgent it is to protect it from extinction. Instead, the bill requires the government to consider proposals in the order they were received.
The Trump administration wants to gut the Clean Air Act. The law gives the federal government power to control air pollution across the country. Since 1963, the act has helped clean the air we breathe, control acid rain and slow reductions in Earth’s ozone layer. The ozone layer helps protect the planet from the sun’s harmful radiation.
The act also is used to control carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Studies have linked those gases to rising temperatures, and changes in the atmosphere and ocean currents.
The fossil-fuel industry doesn’t like the rules.
Feb. 28, 2017
President Trump issues an order directing his administration to begin rolling back sweeping clean-water rules that were enacted by his predecessor. The order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to set about dismantling the Waters of the United States rule takes aim at one of Obama’s signature environmental legacies, a far-reaching anti-pollution effort that expanded the authority of regulators over the nation’s waterways and wetlands.
Big Ag and real-estate developers don’t like the rules.
Feb. 1, 2017
Senate confirms longtime fossil-fuel CEO Rex Tillerson as Trump's secretary of state — 56 senators backed Tillerson, and 43 voted no. The tally was largely along party lines, with every Republican favoring Tillerson, along with four members of the Democratic caucus, Senators Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner, and Independent Angus King.
Tillerson's former company, ExxonMobil, has spent millions denying climate change and opposing limits on carbon emissions.
Jan. 24, 2017
Trump decides to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Trump has invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind Dakota Access, but his spokesman has claimed, without providing evidence, that the president has now removed this conflict of interest.
Jan. 20, 2017
Trump White House strips the official website of any mention of climate change. President’s energy policy will “embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.”
Website says, “President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.”
Dec. 14, 2016
Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., has been asked to be secretary of the interior. Regarding climate science he says, “It’s not a hoax, but it’s not proven science either. But you don’t dismantle America’s power and energy on a maybe. We need to be energy independent first. We need to do it better, which we can, but it is not a settled science.” Zinke supported a bill that would have made mining and drilling on Indian reservations not subject to some regulations, accusing the EPA of using “covert propaganda campaigns to push its anti-Montana agenda.”
Dec. 13, 2016
ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson selected to be secretary of state. Tillerson has supported a carbon tax and isn’t a climate-change denier, but he also has suggested that environmentalists are overreacting and that risks of burning fossil fuels are manageable. ExxonMobil is also under investigation by the New York attorney general for allegedly lying to investors and the public about the impact of climate change.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry chosen as head of Department of Energy. Perry regularly questions climate science, saying that it hadn't been settled. During his 2012 presidential campaign, he said, “There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.” In his book “Fed Up!” he wrote that efforts to tackle climate change as “hysteria” and described climate science as a “contrived phony mess.” He also wrote that “we have been experiencing a cooling trend.” During his time as Texas governor, Perry responded to one of the worst droughts in state history by holding a day of prayer for rain. Perry also prayed for the EPA to roll back emissions and air-quality standards. “Frankly I pray for the president every day. I pray for his wisdom, I pray that God will open his eyes. I wish this president would turn back the health-care law that’s been passed, ask that his EPA back down these regulations that are causing businesses to hesitate to spend money.”
Dec. 7, 2016
Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil-fuel industry, picked to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt has been a key architect of the legal battle against President Obama’s climate-change policies, and also is one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda. He claims that the climate “debate is far from settled” and that “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."
During his recent interview with The New York Times, Trump was asked whether he accepts the scientific connection between greenhouse-gas emissions and rising global temperatures. His reply: “I think right now … well, I think there is some connectivity. There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now.”
Regarding his thoughts on wind energy, he said: “I mean, the wind is a very deceiving thing. First of all, we don’t make the windmills in the United States. They’re made in Germany and Japan. ... They’re made out of massive amounts of steel, which goes into the atmosphere, whether it’s in our country or not, it goes into the atmosphere. The windmills kill birds and the windmills need massive subsidies. In other words, we’re subsidizing wind mills all over this country. I mean, for the most part they don’t work.”
Nov. 23, 2016
Trump is poised to eliminate all climate-change research conducted by NASA as part of a crackdown on "politicized science," according Bob Walker, Trump's senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency. Walker has said there is no need for NASA to do what he has previously described as "politically correct environmental monitoring."
Wants to cancel the Paris climate accord.
Has said he would scrap proposed regulations for tighter methane controls on domestic drillers — methane is a potent greenhouse gas.
Has said he wants to kill the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s proposed plan to push utilities toward lower carbon emissions.
Has vowed to resuscitate the Keystone XL oil pipeline in exchange for a share of its profits.
During the second presidential debate in early October, he said clean coal could meet U.S. energy needs for the next 1,000 years.
Myron Ebell, a D.C. lobbyist who leads a group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, working to dispel "myths of global warming," is leading Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. He has argued for opening up more federal lands for logging, oil and gas exploration, and coal mining. Though he is not a scientist, he has long questioned overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is fueling climate change.
Trump’s first five staff picks also don’t take climate change and environmental protections seriously.
Attorney General: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., refuses to accept that climate change is both happening and driven by human activity. He has repeatedly voted for policies that would expand fossil-fuel development and restrict regulations on greenhouse gases. He voted in favor of a measure that would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, and has argued that carbon dioxide is not really a pollutant because it's “a plant food.”
White House Chief of Staff: Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is more concerned about Islamic terrorism than climate change, telling those at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference that, “Look, I think we all care about our planet, but melting icebergs aren’t beheading Christians in the Middle East.”
Chief White House Strategist: Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, claims that climate change is a hoax created by activists, scientists and renewable-energy executives. His ultra-conservative website has published stories calling NASA and NOAA scientists “talentless low-lives.” He has accused Pope Francis of “hysteria” on climate change, and has called for unfettered fossil-fuel extraction.
CIA Director: Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., has deep ties to petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch, and doesn’t believe scientific consensus on climate change. He has voted to open the outer continental shelf to oil drilling and to restrict the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.
National Security Advisor: Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn doesn’t share the Department of Defense’s concern that climate change is a “threat multiplier," and isn't much interested that prominent members of the national security community have highlighted climate change as a risk to U.S. military operations.
Nov. 12, 2016
In an interview, Stephen Moore, vice president of government relations for the oil refiner Tesoro and one of Trump’s economic advisers, told NPR that, “We think we can raise significant amounts of revenues for the federal government by opening up more of our federal lands for leases for oil and gas development and coal development.”
Oct. 18, 2015
Trump told Fox News Sunday that he would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency because “what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations.” In response to a follow-up question about who would protect the environment, he said, “We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”
Trump told Fox & Friends there is no evidence that humans are responsible for climate change, calling it a hoax and saying “scientists are having a lot fun” with it.
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