The Trump environmental disaster begins


For the last few months, I’ve written at least a half dozen posts about the massive environmental catastrophe that awaits America and the world if Donald Trump were to be elected president. Clearly, not enough voters were focused on these issues when they pulled the lever on Tuesday. Now, barring the unexpected, Trump will be the president of the United States from January 2017 to January 2021. During those four years, aided by a Republican Congress, the Trump administration will have the ability to undo years of progress on combating global warming and reducing humankind’s dependency on burning fossil fuels.

What are the ways that the nation will lose ground on the environment? It starts with his  people. Trump has made it clear that his key appointees in the positions that play a major role on climate change will be comprised of global-warming deniers and by people who’ve spent a lifetime working on behalf of Big Oil. The New York Times has an alarming profile of the man running Trump’s environmental transition:

In looking for someone to follow through on his campaign vow to dismantle one of the Obama administration’s signature climate change policies, President-elect Donald J. Trump probably could not have found a better candidate for the job than [Myron] Ebell.

Mr. Ebell, who revels in taking on the scientific consensus on global warming, will be Mr. Trump’s lead agent in choosing personnel and setting the direction of the federal agencies that address climate change and environmental policy more broadly.

Mr. Ebell, whose organization is financed in part by the coal industry, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the linchpin of that policy, the Clean Power Plan. Developed by the Environmental Protection Agencythe plan is a far-reaching set of regulations that, by seeking to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation, could result in the closing of many coal-burning power plants, among other effects.

Mr. Ebell has said that the plan, which has been tied up in the courts since it was finalized in 2015, is illegal. In the interview in Paris last year, he said he hoped whoever was elected president would “undo the E.P.A. power plant regs and some of the other regs that are very harmful to our economy.”

It’s not just people, though. It’s also policy. The Huffington Post published an excellent piece this week on the many, many ways that the Trump Administration will be a tool of Big Oil. Here’s an excerpt:

 Trump’s longtime friend Harold Hamm, the billionaire chief executive of the oil company Continental Resources, is a leading contender for energy secretary. Another oil executive, Forrest Lucas, the 74-year-old co-founder of the oil products company Lucas Oil, is on the short list for interior secretary. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who coined the slogan “drill, baby, drill” during her failed 2008 vice presidential bid, is also on that list.

Trump’s proposed $1 trillion plan to rebuild infrastructure should include support for the rejected Keystone XL pipeline and the hotly contested Dakota Access Pipeline, Gerard said. Last year, President Barack Obama put the kibosh on Keystone XL, the proposed 1,179-mile oil conduit from Alberta to Nebraska, but TransCanada, the company behind it, said Wednesday it planned to re-pitch the idea to the incoming administration. The Dakota Access Pipeline, which Native American tribes and environmentalists have been battling for months, seemed likely to move ahead anyway, despite Obama’s tepid calls to halt construction. A Trump presidency may seal its victory.

“To quote James Hansen,” said Michael. E. Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, citing the famed climate scientist, “I fear this may be game over for the climate.”

Gerard declined to point out which environmental restrictions he deemed most burdensome, and instead proposed a complete overhaul of the regulatory system.

“We need to look at the current regulatory approach holistically,” he said. “When you look at it holistically, you can raise which ones need to be addressed to allow the energy system, to allow infrastructure, to move forward.”

At first blush, this seems like an unmitigated nightmare. And there’s no doubt that we’re in for a very difficult next four years, especially in the early months of 2017 as the majority-Republican Congress races to approve the new president’s agenda. But it doesn’t have to be a total disaster. If environmentalists and citizens who care about issues such as climate change — that’s a majority of Americans, according to the polls — fight back and fight hard, and if Democrats in the Senate use their filibuster power wisely, then key elements of the Trump agenda can and will be thwarted. The future of the planet depends upon us doing nothing less.

Read about Trump’s climate denier top adviser from the New York Times:

Find out more about how Big Oil might prospect under the Trump administration from the Huffington Post:

Learn more about the need for worldwide action on fossil fuels in my new book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on America

© Stuart H. Smith, LLC 2016 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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