Climate / Environment

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This page includes information regarding Trump and the GOP Congress's agenda. This is a collaborative knowledge base; feel free to propose edits/additions you believe are important for others to know. Contributions will be reviewed and approved based on quality and accuracy.

How You Can Resist
How You Can Resist

Actions Taken by the Federal Government
Legislative Actions

Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice

  • S.161 would require NOAA to maintain a project to improve hurricane forecasting.

Harmful Legislation

  • Trump signs a law repealing regulation by the SEC as part of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring energy companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments.[1]

  • The House votes to repeal a rule limiting methane venting and flaring by oil drilling operations on federal lands.[2]

  • H.R.861 would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

See also the State and Local Pages for state-by-state legislative tracking.

Protecting the Environment[edit]

Agencies that work to project the environment, whether directly or indirectly, include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Most direct federal concern for the environment comes from the EPA, which manages pollution-cleanup efforts, measures vehicle fuel efficiency, regulates carbon dioxide and other climate-change-causing emissions, and seeks to ensure the distribution of the burden of pollution is equitable (i.e. environmental justice). Generally speaking, the areas most affected by Trump's proposed budget impact environmentally conscious agencies and organizations (and in some cases, the budget would remove them entirely).

The Trump Administration believes the EPA overreaches, and his proposed budget accordingly cuts the agency's by $2.6 billion (31 percent; in part via the elimination of 3,200 jobs—20 percent of the agency's workforce).[3] Budget cuts would eliminate state environmental programs, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, the Energy Star program, and funding for climate science. These cuts could have global repercussions: Among its other activities, the EPA enforces rules to fight climate change (such as Obama's Clean Power Plan, which reduces carbon pollution from power plants).[4] Indeed, the proposed budget cuts all funding for the Clean Power Plan, and President Trump's March 2017 executive order directs the EPA to review (and thus likely dismantle) the rule[5].

NOAA falls under the Department of Commerce and is one of the main producers of climate science and weather research. Given the Administration's budget proposal, Commerce could take a 16-percent, or $1.5 billion cut. This cut would eliminate several NOAA grants, as well as programs for costal and marine management, research and education, Sea Grant (which funds research collaborations between universities), and the Minority Business Development Agency. With respect to FEMA, the Trump Administration has proposed eliminating funding for floodplain mapping initiatives and reducing funding for pre-disaster preparedness—programs that help ensure people are equipped to respond to floods and hurricanes.[6]

Clean Water[edit]

Trump's proposed budget would cut funding by 97 percent for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is responsible for Great Lakes pollution cleanup.[7] Trump has also issued an executive order directing agencies to review the Waters of the United States rule, which protects wetlands and small streams from agricultural and development interests.[8] The order has reignited a debate about what falls under the purview of the Clean Water Act. The proposed budget would eliminate the Department of Agriculture’s Water and Wastewater loan and grant program ($498 million), "which provides critical funding for clean drinking water to communities with fewer than 10,000 people."[9] The proposed budget does, however, allow for constant funding levels for water infrastructure under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, which in part aims to prevent contaminated water crises such as that in Flint, Michigan.[10][11]

Responding to Climate Change[edit]

Donald Trump does not take climate science seriously, believes there is a tradeoff between climate action and economic growth, and both invents and peddles conspiracy theories related to a changing climate. He has previously called global warming a "hoax" that was "created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing noncompetitive."[12] He has vowed to stop payment to UN climate change programs and withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the global climate pact negotiated in late 2015, and his proposed budget indicates his intent to follow through on these promises.[13] The budget would discontinue funding for international climate change programs, payments to the Green Climate Fund, and climate research—all landmarks of the Obama era.[14][15]

Under the March 2017 executive order, U.S. climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions will remain far above the levels needed to meet the country's commitments to the United Nations.

In late March 2017, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at wholly dismantling the Obama Administration's efforts to fight climate change.[16][17] Specifically, the order directs the EPA to review the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule that cuts carbon pollution from power plants, and directs the EPA and Interior Department to review the agencies' rules concerning methane emissions and fracking on federal lands.[18] Methane has a greater heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide.

Additionally, the executive order directs agencies to stop considering climate change when creating new (or repealing old) regulations.[19] In practice, the order mandates that agencies are no longer required to use the "social cost of carbon"—a metric that puts a price on the damage caused by carbon pollution—when calculating the cost of legislative and executive actions and rolls back a previous White House directive that required agencies to consider climate change when proposing energy and infrastructure projects under the National Environmental Policy Act. Finally, the order directs the Interior Department to allow coal leasing on federal lands and rescinds the Obama Administration's broad strategy documents on climate change.

Since it is aimed at the actions of federal agencies like the EPA, much of the executive order's effects are subject to a long rulemaking process, which includes a public comment period.

Clean Energy[edit]

Trump does not support wind energy, citing aesthetic and wildlife concerns.[20] Under his proposed budget, clean-energy research (including wind and solar) would suffer due to the elimination of the ­ARPA-E program (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) and via cuts to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.[21] These agencies and offices were central drivers of clean-energy innovation and investment in the Obama era (and previously).

Fossil Fuels[edit]

The House recently changed the valuation methods for federal lands, making it easier to give away land to states—even if a handover provides no measurable benefit to taxpayers.[22] Efforts to give away or sell off land to states make it more likely that this land will, in turn, be sold for the purpose of extracting fossil fuels. Additionally, the EPA has withdrawn a 2016 request for information about climate-changing methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.[23] As a result of the EPA's withdrawal, industry will not have to provide the government with information about methane and other harmful emissions as requested by the Obama Administration. Similar fossil-friendly regulatory changes are expected to follow.

