This administration and Congress have been quietly dismantling positive environmental protections passed under President Obama and endangering the health and safety of marginalized communities—all for the benefit of corporate polluters. Trump’s agenda is defined by rolling back progressive policies and replacing them with harmful measures, and environmental issues are no exception. In this resource, we outline the various ways that the Trump administration has attacked the environment.
- Rollbacks, deregulation, and limiting the EPA
- Public lands and water are under attack for fossil fuel payouts
- Public health is at risk from pollution
- Fighting for the environment Locally
Rollbacks, deregulation, and limiting the EPA
In June 2017, Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. In the months following, the administration handed down a series of regulatory repeals aimed at removing environmental safeguards and protective policies, which will undoubtedly have a long term impact on the environment.
Clean Car Standards Rollback
The Clean Car Standards, intended to reduce pollution by regulating vehicle emissions, were the next to go. This was the largest effort to curb carbon emissions under Obama’s EPA, and the rollback will deal a huge blow to the country’s emissions reduction goals. There are many benefits from the Clean Car Standards: innovative vehicle designs, savings for consumers through reduced spending on gas, job growth in the automotive industry, and reduced emissions.
In May, former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s EPA submitted a proposal to repeal the standards that were put in place under President Obama that would have doubled the fuel economy of passenger vehicles by 2025—a move which would have significantly lowered emissions and could have saved consumers as much as $5,700 per car and $8,200 per truck over the lifetime of their vehicle. California and 13 other states anticipated that the rollback could affect states’ authority to set limits on tailpipe emissions, and worried that the state waivers would be revoked.
The Trump Administration recently revealed their final rollback plan, “SAFE,” Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient, vehicles rule. Currently, automakers are required to increase the fuel efficiency of all vehicles by 2025. The plan proposes freezing the current Obama-era standards, capping the production of fuel efficient cars by 2021, and reducing the increased miles per gallon goals.
Clean Power Plan Repeal
The Trump Administration replaced the Clean Power Plan with a Dirty Power Plan, misleadingly named the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which is already being challenged in court by state Attorneys General and environmental advocacy groups. The Clean Power Plan required states to create action plans to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants. The Trump administration claims the new ACE rule will make power plants more efficient to meet emissions reduction goals, but it won’t. What it will do is ensure that power plants are not required to make significant carbon pollution reductions, limit states’ ability to use clean energy alternatives, and further harm the communities impacted most by pollution.
- Loopholes for corporate polluters. The ACE plan proposes that the best way to reduce emissions is to upgrade coal-fired plants and improve their efficiency. This rule also opens a loophole that allows facilities to make upgrades without taking into account increased pollution levels when installing upgrades.
- Allows for weak state-level standards. The replacement plan authorizes states to set weaker emissions standards. States can exempt older, inefficient coal-fired power plants if they determine the plant still has remaining useful life. States could also weaken and remove emissions caps and other regulatory standards that limit emissions from coal plants.
- De-emphasizing renewable energy. This new proposal does not encourage states to pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy as a part of their emissions reduction strategy. This means investments in wind and solar power, or switching plants to burn lower-carbon fuels, are not encouraged under the ACE rule.
Methane Standard Rollback
In yet another assault on the environment, the Trump Administration and EPA revealed their first proposal to roll back the Methane Rule, a major regulation set by the former Obama-era EPA to fight climate change. The methane standard required companies to monitor and repair methane leaks in order to reduce the harmful exposure and effects of the powerful greenhouse gas (GHG), methane. Methane makes up about 9% of greenhouse gas emissions, but is 36 times more potent in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Trump and his EPA consider the oil and gas industry’s recommendations more important than public health and environmental impact. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler claims this rollback is a common-sense reform that will save the oil and gas company millions. And it will do exactly that. The changes to the methane rule will save the oil and gas drillers over $400 million dollars and increase methane emissions by 300,000 tons over 7 years.
Under the new rule, companies in states with their own methane standards are not required to follow the federal standards. This includes states like Texas and Utah, where there are weaker rules than the EPA standard. In addition, the proposal would decrease the requirement for methane leak inspections from every 6 months to once a year, and in some cases for low-producing companies once every 2 years. It will also remove the requirement that vent systems must be inspected by certified professionals. The EPA plans to release another proposal later this year that will completely eliminate the rule. There will be a 60 day public comment period before the rule is finalized.
- NASA’s carbon monitoring system was cancelled after our withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. We can't determine if countries are progressing towards their climate goals if there is no reliable way to measure emissions reductions.
- This administration’s disregard for science is evident in its cuts to federal funding for science and research. Trump’s 2019 budget plan included a 72% cut to the Department of Energy’s funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives. Read here for more details on how proposed budget cuts would affect the environment.
- Trump’s EPA put a 2-year suspension on the Clean Water Rule, which defines streams and waters as being under federal protection. 11 states are suing the EPA to block its delay of the rule.
More Obama-era policies could be on the chopping block in the future.
Scott Pruitt was responsible for the corrupt mismanagement of the Environmental Protection Agency.
It is no secret that Trump and his former EPA director, Scott Pruitt, are climate change deniers who are determined to prevent the EPA from fulfilling its mission. In order to really grasp the threat posed by Trump’s former EPA director, here are some quick facts:
- Scott Pruitt sued the EPA 13 times while serving as the Oklahoma Attorney General, to challenge its regulations on smog pollution and other hazardous elements like mercury.
