Trump moves cast cloud over Md. cli­mate change work


Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

— Maryland state of­fi­cials and the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency have worked to re­store the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and com­bat cli­mate change over the past eight years, but un­cer­tainty sur­rounds the fu­ture of these poli­cies as a new regime en­ters the White House.

“The sig­nals from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ... sug­gest that he is go­ing to back­track on cli­mate pol­icy on just about ev­ery front,” said Neil Leary, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Sus­tain­abil­ity Ed­u­ca­tion at Dickinson Col­lege. “It’s look­ing like the U.S. is not go­ing to be tak­ing much ac­tion on cli­mate change.”

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has sent mixed sig­nals on cli­mate change since the elec­tion, hir­ing a cli­mate science de­nier on his tran­si­tion team but also meet­ing with for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore, one of the na­tion’s most out­spo­ken lead­ers on cli­mate change. Trump’s daugh­ter, Ivanka, also has sig­naled her in­ter­est in the cli­mate change is­sue.

But those wor­ried about cli­mate change were alarmed by Trump’s ap­point­ment Wed­nes­day of Ok­la­homa At­tor­ney Gen­eral Scott Pruitt as the new head of the EPA. Pruitt has been a ma­jor op­po­nent of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s cli­mate poli­cies and sued the govern­ment to pro­tect coal-fired power plants.

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, a Demo­crat and a se­nior mem­ber of the Se­nate En­vi­ron­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee, said “Pruitt has made a name for him­self


out of deny­ing the very ex­is­tence of cli­mate change.”

“Now Pres­i­dent-elect Trump has se­lected him to lead the agency charged with ad­dress­ing it,” the se­na­tor said in a state­ment.

“Mr. Pruitt has made a ca­reer out of su­ing the EPA. Now he wants to run the agency,” Cardin said. “I find Mr. Pruitt’s se­lec­tion for EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor trou­bling, both for the fu­ture of en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice in this coun­try, as well as for what it sig­nals more gen­er­ally about Pres­i­dent-elect Trump’s re­la­tion­ship with science and es­tab­lished fact.”

The ef­fects of cli­mate change and in­creased pol­lu­tion have re­sulted in con­sis­tently ris­ing sea lev­els of the Bay over the past few decades.

From Novem­ber of last year to Septem­ber of this year, the mean sea level of the Bay in­creased by nearly one-tenth of a meter, ac­cord­ing to data gath­ered from Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion records.

“Sea level rise is go­ing to con­tinue, and that is go­ing to be an is­sue for ero­sion of coast­lines,” Leary said. “You’re go­ing to have more in­un­da­tion of low-ly­ing coastal ar­eas when there are storms and high tides with sea level rise. You’re go­ing to have sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts on coastal ar­eas, both (on) peo­ple and wet­lands we rely on for a lot of dif­fer­ent things.”

Trump has long been a de­trac­tor of cli­mate change, fa­mously deny­ing its ex­is­tence through so­cial me­dia and re­in­forc­ing this po­si­tion by hir­ing fel­low cli­mate science de­nier My­ron Ebell to over­see the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency tran­si­tion. But re­cently, Trump has backed off this po­si­tion and sug­gested a more le­nient ap­proach.

“I have a very open mind,” Trump said in an in­ter­view on Nov. 22 with the New York Times. “And I’m go­ing to study a lot of the things that hap­pened on it and we’re go­ing to look at it very care­fully.”

Yet, Trump still re­ferred to cli­mate change as is a “very com­plex sub­ject” and went on to say that there is “some con­nec­tiv­ity” be­tween hu­man in­volve­ment and cli­mate change but it “de­pends how much.”

Ebell, di­rec­tor of Global Warm­ing and In­ter­na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy at the Com­pet­i­tive En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, a non­profit pub­lic pol­icy or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­mot­ing lim­ited govern­ment and free en­ter­prise, has op­posed cli­mate change pol­icy for years and asked the Se­nate to re­ject an in­ter­na­tional cli­mate ac­cord signed last year in Paris, ac­cord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post.

Pruitt has been in­volved in more than a dozen law­suits against the EPA, in­clud­ing against the Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion’s so-called Clean Power Plan, which is in­tended to re­duce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from power plants. He has no back­ground in en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy.

In 2009, the Maryland Gen­eral Assem­bly drafted a plan to re­duce green­house gases by 25 per­cent, and restor­ing the Bay was in­cluded as a sec­tor of this ini­tia­tive. The fol­low­ing year, the EPA es­tab­lished pol­lu­tion load lim­its to re­duce the amount of ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rous and sed­i­ment in its wa­ters.

In 2014, then-Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley signed a new Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Water­shed Agree­ment which re­in­forced com­mit­ments to­ward Bay restora­tion while also ad­dress­ing cli­mate change and toxic con­tam­i­na­tion.

Gov. Larry Ho­gan has also been com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing the Bay, as his fis­cal year 2017 bud­get was the first in state his­tory that does not di­vert fund­ing ded­i­cated to Bay restora­tion.

“For the last year and a half, Maryland’s com­mis­sion on cli­mate change has been find­ing com­mon ground to re­duce green­house gases,” said Ben Grum­bles, Maryland Sec­re­tary of the En­vi­ron­ment and Chair­man of the Maryland Com­mis­sion on Cli­mate Change, in a state­ment on Nov. 29. “The Ho­gan Ad­min­is­tra­tion is com­mit­ted to bi­par­ti­san so­lu­tions that pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and pro­vide af­ford­able, re­li­able and sus­tain­able en­ergy to Maryland cit­i­zens and com­mu­ni­ties. That com­mit­ment will con­tinue.”

Trump and Pruitt will have to battle U.S. en­vi­ron­men­tal groups in or­der to undo the ac­tions of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, de­nounced the Pruitt pick, say­ing it was “like putting an ar­son­ist in charge of fight­ing fires,” ac­cord­ing to the Daily Ok­la­homan.

The Sierra Club’s web­site warns read­ers that Trump “is poised to lead the most anti-science and ret­ro­gres­sive ad­min­is­tra­tion in his­tory.”

The Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil’s web­site is rais­ing money in an­tic­i­pa­tion of com­ing bat­tles with this ap­peal: “Pro­tect our planet. Help us gear up to de­fend our en­vi­ron­ment and cli­mate from the Trump pres­i­dency.”

“You can­not run away from peo­ple,” EPA Ad­mi­nis- tra­tor Gina McCarthy said in a speech to the Na­tional Press Club on Nov. 21. “You have to make de­ci­sions, not based on pol­i­tics, but based on what your peo­ple are de­mand­ing of you, or you will be the short­est-lived mu­nic­i­pal ser­vant in the his­tory of mankind.”

McCarthy’s ten­ure will come to an end in Jan­uary, but she said she has faith that the EPA’s fo­cus on cli­mate change over the last eight years will not be re­versed.

“Cli­mate change is among the most sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic health, eco­nomic and se­cu­rity chal­lenges that we have ever faced as a na­tion or as a world,” McCarthy said. “I’m look­ing for­ward to a smooth tran­si­tion and get­ting folks in here so they can see the breadth of the work in the agency and how well we’ve done our job.”

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