With the Trump administration inspiring plenty of heated debate on a daily basis, one of the hot-button topics remains the earth. In the immediate aftermath of the election, environmentalists were worried about several issues, including climate change (Trump has called it a hoax), the future of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and national parks.
Now that we’re officially 50 days in, where does the environment stand? Let’s take a look.
Clean drinking water is an important subject in the United States, from the human health crisis in Flint, Mich., to the battle to stop oil pipelines.
On Jan. 24, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The memorandum directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the approval of the pipeline. This is a complete turnaround from the Obama administration, which in early December announced that the U.S. Army Corps would not grant the last remaining easement it needed to continue drilling for the pipeline.
Concerns about this pipeline, according to the Sacred Stone Camp site, are about the “threats this pipeline poses to the environment, human health and human rights,” and the “current route of the DAPL will cross over the Ogallala Aquifer (one of the largest aquifers in the world) and under the Missouri River twice (the longest river in the United States). The possible contamination of these water sources makes the Dakota Access pipeline a national threat.”
Read the history of the DAPL here.
Environmental Protection Agency
With the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, there are many who have voiced their concerns. Scott Pruitt, former attorney general of Oklahoma, has not been a friend to environmentalists. His critics point to the human-made earthquakes that rocked his state while he was attorney general, among other issues. A lawsuit filed in federal court by the Sierra Club lists hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as the reason for these human-induced earthquakes.
Reuters recently reported that in regard to the EPA’s 2018 budget proposal, Trump plans to “slice the environmental regulator’s overall budget by 25 percent to $6.1 billion and staffing by 20 percent to 12,400 as part of a broader effort to fund increased military spending.” This would cut deeply into programs like climate protection, environmental justice and enforcement.
President Trump nominated Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, to head the Department of Energy, and he was confirmed earlier this month. Perry has his critics in environmental circles, mainly because of his support of fossil fuels. According to a Texas Tribune article, “In 2005, he issued an executive order to help rapidly approve coal plant permits. A power conglomerate planned to build 11 coal-plant units but ultimately scrapped plans for eight of the carbon-dioxide-spewing units after environmentalists protested.”
In 2016, Perry became a board member of Energy Transfer Partners, which is the company behind the above-mentioned controversial DAPL.
In his defense, while he was governor, he was an advocate for wind energy. The Texas Tribune also reports that during his interview with the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, he testified that he “believed human activity affects climate change and that he no longer wanted to abolish the Department of Energy, a campaign promise from his 2012 presidential campaign.”
Climate change is a real thing and humans are the perpetrators — that probably isn’t a radical thought for the majority of Earth911 readers, but it does seem to be a question for the current administration. According to a recent Newsweek article, President Trump has “expressed doubts about the science behind climate change and promised during his campaign to pull the United States out of a global pact to combat it. Since his election in November, he has softened that stance, saying he would keep an ‘open mind’ to the climate accord.”
Then he nominated Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Tillerson was the CEO for ExxonMobil, a multinational oil and gas company that’s under investigation for “deliberately misleading the American public about the reality of the climate crisis,” according to the Climate Reality Project. New Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has gone back and forth on his thoughts about the cause of climate change over the years, although he recently said it was not a hoax.
It remains to be seen whether the EPA, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be able to continue their climate change research.
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Feature photo courtesy of arindambanerjee / Shutterstock.com