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As 2020 looms, Trump’s record on the environment speaks for itself

In a twisted case of alternative facts, Donald Trump is planning to tout his environmental record in the run up to the 2020 presidential election.  

This reversal of truth is set to be led with the led with an emphasis on how clean the environment seems to be despite massive deregulation.  Bloomberg reports that Trump administration officials are developing talking points on climate change and creating a list of environmental ‘success stories’ under Trump’s administration.  

To be clear, Trump has never been a friend to the environment.  

As we’ve reported, Donald Trump has a long laundry list of dirty environmental policy.  Trump first put Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier and friend to fossil fuels, in charge of the EPA while repeatedly denying climate change himself.  In accord with his views that climate change is a hoax, Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accords and reversed many Obama-era climate regulations, even as his own government released a report confirming that humans are driving climate change.

Pruitt was eventually replaced by Andrew Wheeler as EPA head.  Recently, Wheeler said he believes the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change, but that it’s just not a top priority for his EPA.  Instead, Wheeler emphasized water quality issues, despite allowing rollbacks on the Clean Water Act started by his predecessor.  

Donald Trump has long railed against alternative energy sources as well, and wind energy is perhaps at the top of the list of things Trump hates.  Just a few weeks ago at the National Republican Congressional Committee fund-raiser, he suggested that wind energy production causes cancer but cited zero evidence.

The constant attack on science and the environment doesn’t stop with climate either, as Trump has shown very little concern or regard for non-human life.  Under Trump’s first Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, the Migratory Birds Act Treaty was reinterpreted to let businesses off the hook for accidentally killing birds, ironically windmills included.  After Zinke departed under the shadow of his own corrupt dealings, he was replaced by David Bernhardt, the next in command in the department. Bernhardt for his part is relaxing protection for the Sage Grouse to allow more drilling in the western interior of the US, as we reported in March.  This means protection for nearly nine million acres in Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, and California would be removed.  

But it’s not just birds that Trump has endangered.  His administration has also lifted hunting restrictions on black bears, wolves and caribou, allowing wolves and their pups to be killed in their dens among other new rules.  Under Trump, the US Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to remove the Yellowstone Grizzly population from protection.  Ultimately, protection for the bears was upheld in Federal Court in Montana.  

But Trump has been notoriously callous to the plight of all endangered species.  The Center for Biological Diversity even created a list of the ten species most likely to be pushed to extinction by Trump.  The list includes African Elephants which have had conservation funds slashed under Trump but most of the species are native to the United States.  Another way the Trump administration has hurt elephants is by allowing the import of their body parts as hunting trophies, a rule that was initially suspended but then allowed to proceed, according to CNBC.  

Besides animals and climate change, the Trump administration has also repeatedly attacked public lands as well.  Under then Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, the administration radically shrunk Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, a decision still being fought in court.  The move was so unpopular that a House Bill was reintroduced in January to expand Bear’s Ears beyond even its original declaration under the Obama administration to include all the land identified by Native Americans in the area as being culturally significant, according to the Pacific Standard.  

Trump has also continued to attack clean air and water regulations, restrictions to protect endangered species, and public land that keeps fossil fuel extraction businesses out. He also attempted to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling in the interest of making a buck.  

Trump’s record reveals not only his lack of regard for the environment, but also that he’s willing to go out of his way to sacrifice the environment for political gain. But a recent example of Trump changing his view in one case might be telling.

In March, the Chicago Tribune reported that Trump was seeking to make budget cuts to cleaning up the Great Lakes and other major waterways.  The biggest cut would have been to the Great Lakes Program, an Obama-era program to deal with long standing problems in the lakes, which would have lost 90% of its funding.  Then, Bloomberg reported on Trump addressing a rally in Michigan and touting his support for the Great Lakes, vowing to fund the program he tried to slash by 90%, saying,

“I support the Great Lakes. Always have…They’re beautiful. They’re big. Very deep. Record deepness, right?”

Strangely enough, the statement may not have been just hot air.  The Hill reports that EPA head Andrew Wheeler confirmed that the administration is now committed to funding the entire Great Lakes Program.  It seems that perhaps in anticipation of the 2020 election, Trump is finally starting to grasp the unpopularity of his environmental policies.  

A Pew Research survey from 2016 shows that many Americans supported environmental regulation, saying it’s worth the cost.  59% of Americans than supported tougher environmental restrictions. Only 34% of Americans say that environmental restrictions cost too many jobs.  The simple fact is that Trump needs people who care about the environment more than he needs coal miners to win the next election… and he may not even have coal miners.  

Environmental groups have already called Trump out for taking credit for his predecessors success in limiting greenhouse gases and water pollution while slashing regulations.  He may be known for his willingness to spin alternative facts, but Donald Trump’s environmental record remains clear.

By Zach Fitzner, Contributing Writer

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