Horowitz: Trump Takes Aim at Environmental Protections

Tuesday, March 07, 2017


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President Trump is launching the fiercest effort to rollback laws and regulations designed to protect our environment since the early days of the Reagan Administration 

Here are just some of the highlights. He has already issued an Executive Order designed to restrict the reach of the Clean Water Act and plans this week to begin the process of easing motor vehicle emission standards and miles per gallon goals designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions.  Further, the Trump Administration plans to seek a 25% cut in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) budget, which will severely hamper the agency's capacity to enforce national environmental laws. Deep cuts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are also planned with a particular focus on limiting the agency's research on and tracking of climate change.   

Trump's selection of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic and reliable ally of the fossil fuel industry to be his EPA Chief should have served as an early wake-up call for any one holding out hope that Ivanka Trump's environmental sympathies or Trump's meeting with Al Gore during the transition signaled that Mr. Trump's denial of the reality of climate change and unbridled championship of fossil fuels was merely campaign red meat and that we would see some moderation, once he became President. Pruitt breathes new life into the old cliché of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Among other anti-environment actions, he sued 14 times to block clean air and water rules as Oklahoma Attorney General.

As Keith Gaby of the Environmental Defense Fund recently wrote, "President Trump’s campaign was filled with anti-environmental rhetoric and since the election he’s been making clear that he meant it." Trump and Pruitt are moving full speed ahead to do everything in their power to roll back the actions taken by the Obama Administration mainly under the authority provided by the Clean Air Act--actions that moved the United States into a global leadership position on combating climate change and provided the foundation for enlisting China and India in the battle to limit global temperature increases in order to avoid the worst consequences of a warming planet.  Not surprisingly, Steve Bannon, against the advice of key foreign policy advisors, is pushing Trump to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, despite the anticipated serious diplomatic consequences.

Whether President Trump will succeed or not in rolling back environmental progress will depend in large measure on the environmental movement's ability to mobilize an active national grassroots resistance to back up the fierce lobbying and court fights that will be launched. When President Reagan appointed staunch advocates of rolling back environmental protections, Ann Gorsuch as EPA Administrator and James Watt as Secretary of the Interior and engaged in similar budget cutting and regulation pruning

efforts, the memberships of national environmental groups more than doubled and the outcry led eventually to the resignations of both these officials. Reagan ended up appointing William Ruckeshaus as EPA Administrator to clean up the mess and stop the political bleeding. Ruckelshaus had served as Administrator at the founding of the EPA and was highly respected by environmentalists. Reagan launched his assault on environmental laws and regulations during a time when the American economy was in far worse shape than today and still did not win the political argument.

It is now clear if it was ever in doubt that President Trump is unlikely to be persuaded by the merits of the case for protecting the environment or taking action on climate change. It will be up to people who care about the environment to make the political costs sufficiently high to force a rethinking at the White House and in Congress. While the salience of environmental issues with the American public has declined since the early 80's, there is still overwhelming majority support.  As Trump's actions are likely to move these issues back closer to the center of the political debate, I have faith that the American people will stand up as they did in the 80's and at least limit the damage the Trump Administration will do.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island


Related Slideshow: Trump’s Win - What Does it Mean for Rhode Island?

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Jennifer Duffy

Cook Report

"We don't really know what a Trump presidency means for the nation, never mind the smallest state.  One of the unintended consequences of last night's results is that Sen. Jack Reed won't be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Chalk that up as a loss for RI."

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Pam Gencarella

Head of Ocean State Taxpayers' Association

"Trump’s win means that his signature issue, illegal immigration, could have a big impact on RI, hopefully reversing our course as a sanctuary state and saving the state taxpayer millions of dollars.  While we agree with his 'repeal and replace' Obamacare stance, we have no idea what that means to the RI debacle known as UHIP.  It is not a stretch to believe that federal funding for this kind of system will be off the table so, will RI be stuck with this massively expensive system that still doesn’t work and that is expected to cost another $124 million to fix?  

Trump's belief that there is significant fraud in the Food Stamp program and the policies that may come from that belief could have a negative impact on RI's local economy since there are businesses in certain cities that rely heavily on this program, fraud and all. On the upside, we may be able to ditch the UHIP program if there is significantly less need for processing welfare program requests (ie. Medicaid and food stamps) resulting from fewer illegal immigrants and less fraud.  While we are ambivalent about his touted child care policies, if enacted, it may force our legislators to revisit the ever growing state cost of subsidies in this area and possibly reduce the fraud and abuse in this system." 

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Kay Israel

Professor at Rhode Island College

"With a Republican President and Congress, Rhode Island will probably be excluded from the 'fruits of victory."  

The congressional delegation will be able to vocally make their presence felt, but in the long term it's more symbolic than substantive.  

For Rhode Island it's a matter of holding on and waiting until '18 or '20 and a surge in Democratic influence."

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Jennifer Lawless

Professor at American University

"The RI congressional delegation just became even less powerful than it was. With unified government, Trump doesn’t need to quell Democrats’ concerns or acquiesce because he’s worried about a Democratically-controlled Senate.

His appointments will reflect that. His executive orders will affect that. And the conservative policy agenda he puts forward will affect that."

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Len Lardaro

Professor at University of Rhode Island

"Well there's a few things -- because there's not going to be gridlock, that's a big difference if it had been Hillary and a GOP Congress, in which nothing would got done. We'll at least get a half a billion in infrastructure that's going to pass which will have an impact.

I think you'll see there will be reduced reliance on government nationally -- and that's where we'll stick out like sore thumb. We've relied way too much on government -- and our government is highly inefficient and ineffective.  Maybe, just maybe, in this who cycle of things we might be forced to be small and more efficient for once.

A couple of other things -- interest rates jumped. The one to follow is the ten year government bond rate -- which is tied to mortgages. It went from 1.7% to 2.05% in one day. The point is -- if the ten year stays high, mortgage rates will start going higher -- and in the short time people will run to re-finance. 

That's the short term impact -- but then if rates stay hight, that will make mortgages more out of reach. And we just passed a bond issue to limit open space -- housing has limited upside here.
The next thing -- the Fed Reserve will go ahead with tightening next month. A strong dollar will hurt manufacturing. When the dollar is strong our exports become more expensive overseas. 

Our goods production sector -- manufacturing and construction -- in the near term will do a little better, but as time goes on will be more limited. But something you won't hear, is there are lags in fiscal policy, of six months to year. So we won't really see the effects until the third our fourth quarter of 2017, going into 2018."

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Mike Stenhouse

RI Center for Freedon and Prosperity

"As the unbelievable turned into reality this morning, it struck me that the presidential election was not really all about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was about a fed-up people, revolting against a corrupt system - the "beast" - that relentlessly favors insiders. Hillary personified the beast, while Donald personified the slayer.

Sadly, based on election results in our state, Rhode Island's version of the beast lives on. I fear our political class has not learned the lessons from the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump movements - and will continue with their government-centric, anti-family, anti-business status quo."

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Kristina Contreras Fox

VP of Young Democrats of America

"A Trump Presidency means the validation of the ugliest part of America. In RI, as with the rest of the country, the hammer of his hatred will fall hardest on minority communities. Being a blue state doesn't make us immune from this danger.

Trump won over 35% (39.5) of the vote here! We need to look in the mirror, and not lie about what the reflection shows us. No more hiding underneath a blue blanket. I expect those who claim Democratic values to be true to those values. The gulf between words and actions have turned into fertile ground for Trump's message to grow here in RI. If you call yourself a Democrat, if you claim to stand in opposition to Trump, now is the time to prove it. Show up and fight back."


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