Environmentalists ready to battle Trump, GOP in court
CHICAGO (AP) — The night before Donald Trump's inauguration, five environmental lawyers filed a federal court brief defending an Obama administration cleanwater rule that the new president and his Republican allies have targeted for elimination, considering it burdensome to landowners.
The move served as a warning that environmentalists, facing a hostile administration and a Republican-dominated Congress, are prepared to battle in court against what they fear will be a wave of unfavorable policies concerning climate change, wildlife protection, federal lands and pollution.
Advocacy groups nationwide are hiring more staff lawyers. They're coordinating with private attorneys and firms that have volunteered to help. They're reviewing statutes, setting priorities and seeking donations.
"It's going to be all-out war," said Vermont Law School Professor Patrick Parenteau. "If you're an environmentalist or conservationist, this is indeed a scary time."
Trump's first week in office only heightened their anxieties. He moved to resume construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines that the Obama administration had halted, while signaling intentions to abandon his predecessor's fight against global warming, vastly expand oil and gas drilling on public lands and slash the Environmental Protection Agency's budget.
GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, introduced measures to overturn a new Interior Department rule barring coal mining companies from damaging streams and to remove some wolves from the endangered species list.
"They've wasted no time in doing bad things," said Pat Gallagher, director of the Sierra Club's 50-member legal team, which he said is likely to grow as environmentalists increasingly regard the courts as their best option, even though success there is far from certain.
The Department of Justice, which represents the federal government in environmental lawsuits, declined to comment, while the White House did not respond to emails seeking comment. Doug Ericksen, communications director for Trump's transition team at EPA, said of the environmentalists that he's "not sure what they think they're preparing for."