- Publicly, Pruitt has made a name for himself by criticizing EPA standards for the fossil fuel industry and the need to pull back “overreach” of the agency. This signals Pruitt and the Trump administration's open support of the fossil fuel industry.
Amidst controversy and ethical scandals, Scott Pruitt recently resigned from his role as EPA Administrator. Despite his alignment with Trump’s deregulatory goals for the agency, he was forced to step down due to public pressure and disapproval over his questionable and, in some cases, illegal use of his office. While Pruitt’s resignation was a win, his replacement—acting administrator Andrew Wheeler—is a former coal lobbyist and will likely continue to harm our national climate progress, and threaten the health and safety of impacted communities.
Public lands and water are under attack in exchange for fossil fuel payouts.
Immediately after taking office, Trump began to repeal protections for public lands in order to benefit the fossil fuel industry. Below are a few of his assaults on our public lands:
- Shrinking national monuments. Trump has prioritized removing protections for land that was once off-limits for mineral extraction. Over 460 acres have been claimed for new mining projects. In Utah, Trump signed away national monuments protections, shrinking the Bears Ears National Monument by 85%, with no consideration for indigenous tribes who regard the lands as sacred—and as home.
- Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Buried in the #TrumpTaxScam was a provision to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Drilling in this area would cover both land and water, and disrupt indigenous communities, wildlife, and pristine habitats. The extraction process poses a serious risk of creating a potential uncontainable oil spill that would threaten near-extinction for endangered species who inhabit Arctic waters. Trump is personally drumming up interest from oil companies to start the process of extraction and drilling in the Arctic. But there is more. The refuge areas are just the start of Trump’s long-term plan to open up drilling projects in all federal waters surrounding Alaska starting in 2019.
- Greenlighting pipelines. Trump’s Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth executive order approved both the Keystone XL (KXL) & Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to move forward. Both affect indigenous communities’ land, water, and hunting grounds. The route for the DAPL crosses the Missouri River in North Dakota near the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Environmental activists that have been battling to block Keystone and DAPL are committed to continuing to fight against Trump’s executive action.
Public health is at risk from pollution
The Trump administration's deregulation spree prioritizes the interests of corporations over the American people. Pruitt’s mission during his time at the EPA was to protect his industry friends at the expense of public health.
- Reduced air pollution regulations. The Trump EPA has already loosened regulations on toxic air pollution with the removal of “Once In, Always In” (OIAI), which began during the Clinton Administration. The policy defines what facilities are classified as a “major source” of air pollution, and therefore are subject to additional regulations under the Clean Air Act. Once a source is classified as major, it is required to comply with the major classification standards indefinitely. Facilities classified as a major source produce Hazardous Air Pollutants, which are known to cause cancer and other serious health risks. Removing this regulation of pollutants could stand to be one of Trump’s most dangerous actions in terms of its public health consequences.
- Gutting the Clean Air Act. Trump’s recent rollback plan guts the Clean Air Act, and revokes states’ authority to address pollution as the public health crisis that it is. This is an environmental justice issue that will disproportionately harm already vulnerable communities, who face the impacts of air pollution. It’s also another example of the Trump administration ignoring or actively working to harm people of color, and ending safeguards that have proven to protect our communities. Studies have linked air pollution to asthma, which disproportionately affects Latinx communities and children. African Americans are more likely to have heart attacks, threats of asthma, and even premature death, which are all problems exacerbated by increased levels of air pollution in Black communities.
- Funding cuts to long-standing programs will unravel measures that monitor waste levels in our land and waters.
- EPA staff reductions, including the dismantling of entire departments dedicated to environmental justice initiatives like the cleaning up lead-contaminated water in Flint, MI.
- Grants that are allocated for air and water quality programs designed to address the effects of pollution in low-income and communities of color have been eliminated.
- Project funds to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, one of the largest estuaries in the country, have been cut from $73 million to $5 million.
- Dumping toxic waste. Trump repealed the Stream Protection Rule, which prevented mining companies from dumping coal debris and toxic waste into streams.
- Neglecting environmental justice research. Pruitt has ignored scientific studies demonstrating that air pollutants and contaminated water affect low-income and communities of color more, and directly cause poor health.
It is more than concerning that every action taken by the Trump EPA disportionately impacts vulnerable communities. Removing air pollution regulations increases the pollution exposure for communities that are more often located near major industrial polluters, which are overwhelmingly low income communities and communities of color.
Fighting for the environment locally
If this administration and Congress won’t protect the health and safety of impacted communities and strategically fight the man-made effects of climate change, we must take this battle more locally.
Here are some examples of how states have already started to push back on Trump’s attacks on the environment:
- Legislation prohibiting offshore drilling. State officials across party lines have come out against opening their coastlines to offshore oil extraction. Lawmakers from both coasts collectively geared up to block Trump’s drilling proposal for the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans with letters, threats of legal action from state Attorneys General, and state legislation. The most effective method of preventing offshore drilling is enacting legislation to protect state waters. Here are a few states that have already taken action: California, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
- 13 States and the District of Columbia have adopted a waiver to set higher standards to reduce and help mitigate the effects of gas emissions. 17 States have taken legal action against the Trump Administration to stop the rollback of the Clean Car Standards.
- Cities are taking on the responsibility of upholding the Paris Climate Agreement. The Mayors National Climate Action agenda represents mayors from over 75 U.S cities working together to accelerate climate progress. Urge your mayor to join the coalition and fight for your community!