The Trump Administration's proposed budget hands Interior a 12-percent cut but increases funding for programs that incentivize drilling for oil and gas on public lands (and additionally, cuts funding for programs like National Heritage Areas and National Wildlife Refuge Fund). The budget would also cut $120 million from a program that acquires new federal lands.[24]

Ensuring Environmental Justice[edit]

A failure to address climate change and environmental protection will disproportionately affect historically vulnerable populations—indeed, this is the object environmental justice seeks to address. Efforts at the EPA focused on environmental justice include initiatives to map the distribution of pollution (and resulting health risks) across the country, ensure equitable access to clean water, and provide funding to communities disproportionately affected by pollution sources like freeways. Communities of color and other historically low-income populations are those most likely to be located in closer proximity to polluted air and water sources, including industrial sites, freeways, oil refineries, and power plants that burn fossil fuels.[25] New permitting rules or lax compliance standards—i.e., a "business-friendly" approach to environmental protection—could foster unmitigated pollution. A document obtained by the Washington Post suggests that the EPA's office of environmental justice will be eliminated and “any future EJ specific policy work can be transferred to the Office of Policy”—and the proposed budget confirms this suspicion[26][27]

Without a proactive environmental justice policy, these communities will continue to bear the brunt of the nation's pollution, a burden that leads to higher asthma rates, lower life expectancies, higher incidences of several forms of cancer, and higher incidences of dementia.[28][29][30] The same communities, due to structural geographic inequities, will also bear the worst effects of a changing climate. See the State and Local Pages for state-by-state pollution burdens.

High-profile environmental-justice case studies—such as those encountered in Flint, Michigan's, water supply and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation's objection to the Dakota Access Pipeline—are unlikely to be met with sympathetic Congressional ears. Broadly speaking, environmental justice is not expected to be seen as a federal priority—that is, shifting the balance of administrative responsibility to states, foundations, and nonprofits (as was the case during the Bush years).[31] However, even given a regional or state approach, disaster can strike: a lack of oversight on behalf of EPA's Region 5 office, for example, helped spur the Flint Water Crisis.[32]

Trump's proposed budget guts the EPA, which would disproportionately affect people with disabilities, both because of decreased air and water safety, and because climate change has an increased affect on vulnerable groups such as disabled people, children, older people, and people with medical conditions.[33]

Dakota Access Pipeline[edit]

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) announced its intention to construct the $3.78 billion, 1,172-mile underground Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to transfer oil from the Bakken Formation to refineries in Patoka, Illinois, in 2015.[34][35][36][37][38] The pipeline is estimated to eventually transport up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day.[39] ETP promised this domestic oil would also be refined in the United States, but Sunoco is under no obligation to do so.[40][41]

Donald Trump held investments in ETP—and while he issued a statement that he sold his stock this summer, the administration has released no financial disclosures.[42] Additionally, ETP CEO Kelcy Warren, contributed $100,000 to the Trump campaign.[43]

DAPL was originally sited to cross the Missouri River above Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rejected due to the risk posed to the drinking water supply of Bismarck.[44] ETP rerouted the pipeline to cross the Missouri on what it and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) argue is federal land.[45][46] The federal government, represented by USACE, was required to complete an Environmental Assessment (EA), evaluate the environmental safety of more than 200 large water crossings, and collect public comments before issuing a decision as to whether a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was required before issuing permits and easements (i.e. permission to cross property owned by someone else).[47][48][49] Part of this vetting process also included complying with requirements for tribal involvement as laid out in the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).[50] On July 25, 2016, USACE determined an EIS was not required (though it still required an easement).[51]

There is no unified national permitting process for pipelines—even those that cross state lines—though use of eminent domain is common (and was leveraged in the case of DAPL).[52][53] South Dakota was the first to grant permits for DAPL in early December 2015.[54][55] North Dakota granted its permit on Jan 20, 2016, despite the objections of landowners.[56][57] Iowa granted DAPL easement on Mar 10, 2016, also to the objection of landowners.[58][59] Similar objections to the price and to the use of eminent domain occurred in Illinois.[60]

Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy
Vulnerabilities in GOP Strategy

With respect to the Paris Agreement, a technical US withdrawal during Trump's first term is effectively precluded by the nature of the agreement itself.[61] Additionally, moves to set a withdrawal in motion will be deeply unpopular in the international community. Ceding US leadership ground on climate policy necessarily implies giving way to Chinese leadership—a prospect surely unappealing to the Trump administration.

With respect to energy and environmental policy, vulnerabilities are largely twofold. First, economically and financially speaking, fossil fuels are poor long-term investments. Despite falling coal and gas prices, renewable energy sources will comprise 60% of global installed capacity by 2040.[62] China, too, will lead investment in these sources—and will ultimately reap massive returns from the global energy-sector transition that's currently underway. If the Trump administration fails to capitalize on this transition, they will be left responsible for stranded assets and a smaller market share of the global energy sector.

Second, popular (and, obviously, scientific) opinion supports climate action, decarbonization, and investment in clean energy: almost 70% of registered voters say the United States should participate in the Paris Agreement, and two-thirds think the country should reduce its emissions, regardless of other countries' actions.[63] There is majority Republican, Independent, and Democratic support for a carbon tax, in which revenues are reinvested to fund research programs in renewable energy.[64] Seven in ten registered voters support the core policies of the Clean Power Plan.[65] Betraying numbers like these embodies huge democratic irresponsibility.