April 25, 2017
So Many Reasons to March This Saturday
The 100th day of Donald Trump's presidency falls this Saturday (an occasion we'll be marking with a giant march of resistance), but pundits already are labeling him as a do-nothing failure. Given that his party also controls Congress, it's actually surprising how many of the goals Trump set during his campaign he has failed to achieve.
Unfortunately, there's one glaring exception. Trump and his administration have (with a lot of help from Congress) been relentless, ruthless, and shameless in attacking protections from pollution, exposing us to health threats, retreating from climate action, and renouncing science. Although many of these attacks can still be defeated, their scope is unprecedented.
Let's start with public lands and wildlife. That Trump would be different from any previous president was obvious on Day 1, when he picked a fight with the National Park Service over the attendance at his inauguration. From there, things just got worse:
- For Secretary of the Interior, Trump chose Montana's Ryan Zinke, who likes to call himself a "Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” As a U.S. representative, Zinke voted against the Endangered Species Act 21 out of 21 times and had a dismal three percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters.
- Trump has signed a joint House/Senate resolution that targets wolves and bears in Alaskan national wildlife refuges. It repealed a rule that prohibited shooting or trapping wolves while in their dens with pups and killing bear cubs or mothers with cubs. Zinke’s hero, Teddy Roosevelt, would have been disgusted.
- Zinke also overturned a ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle on public lands and waters, which will be a disaster for species like the endangered condor and the bald eagle that ingest toxic lead.
- The Bureau of Land Management oversees some of the most stunningly beautiful places on the planet, but its website featured a photo of a coal seam on earlier this month—showing its new priorities. Zinke has lifted a federal moratorium on new coal leases and suspended a review of federal coal-leasing practices. And just last week, the Interior Department suspended a royalty-valuation rule intended to keep fossil fuel companies from robbing taxpayers and underpaying for coal, oil, and gas on our public lands.
- Though Christmas is far away, Trump is already in Scrooge mode—proposing to slash $1.5 billion budget from the Interior Department budget (which includes the National Park Service).
During his campaign, one of Trump's favorite lines was: "We are going to work very, very hard on clean air and clean water." Good one, Donald! Here’s what the golfer-in-chief has actually been doing.
- On February 16, Trump signed a joint congressional resolution revoking the Interior Department's Stream Protection Rule, which prohibited mining companies from dumping their toxic waste indiscriminately into waterways used for drinking, farming, and fishing. Getting that protection from mining pollution had taken eight years of careful work, with input from scientists, industry, communities, and others—not to mention more than 100,000 public comments. All gone at the stroke of a pen.
- Trump found the ideal henchman for his attacks on clean air and water in Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whom he appointed as EPA administrator. Pruitt, who spent years suing the EPA on behalf of Oklahoma's fossil fuels industry, got right to work. He did, though, take time out this month to reaffirm that he actually doesn't believe humans are causing climate change—an opinion he conveniently forgot about during his confirmation hearings.
- Pruitt rejected a decade-old petition asking the agency to ban all use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which scientists say is associated with brain damage in children and farm workers, even at low exposures. Pruitt did this against the advice of his own agency's chemical safety experts.
- Pruitt announced that the EPA will delay its legal defense of two important rules affecting coal plants, presumably in order to buy enough time to reverse itself on those same rules. One of the rules is intended to protect us from airborne mercury, arsenic, and lead pollution. The other would ensure that power plants can't use startup, shutdown, and maintenance (SSM) procedures as an excuse to violate the Clean Air Act. For decades, that's been known as the "SSM loophole." During a single SSM episode, a coal plant can belch as much pollution as it normally might during an entire year. This protection was long overdue when the EPA finally acted to close the SSM loophole a couple of years ago. Now it’s been abandoned.
- Trump, meanwhile, ordered the EPA to reconsider the Clean Water Rule, which had finally restored protections, as originally intended, to almost all of the nation's fresh waters. This will affect the drinking water sources for more than 100 million people.
In the areas of climate action and clean energy, the Trump administration has done its best to ineptly try to take us "full speed backwards," beginning with the release of an "America First" energy plan that ignores the incredible growth of clean, renewable energy while singing the praises of dirty fuels. Once again, things went downhill from there.
- The Department of Energy announced that it would delay putting new energy-efficiency standards for ceiling fans and other products into effect. According to the department's own estimates, those standards would save money, create jobs, and prevent the emission of nearly 300 million tons of carbon dioxide. Too bad those savings would also cut into profits for dirty-fuel industries, which are as close to sacrosanct as anything gets in Trumpland.
- Trump went to Detroit so he could announce that he wants to reverse vehicle-emission upgrades that automakers had already agreed to meet. What would those upgrades accomplish? They’d save money, create jobs, and cut billions of tons of carbon pollution, so of course Trump would run in the opposite direction.
- His State Department (led by ex–Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson) issued a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, while the Army Corps of Engineers reversed itself and approved the Dakota Access pipeline.
- Trump signed an executive order instruction the EPA to review (with an eye toward revoking) the Clean Power Plan which would—you guessed it—save money, create jobs, and cut pollution.
- Meanwhile, Pruitt has shut down the EPA's Climate Adaptation Program, which was dedicated to helping state and local governments adapt to climate change.
- Finally, there is the Trump administration's proposed federal budget. It's devastating for science and environmental programs, with the EPA seeing its budget slashed by 31 percent. Climate change programs across the State Department, NOAA, NASA, and the Interior Department would be decimated because, in the words of Trump's budget director, "We consider that to be a waste of your money."
This is only a partial summary. The consequences for both people and the environment of Trump's proposed budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks are too numerous to list. The most important ones, though, can't be ignored: More people will get sick and more people will die. On the plus side, however, polluters will see greater profits, which should be some consolation for parents whose kids succumb to air pollution or lead poisoning.
That's all in fewer than 100 days—a truly extraordinary assault on our health, our climate, our public lands, and our future. If you're disgusted, that's to be expected. If you're angry, that's good. If you're discouraged, that's understandable. But what I haven't mentioned are all the ways the Sierra Club and others are fighting back against these attacks. Most of the actions listed above by Trump and his appointees can still be defeated, just as his attempts to enact a Muslim ban and repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act have been thwarted.
Millions of Americans are rising up. Trump’s presidency has provoked an incredible uprising of organized resistance and solidarity, beginning with the Women's March that followed his inauguration. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets, whether to oppose the Muslim travel ban, demand the release of Trump's tax returns, or defend basic science.
On Saturday, April 29, we'll add the Peoples Climate March to that chain. We want that date to be remembered not just as Trump's 100th day in office but also as the day we filled the streets in support for climate action, public health, and environmental justice.
Trump's presidency has been one disgrace after another. April 29 is our chance to channel our outrage into action. Join us!