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
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Updates
Recent Updates
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Congress and the Trump administration have passed a budget that funds the federal government until this fall. Items included that affect the environment include:

  • $8.058 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is nearly %100 of their current funding.
  • $5.68 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
  • $2.1 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
  • $5.39 billion for the Department of Energy Office of Science.
  • $6.4 billion for environmental cleanup activities.
  • $1.394 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
  • $863 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
  • Flint, Michigan, will receive $100 million to upgrade drinking water infrastructure. $30 million is also available through the WIFIA program for low-interest loans.[1]

Actions Taken by the Federal Government
Legislative Actions
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Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice

  • S.161 would require NOAA to keep a project to improve hurricane forecasting.
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Harmful Legislation

  • Trump signs a law repealing regulation by the SEC (as part of the Dodd-Frank Act) that require energy companies to show payments made to foreign governments.[2]
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  • The House votes to repeal a rule limiting methane venting and flaring by oil drilling operations on federal lands.[3]
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  • H.R.861 would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.
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See also the State and Local Pages for state-by-state legislative tracking.

Protecting the Environment[edit]

Agencies that work to project the environment, 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, measures vehicle fuel efficiency, regulates carbon dioxide and other climate-change-causing emissions, and tries to ensure the distribution of the burden of pollution is equitable (i.e. environmental justice).

The Trump Administration believes the EPA overreaches, but the budget approved by the House and Senate cut the EPA's budget by only 1%.[4] 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).[5] President Trump's March 2017 executive order directs the EPA to review these rules.[6] If these rules are reviewed, it is possible that the EPA will then end enforcing them.

Clean Water[edit]

Trump has 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.[7] The order has reignited a debate about what falls within the scope of the Clean Water Act.

Responding to Climate Change[edit]

Donald Trump does not take climate science seriously and believes there is a tradeoff between climate action and economic growth. Critics have accused him of inventing and peddling 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."[8] 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.[9]

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 promise 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.[10][11] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] Under the new budget agreement, the EPA will be cut, but only by 1%.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17] 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.

Ensuring Environmental Justice[edit]

If we do not address climate change and protect the environment, some people will be hurt more than others. Environmental justice (EJ) is the idea that risks should be shared equally. The EPA states that this "will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards".[18]. The EPA focuses on EJ issues in different ways. They try to map out pollution and health risks across the country. This helps show who is being hurt by pollution. They also try to ensure equal access to clean water. The EPA also gives funds to communities that are badly affected by pollution sources. Communities of color and other historically low-income populations are most likely to live close to polluted air and water. Some of the sources of pollution include industrial sites, freeways, oil refineries, and power plants that burn fossil fuels.[19] If the government changes how it gives permits for these things, or stops enforcing the rules, it could make pollution much worse. These kinds of changes are often proposed as "business-friendly" approaches. 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”. The proposed budget confirms this. [20][21]

Without a real EJ policy, the same communities will continue to bear the brunt of the nation's pollution. People in these communities die younger on average. They are also more likely to suffer from asthma, several forms of cancer, and dementia.[22][23][24] These communities will also bear the worst effects of climate change. See the State and Local Pages for state-by-state pollution burdens.

Congress is unlikely to tackle EJ problems like Flint, Michigan's water supply or the Standing Rock Sioux Nation's objection to the Dakota Access Pipeline. These problems are not expected to be a federal priority. Most responsibility could shift to states, foundations, and nonprofits. This was the case during the Bush years. [25] Even with a regional approach, disaster can strike. A lack of oversight by the EPA's Region 5 office helped start the Flint Water Crisis.[26]

Dakota Access Pipeline[edit]

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) announced their plan to build a $3.78 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline in 2015. This project was called the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The purpose of the pipeline is to transfer oil from the Bakken Formation to refineries in Patoka, Illinois.[27][28][29][30] The pipeline is estimated to transport up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day.[31] ETP promised this domestic oil would also be refined in the United States, but there is no obligation to do so.[32][33]

Donald Trump has had investments in ETP. He issued a statement that he sold his stock this summer, but has released no financial disclosures.[34] ETP CEO Kelcy Warren gave $100,000 to the Trump campaign.[35]

DAPL was first planned to cross the Missouri River above Bismarck, North Dakota. This route was scrapped due to risks to the drinking water supply of Bismarck.[36] ETP rerouted the pipeline to cross the Missouri on what it and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) argue is federal land.[37][38] The federal government, represented by USACE, was required to complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) to test the safety of more than 200 large water crossings. They were also supposed to collect public comments before issuing a decision on whether a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was required before issuing permits and easements (i.e. permission to cross property owned by someone else). [39][40][41] Part of this vetting process also included requirements for tribal involvement as laid out in the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).[42] On July 25, 2016, USACE determined an EIS was not required (though it still required an easement).[43]

The USACE states that "No federal agency has jurisdiction over oil pipelines", even those that cross state lines. [44] This means that there is no single process for permits. It's common for pipeline projects to use eminent domain, where the government takes private property for public use (with compensation to the owner). This occurred with DAPL.[45] South Dakota was the first to grant permits for DAPL, in early December 2015.[46][47] North Dakota granted its permit on Jan 20, 2016, despite the objections of landowners.[48][49] Iowa granted DAPL easement on Mar 10, 2016, also over the objections of landowners.[50][51] Similar objections to the price and to the use of eminent domain occurred in Illinois.[52]

Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy
Vulnerabilities in GOP Strategy
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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.[53] 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.[54] 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.[55] There is majority Republican, Independent, and Democratic support for a carbon tax, in which revenues are reinvested to fund research programs in renewable energy.[56] Seven in ten registered voters support the core policies of the Clean Power Plan.[57] Betraying numbers like these embodies huge democratic irresponsibility.