For his flip-flopping on all manner of campaign trail promises, President Donald Trump remained steadfastly resolute in the systematic dismantling of the environmental regulations of his predecessors.
While his Mexican wall plans crumbled and his health care reforms were blocked, the unabashed global warming denier and big coal supporter wreaked havoc on the health of the planet in his first 100 days in office, say critics.
“He’s basically unwinding and shredding the safety net we have been building up for 40 years,” Melinda Pierce told The Independent as her two million-strong grassroots environmental organisation, the Sierra Club, prepared for a nationwide protest march.
“What he has set in motion in terms of the impact on climate action and the potential impact on environmental standards is very dangerous.”
The first worrying sign that Trump’s hustings’ hot air was more than empty rhetoric came on his first day of office – an entire section dedicated to climate control was jettisoned from the White House website.
After greenlighting the Dakota Oil pipeline, just days later he revoked a rule allowing coal companies to dump their waste into streams – and things have only gone downhill for the environment from there.
In all Trump reversed course on nearly two dozen rules, regulations and other Obama-era policies during his first 100 days in office, reports The New York Times.
Executive order green-lights overhaul
Not surprisingly, the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] also found itself squarely in Trump’s cross-hairs.
Almost immediately he accepted the resignation of its Obama-appointed administrator Gina McCarthy, recently replacing her with arguably his most controversial Yes Man of them all, Scott Pruitt.
In all, the raucous supporter of fossil fuel companies sued the EPA more than 14 times to block its regulations while he was attorney general for the oil and gas producing state of Oklahoma, according to The Atlantic.
By signing a sweeping new executive order on March 28, Trump handed Pruitt a mandate to start the complex and lengthy legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, frozen construction of new plants and replaced them with vast new wind and solar farms.
“C’mon, fellas. You know what this is? You know what this says?” the president said to the miners present at the signing. “You’re going back to work.”
But no matter what approach Pruitt takes to make good on Trump’s promise, he’ll have to go through the formal rulemaking process, justify the change in court, and survive legal challenges from environmental groups. This could take years to resolve, writes the Vox senior editor Brad Plumer.
Paris agreement decision next
Meanwhile, the most immediate concern for many climate control watchers is whether Trump will also pull out of the Paris climate agreement, a decision he’s expected to finalise by the end of May.
The Washington Post reports that foes of the 2015 U.N. accord, under which the Obama administration pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, are gaining the upper hand.
But Paul Bledsoe, who served as a climate advisor under Bill Clinton and is now a lecturer at American University’s Centre for Environmental Policy, warned that the administration might face serious pushback if Trump does follow through on pre-election threats.
“The Trump team seems oblivious to the fact that climate protection is now viewed by leading allies and nations as a key measure of moral and diplomatic standing,” he writes in an email.
“The U.S. would be risking pariah status on the international stage by withdrawing from Paris, and even a fig leaf approach of technically staying in the agreement while ignoring most of its provisions would be better than pulling out altogether.”