Trump Waging War Against the Outdoors
Attacking national parks, weakening pollution rules, the list is long.
It’s been 48 years since the first Earth Day and one year since Donald Trump became president. 2017 has been the worst year for environmental protection since that first Earth Day. The Trump administration has waged a ceaseless war on our outdoors, eviscerating our system of environmental protection, severely weakening safeguards for our air, land and water and undercutting efforts to address the climate crisis.
Trump’s tweets, feuds and name-calling have diverted public attention from the war on our outdoors, but his administration is systematically dismantling our system of conservation and handing our public lands, our waters, and our air over to polluters and the fossil fuel industry.
When Trump was elected, an oil industry lobbyist said: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Unfortunately, the gifts to fossil fuel corporations keep coming and coming at great expense to our environment.
The Trump administration is weakening dozens of safeguards for our natural resources, many at the request of the dirty-fuel lobby. Trump is allowing coal companies to dump mining waste, much of it toxic, into rivers and streams. He seeks to rescind water pollution regulations for fracking on federal lands, allow oil and gas drilling in national parks, and weaken safety regulations on offshore drilling that were adopted in the wake of the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Now Trump plans to allow oil and gas drilling along virtually the entire American coastline and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one the most pristine wildernesses.
Our waters are also victims of Trump’s war on our outdoors. He’s trying to kill protections for tens of millions of acres of wetlands, weaken controls on the discharge of toxic chemicals from power plants into public waters, and limit rules regulating the dumping of harmful coal ash waste near waterways.
The Trump administration is aggressively fighting efforts to address the climate crisis. He’s withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, making us the only nation in the world to not sign on to the effort to combat global warming. His administration is rolling back initiatives to reduce climate pollution by repealing the Clean Power Plan and threatening fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, emissions standards for coal power plants and methane emissions controls at oil- and gas-drilling sites.
Most dangerous, Trump is trying to destroy the agency that protects our environment and the science that supports pollution controls. His appointee as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, was one of the most aggressive opponents of clean air and water rules administered by EPA when he was Oklahoma attorney general, actually suing the agency 14 times trying to kill safeguards on toxins and other pollutants. Pruitt’s top deputies include a coal-industry lobbyist and an oil-industry lobbyist. Trump’s budget would decimate funding for the agency, the largest cut for any federal agency. Meanwhile, EPA scientists are being fired. In May, the contracts of most members of the Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises the agency on internal research, were canceled, and scientists on the agency’s advisory committees have been replaced with industry lobbyists.
Poll after poll shows the public strongly supports environmental protection. Democrats should make Trump’s war on our outdoors a major campaign issue in the upcoming elections.
This column was originally published by Madison’s Cap Times.
Spencer Black represented the 77th Assembly District for 26 years and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee. He currently serves as the vice president of the national Sierra Club and is an adjunct professor of urban and regional planning at UW-Madison.