Green ac­tivists: First 100 days have done 4 years’ worth of harm

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

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.

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