Climate / Environment
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
- Call your Senator by dialing tel:844-6-RESIST and tell them to vote against a budget that doesn't fund climate change research.
- Find out when your Senators and US Representative are holding town halls. Show up and tell them to protect the climate. Find other Upcoming Events/Opportunities.
- Submit public comments to the EPA as it reviews its existing Rules and Regulations. You can also join public meetings and teleconferences and make your voice heard.
- Get involved with People and Organizations that are working on environmental justice and climate change.
Congress and the Trump administration have passed a budget that funds the federal government until this fall. Items in the budget 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's 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.
Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice
- S.161 would require NOAA to keep a project to improve hurricane forecasting.
- 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.
- The House votes to repeal a rule limiting methane venting and flaring by oil drilling operations on federal lands.
- 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
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%. 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). President Trump's March 2017 executive order directs the EPA to review these rules. If these rules are reviewed, it is possible that the EPA will then end enforcing them.
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. The order has reignited a debate about what falls within the scope of the Clean Water Act.
Responding to Climate Change
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." 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.
In late March 2017, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at wholly dismantling the Obama Administration's efforts to fight climate change. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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
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. 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
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. 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). 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.
Dakota Access Pipeline
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. The pipeline is estimated to eventually transport up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day. ETP promised this domestic oil would also be refined in the United States, but Sunoco is under no obligation to do so.
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. Additionally, ETP CEO Kelcy Warren, contributed $100,000 to the Trump campaign.
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. ETP rerouted the pipeline to cross the Missouri on what it and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) argue is federal land. 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). Part of this vetting process also included complying with requirements for tribal involvement as laid out in the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). On July 25, 2016, USACE determined an EIS was not required (though it still required an easement).
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). South Dakota was the first to grant permits for DAPL in early December 2015. North Dakota granted its permit on Jan 20, 2016, despite the objections of landowners. Iowa granted DAPL easement on Mar 10, 2016, also to the objection of landowners. Similar objections to the price and to the use of eminent domain occurred in Illinois.
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. 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. 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. There is majority Republican, Independent, and Democratic support for a carbon tax, in which revenues are reinvested to fund research programs in renewable energy. Seven in ten registered voters support the core policies of the Clean Power Plan. Betraying numbers like these embodies huge democratic irresponsibility.