When it comes to fighting climate change, the US is arguably the most important country in the world. The US fights climate change through the Environmental Protection Agency, which means the EPA is one of the most important agencies in the world.
US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has made his contempt for the agency plain. Throughout his campaign to be president, he railed against environmental regulations, called climate change a hoax, and vowed to focus on policies that would undermine environmental sustainability.
And then he appointed one of the most outspoken opponents to the EPA in the country, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, to lead the EPA.
As soon as Trump was sworn in as president on Jan. 19, the “Issues” page on the White House website was updated and all traces of climate change were removed.
In its place, the page on energy says, “President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule...The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.”
Coal is the most environmentally destructive energy source in the world and the Climate Action Plan is at the heart of former president Barack Obama’s efforts to address climate change.
Recently, the Trump team’s EPA action plan was leaked and it outlines some key goals of the agenda.
Most consequentially, the “action plan” calls for the EPA to be prohibited from conducting scientific research because of the potential for bias (fortunately, scientific data from the Obama administration has been downloaded to secure servers). Since the EPA conducts exhaustive scientific research to support every regulatory decision it makes, this would essentially render the EPA unable to deal with any emerging environmental issues and to build upon the progress made on past issues.
The plan also calls for the EPA’s advisory board to be overhauled, which likely means that industry insiders aligned with the fossil fuel industry would be installed to approve or reject new proposals.
If the plan is enacted, other measures for thwarting environmental enforcement would be put in place, such as having independent researchers with potential conflicts of interest verify scientific conclusions, and forcing research teams to meet extremely high burdens of proof.
This action plan involves a lot of wishful thinking and is unlikely to be fully enacted. Fortunately, the likelihood of any measures significantly changing the direction of the EPA is unlikely, experts say.
“There are huge, entrenched bureaucracies at these agencies, and especially at EPA, which is filled with true believers on the environmental movement, climate change, clean water and air,” Jonathan Swan wrote for Axios. “These thousands of people will dig in and make it very difficult for the thin layer of political appointees atop these agencies to move quickly to undo their years of work to put these things in place.”