Jacoba Aldersebaes, The Climate Trust
As published by Portland Business Journal – March 28, 2017
President Donald Trump has been in office for less than three months and already has us nervous for what he will get his hands on next. This week, he’s taking aim at environmental science, agencies, and policies—specifically climate-related science. We know from his presidential campaign, that he is generally against rules and regulations that protect our air, water and land, not to mention the disadvantaged communities that will be impacted most by rolling these policies back.
The President ran on the premise of allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built, of rescinding the Clean Power Plan, and essentially gutting the Environmental Protection Agency. The environmental community has been waiting for the other shoe to drop, the day that President Trump would make good on these campaign promises, and unfortunately that time has arrived. Paired with his newly released 2018 budget proposal, the President’s March 28th executive order is a major blow to the environmental community.
The proposed budget shows a drastic decrease in funding for the environment across the board, from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The Trump Administration proposes to cut the budget of almost every environmental research office, as well as departments that supply grant funding to environmental and climate change research organizations. The already lean EPA budget is at the lowest point it has been in the past thirty years, and has the most complex issues to tackle, to date. The proposed budget includes an overall decrease of 31%, a 45% slash in EPA grant funds to individual states, as well as proposing to close two regional EPA offices. The effect of this budget on the EPA would be devastating for the environment, and for the communities that desperately count on their policies to provide even a bare minimum of protection against industries that would otherwise go unchecked.
This week’s executive order also takes aim at the Environmental Protection Agency. With their announcement, the White House has made clear that American jobs will be a priority over addressing climate change. However, these two things have not proved to be mutually exclusive over the duration of the Obama Administration. According to CNN, Obama created 11.3 million new jobs, while simultaneously creating powerful policy that regulated climate change, namely, the Clean Power Plan.
The executive order directs the EPA to review the Clean Power Plan, which regulates new and existing power plants to reduce their carbon emissions. Power plants are one of our nation’s largest emitters of carbon, creating harmful smog and causing other major public health threats. Disadvantaged populations may have the highest risk due to the location of the carbon-emitting power plants, and the increased difficulty for consistent access to healthcare. Without the Clean Power Plan, the push for clean energy innovation is nonexistent, and access to healthcare will be more important than ever. And without the Clean Power Plan, it becomes difficult for the U.S. to meet their commitment to the landmark Paris Agreement, necessitating the need for a serious priority adjustment, led by motivated states, corporations and foundations.
A key ingredient to being able to actively push back on President Trump’s changes requires finding common ground within the seemingly disparate sectors of the environmental community, and teaming up to take action. Environmental justice groups and cap and trade advocates should take the lead, setting aside their differences to find a path forward—together. It is important to show a united front against repealing any of the vital climate policies that the Obama Administration toiled to implement—ensuring continued work to decrease the effects of greenhouse gases.
We also need individual states to step up and comply with the policies put in place by Obama, even if they are no longer federally mandated. California and Oregon have both made efforts towards renewable energy to help meet our collective U.S. Paris Agreement goals. If states pass legislation that is more stringent than federal law, there will be nothing President Trump can do to prevent our country’s progress and momentum toward a clean energy future. We need to show the federal government what is truly important to us, and that we will not be held back by archaic directives and policies. We’ve come too far to stop now.
The fight for climate change will be severely harmed with the combination of the executive order and the proposed 2018 budget if we let it. Major government institutions such as the EPA, and policies like the Clean Power Plan are being directly threatened. This is a clear message from our President. Let’s send him our own message, and let it ring as clear as a bell. We will not slow down. We will not remain quiet. And we will move forward—for the good of our country, and all our people.
Image credit: Flickr/Stuart Rankin