Trump's anti-environment agenda flourishes amid impeachment

The president won't let the impeachment inquiry get in the way of his top policy priority.

Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis.

Happy Monday everyone! Before we start, I want to direct your attention to three things:

  • First, a new newsletter called Power Plays, written by my friend and former colleague Lindsay Gibbs. It’s like this newsletter, except for people who are pissed off about sexism in sports instead of climate change. You can read more about it HERE and sign up HERE.

  • Second, a glass of water. The New York Times reports that inadequate hydration “can adversely affect vigilance, concentration, reaction time, learning, memory, mood and reasoning and can cause headaches, fatigue and anxiety.” If you don’t like water, coffee also counts. (But also, you don’t like… water?)

  • Third, the Trump administration’s ongoing crusade to dismantle America’s regulatory state on behalf of polluting industries, which is aggressively picking up steam as impeachment talk dominates mainstream news.

That third thing is what today’s newsletter is about. Hooray!

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Now let’s get to it!

What Trump really wants

Yes, President Donald Trump wants a border wall. He wants a new trade deal with China. He wants to put Hillary Clinton in jail; to purchase the country of Greenland; and to “open up libel laws” against journalists.

But those aren’t the Trump administration’s biggest policy priorities. Indeed, if you look at what Trump has actually done since taking office, it’s clear that his number one goal is to dismantle the American regulatory state—specifically, the environmental regulatory state.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has initiated rollbacks of more than 80 environmental rules and regulations, according to the New York Times. Taken together, these rollbacks “could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year,” the Times reported.

Trump, in other words, wants his presidential legacy to be that he shred as many environmental rules and regulations as he possibly could, thereby making it easier for extractive industries to profit from pollution.

And so far, he’s not letting his possible impeachment get in the way of it.

5 anti-environment actions Trump has taken since the impeachment inquiry began

1) Trump made an aggressively pro-fossil fuels campaign speech

As impeachment talk dominated cable news on Wednesday afternoon, Trump delivered a rousing, falsehood-dominated speech to a large group of fossil fuel industry workers and executives, focused on his anti-environment record.

The occasion was the annual Shale Insight Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, which is focused on fracking and sponsored by three natural gas trade industry groups. The groups’ members include companies like Halliburton, Chevron, Shell and TransCanada—but also firms like Deloitte.

For Trump, though, the occasion was a campaign speech. As the Washington Post noted, the conference was located in “a region that overlaps in part with the key voting states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.”

And after boasting about his anti-environmental record since taking office, Trump told the crowd that no president would ever prioritize fossil fuels like he has.

“By the way, you’ll never have another President like me, okay?” he said. “You’ll never have—that’s for sure. You’ll never have another President that’s going to do this, though. Because I was a builder. It’s what I did the best. I built. I really built good.”

2) Trump started preparing a formal withdrawal from the Paris climate accord

One of the many falsehoods Trump told at his Wednesday fossil fuel rally was that he withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. “I withdrew the United States from the terrible, one-sided climate accord, was a total disaster for our country,” he said.

Trump technically can’t do that yet. The earliest possible effective withdrawal date is November 4, 2020—the day after the 2020 presidential election.

But Trump’s team is still moving full-speed ahead with all the technicalities to make sure that happens, as The New York Times’ Lisa Friedman reported last week:

The Trump administration is preparing the formal withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to three people briefed on the matter, a long expected move that nevertheless remains a powerful signal to the world. …

According to three current and former administration officials, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss administration briefings, the White House has not wavered in its plans to send the formal notice of withdrawal to the United Nations and is only internally discussing whether to do it at the earliest possible moment or wait.

3) Trump finalized a huge clean drinking water rule rollback

Trump’s EPA, led by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, officially published its repeal of the Obama administration's Waters of the United States rule on Tuesday.

