Green activists: First 100 days have done 4 years’ worth of harm
Out of all the groups in the liberal coalition, environmentalists may have had the worst of it during the first 100 days of the Trump presidency.
Leading green activists say President Trump has already done a full term’s worth of damage, rolling back Obama-era regulations and installing one of their chief critics as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The president’s pick to lead the EPA, Scott Pruitt, built his political career by challenging environmental and climate-change regulations while Oklahoma attorney general. Since his confirmation in February, the EPA has already started to dismantle the Clean Power Plan — federal rules limiting carbon emissions from power plants — and a host of other regulations.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Pruitt are intent on reversing eight years of EPA policy under the previous administration, transitioning the agency away from its Obama-era focus on climate change and expanding its regulatory reach, toward enforcing existing protections against air and water pollution.
Working with Congress, Mr. Trump also has rolled back new authority given to the EPA to regulate small bodies of water across the country. The agency also shelved plans that would’ve required oil-and-gas companies to record and provide to the federal government vast amounts of information about emissions from their drilling sites.
In addition, Mr. Trump lifted costly restrictions on coal-mining operations across the country.
Mr. Trump also handed environmentalists a stinging defeat by approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and by proposing massive budget cuts to the EPA and climate-change programs in other corners of the federal government.
Internationally, the administration is weighing whether to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climatechange treaty.
Just this week, Mr. Trump ordered a review of national monument designations, potentially opening up new federal lands to energy development.
All told, environmentalists say the president’s first 100 days have been devastating. They argue that Mr. Trump didn’t tell voters the truth about his intentions.
“I would call this an extreme agenda that for someone who didn’t even win a majority of the vote is out of line with the values of the American people,” said Erich Pica, president of the environmental group Friends of the Earth. “He didn’t run on getting rid of the Clean Water Act and making water dirtier … He didn’t run on any of that, yet that’s what his extreme agenda is doing right now.”
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said this week that “the hallmark of the president’s first 100 days” has been a relentless “assault on our climate, environment and national heritage.”
On the heels of the executive order reviewing national monuments, other environmental activists accused the president of using his first months in office to sell out the country to the fossil fuel industry.
“Leave it to Trump to take aim at an American tradition and principle that is beloved across political affiliations — our public lands, waters, and monuments. Trump wants to carve up this country into as many giveaways to the oil and gas industry as possible,” said Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace. “But people who cannot afford the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago still want water they can drink, air they can breathe and beautiful places to go for refuge.”
Moving forward, activists say that many of the administration’s moves may not necessarily be long-lasting and, to at least some degree, could be changed by a future Democratic administration.
Environmental groups also are suing the administration over virtually every move it makes on the energy and climate front, meaning many policies, ultimately, will be set by federal courts.
But what activists fear most are fundamental changes inside the EPA, Energy Department, and Interior Department that cannot be undone. For example, Mr. Pica said the president’s desired 30 percent budget cut at the EPA is the type of massive transformation that would be difficult to reverse.
“The rules and the regulations will be litigated over the course of time, but it’s the budget stuff that could have the long-lasting impact on how these agencies operate,” Mr. Pica said.