President Donald Trump is moving to roll back another one of his predecessor’s strict environmental policies, setting up a possible dilemma for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and again demonstrating his intention to free big companies from regulations on pollution and climate change.
The early words and deeds from Trump and his Environmental Protection Agency chief have provoked deep alarm among environmental advocates, who fear an unprecedented and world-damaging assault on green laws and rules. Tuesday validated their fears, and the week might get worse for them yet.
Trump’s plan to abandon a Barack Obama commitment on car fuel-economy standards was announced by a White House official in the evening. Seven hours earlier, the Axios news website reported that the administration was discussing EPA cuts even deeper than the 25-per-cent cut it has already floated.
In between, Bloomberg reported that Trump is planning to sign a “sweeping directive” that would not only begin the process of lifting Obama’s restrictions on coal leasing and emissions from power plants but also “dramatically shrink the role climate change plays in decisions across the government.”
“In terms of our overall environmental program, both domestically and globally, I don’t think there is any threat that has occurred since the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency which is so severe. I think this is perhaps the singular most important crisis so far in the 50-year-or-so history,” said Walter Rosenbaum, a Florida environmental scholar who served as a special assistant at the EPA in the early 1990s.
The White House official said Trump on Wednesday will announce in Detroit that he is abandoning a decision Obama’s administration made in its waning days to require automakers to meet a stringent fuel-economy standard by 2025.
Automakers had lobbied Trump to take another look at the 54.5-miles-per-gallon standard, which was introduced in 2012 but not immediately finalized. Trump’s EPA will now take a year to study whether the standard still makes sense, as the Obama administration originally said it would do.
The decision doesn’t necessarily mean dirtier cars. The official said Trump has not yet decided to lower the standard. Even if he eventually does, automakers would “probably” still choose to make vehicles that met the stricter standard set by big-market California, said Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
Still, a reduction would force Trudeau to choose between keeping Canada’s own standard consistent with America’s — Stephen Harper’s government adopted the strict standard in 2012 in the name of harmonization — or taking an environmental stand that would separate him from Trump.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna will be in Washington on Wednesday for official meetings and for public remarks on two subjects suddenly fraught in the U.S. capital: Canada’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and “
Trump’s EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, caused an uproar when he said he did not believe carbon emissions are the main driver of global warming, though they are. And a draft Trump budget, obtained by The Associated Press, would slash U.S. funding for Great Lakes restoration from $300 million to $10 million.
Trump has long rejected science on global warming. And he has made no secret of his disdain for the assertive Obama-era environmental policy many Republicans call improper overreach.
In one of Trump’s first moves in office, he issued an order to pave the way for the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. In February, he ordered the replacement of an Obama clean-water rule opposed by farmers.
He has not yet decided what to do on the global Paris climate agreement he promised to “cancel.” But he made an emphatic statement of environmental intent with his choice of Pruitt, a close ally of the oil industry, to run the EPA. Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times as attorney general of Oklahoma.
“It’s hard to imagine somebody worse for the environment,” said Mark Derichsweiler, vice-chair Oklahoma’s Sierra Club.
Jeff Holmstead, who ran the EPA’s air office during George W. Bush’s tenure and is now a lawyer for energy companies, said activists are making “extravagant claims” about Trump and Pruitt for fundraising purposes. Pruitt, he said, would merely refocus the EPA on its core functions.
“To the extent the environmentalists are focused exclusively on climate change, yeah, I don’t think the EPA’s going to do the kinds of aggressive things that we’ve seen for the last eight years. But when it comes to what EPA’s real mission is, which is improving air quality, improving water quality, making sure the drinking water is safe, I don’t think there’ll be any drop-off under Pruitt,” Holmstead said.
David Doniger, director of the climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, professed optimism of a different kind.
Trump, he said, is proposing “deeply unpopular” policies that will generate pushback even from Trump voters and from a Republican Congress. Groups like his will aggressively challenge Trump in court. And he said Americans tend to like environmental institutions better when they are under attack, “and they tend to come out stronger.”
He acknowledged it would take a while to get to the happy place.
“The Allies won World War II,” he said, “but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.”
Source: The Star