Now that Trump is in office, he is working persistently to dismantle much of the progress made during the Obama administration.
During the Obama era, the United States took many steps toward protecting the environment and fighting climate change. The Obama administration passed landmark legislation, such as the Clean Power Plan, and signed the United States up for the Paris Climate Accord.
Now that Trump is in office, he is working persistently to dismantle much of the progress made during the Obama administration. Some things he has successfully reversed, while other changes are still in the works.
This situation has many environmentalists feeling like we took one step forward and now we’re taking two back. So, what has Trump done to dissemble Obama’s climate efforts and what is he planning to do? Here’s a rundown.
The first sign of trouble for the environment following Trump’s election was his appointees. In February 2017, the Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, as secretary of state. Many saw this as a validation of their fears about Trump siding with the fossil fuel industry.
Later, Scott Pruitt, who had frequently sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the past, became its head.
One of the first Obama-era rules that Trump repealed was the Stream Protection Rule, which Obama signed just before he left office. The rule made restrictions on dumping coal mining waste into waterways stricter.
Shortly after the repeal of the Stream Protection Rule, Trump issued an executive order requesting that the EPA review the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule.
The rule clarified which waters are under the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act and expanded it to some waterways, which will lead to continued contamination of drinking water in rural areas that will require water filtration systems to make water safe for consumption.
The rule is currently suspended until 2020, while the EPA reviews it.
On Ryan Zinke’s first day as Secretary of the Interior, he rescinded a rule passed the day before Trump’s inauguration banning lead ammunition and fishing tackle from use on federal lands and waters.
Obama’s Fish and Wildlife Service passed the ban to protect animals from lead poisoning. The National Rifle Association applauded the ban’s repeal.
Since the Trump administration began, information about science and climate change has disappeared from government websites. In March 2017, the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology took the word science out of its mission statement.
In April, the Interior Department removed almost all mention of climate change from its website. The EPA later took similar measures with its climate change site.
Under the Trump administration, a number of major pipeline projects got approval, including Dakota Access and Keystone XL, which both faced significant opposition from activists.
Trump also ordered a review of bans on offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
In March 2017, Trump issued perhaps his most destructive executive order to environmental protection. Essentially, it began the process of dismantling Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan.
It directed various departments to start identifying and removing rules related to CPP. It also lifted moratoriums on new coal leases on federal lands.
Trump also attempted to get rid of regulations on methane emissions put forth in the Obama era. The rules limited the venting and flaring that natural and oil companies could conduct on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.
While the House approved the proposal, the Senate rejected it by a slim margin, leaving the rule in place.
In one of Trump’s most famous environment-related moves, he pulled the United States out of the landmark Paris Climate Accord in June 2017.
The agreement, which includes 194 other countries, sought to cut global emissions. Although Trump announced withdrawal from the agreement, the process of withdrawing will take several years. Trump has dropped hints that he would reconsider if the deal’s conditions for the U.S. change.
During the Trump administration, various wildlife protections have gone by the wayside. In April of this year, the Interior Department proposed changes to the policies that environmentalists fear could remove protections for around 300 threatened species.
The Trump administration has also proposed getting rid of or loosening various air pollution regulations, including the Clinton-era once-in-always-in policy and emissions requirements for certain vehicles.
The EPA planned to delay the implementation of Obama-era ozone regulations, but reversed its position in the face of a lawsuit from 16 states.
On May 9, the Trump administration cut NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System initiative, which funded pilot programs to improve carbon emission monitoring.
The program was related to the Paris Agreement, as monitoring helped ensure compliance with the accord. NASA still, however, has several satellites for monitoring the climate in operation.
The Trump administration has been doing its best to reverse many of the environmental efforts of the Obama era, but scientists, environmentalists, state and local governments, and citizens are fighting back.
Many of Trump’s actions have been met with lawsuits and opposing actions by state and local leaders. On Earth Day 2017, thousands of scientists marched on Washington to protest the administration’s environmental and science policies.
Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, which Trump claimed had the largest crowd in history, the National Park Service tweeted a photo comparing the inauguration crowd to that of Obama’s.
Several Twitter accounts then surfaced, claiming to be run by National Park Service and other federal officials, to take a stance against Trump’s policies and actions.
Perhaps Trump’s donation of his first quarter salary to the National Park Service was meant to smooth over this relationship. Then again, Trump’s 2018 budget blueprint also proposed cutting the Interior Department’s budget, under which the National Park Service falls, by $1.5 billion.
Trump seems to be determined to wage his personal war on conservation, and it’s the duty of scientists and concerned citizens to bring these efforts into the light. The Trump administration must be held accountable for its anti-environmental actions.
Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.