The rule is commonly known as WOTUS, a name which environmental advocates loathe and complain about to me all the time. They like to call it the Clean Water Rule, in part because it gave Clean Water Act protections to 2 million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that link to drinking water systems across the country. One-third of Americans get their drinking water from sources connected to these smaller water sources.

WOTUS (sorry Bart) was meant to fix the fact that the Clean Water Act’s protections did not apply to those drinking water sources. Now that the repeal has been finalized, a surge of lawsuits from environmental groups is expected.

4) Trump weakened more endangered species protections

The Delta smelt is a small, translucent native fish in California that’s on the verge of extinction.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration’s Interior Department announced it would be “weakening decade-old endangered species protections for some of the state’s most imperiled native fish populations,” including the Delta smelt, according to the L.A. Times.

California water districts and their lobbyists have wanted these protections weakened for over a decade—and those lobbyists include now-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who once litigated against the protections on behalf of a California water district. Bernhardt started advocating for the rule change weeks after being sworn in as Interior Secretary, The New York Times reported.

Conservation groups balked at Tuesday’s announcement. “As with almost every new Trump administration policy, wildlife and wild places lose and lobbyists win,” the Center for Western Priorities’ Deputy Director Aaron Weiss said in a statement.

5) Trump sued California to make it stop trying to fight climate change

On Wednesday, the Trump administration’s Justice Department sued the state of California for trying to partner with Canada to reduce carbon emissions, saying California is not allowed to engage in international climate negotiations.

The lawsuit “is the latest Trump administration push to stymie state efforts aimed at contesting the administration’s rollbacks of environmental and climate protections,” the Associated Press reported. “California says it’s being punished for its advocacy.”

California is fighting back against the lawsuit.

“Carbon pollution knows no borders, and the Trump administration’s abysmal record of denying climate change and propping up big polluters makes cross-border collaboration all the more necessary,” the state’s governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “This latest attack shows that the White House has its head in the sand when it comes to climate change and serves no purpose other than continued political retribution.”

Trump isn’t hyper-focused on impeachment. We shouldn’t be, either.

I am not an expert on impeachment. But from what I’ve read about it so far, it seems a lot of people think the process will drag on for months. MONTHS.

When I think about how long this process might take, I think about this paragraph from an op-ed in the Hill last week:

Every hour of every day that the Washington establishment is fixated on impeachment, the issues affecting the daily lives of Americans are not addressed. Immigration, inner city crime, homelessness, gun violence, deficit spending, climate change, health care costs, white nationalism, and student loan burdens are all effectively ignored while our political leaders are consumed by this fight over impeachment.

That paragraph isn’t entirely true. People can do two things at once, and some people in Washington are.

Last week, for example, the House held a hearing on oil industry misinformation; Two senators introduced a bipartisan bill to promote renewable energy development on public lands while protecting fish and wildlife; and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that he’s preparing a $450 billion plan to replace a fifth of all gas-powered cars with electric vehicles.

People can do two things at once. The problem is that they often don’t.

It was hard enough to get media coverage of Trump’s anti-climate crusade when there wasn’t an impeachment inquiry. Now, we’d be more likely to find two cherry-flavored candies next to each other in a Starburst package than to find a non-impeachment-related segment on cable news.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. The op-ed continues:

Congress and the media can decide whether to tone this down and proceed in a more deliberate manner, or to maintain the endless fever pitch which unfortunately has become the new normal. … All sides have the opportunity to lower the temperature, conduct the oversight this situation requires, and resist it consuming all of their focus on work for the next year.

Members of Congress will be judged by history and the American public on how they handle themselves during this critical time. The president will be judged based on what is found.

History will certainly judge Trump based on what the impeachment inquiry finds. It will judge him far more harshly, however, on the unprecedented actions he took to destroy a livable climate. And it will judge us based on whether we cared enough to pay attention.

Related reading: “Someday, They'll Be Amazed We Didn't Impeach Trump Over the Climate Crisis,” by Jack Holmes in Esquire.

OK, that’s all for today—thank for reading HEATED!

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