9. He enables corporate polluters on a massive scale

DT is dirty. I don’t mean crooked; he is, but that’s already been discussed here. And I don’t mean Steele dossier dirty; the salacious bits of that scandal are nobody’s business but his own (as long as they don’t impact national security). I mean that he has, in four years, undone almost 50 years of progress on environmental policy. As a result, the cleaner water and air that we take for granted are now severely threatened. That kind of dirty.

If DT had done nothing else in the environmental sphere except deny climate change is happening and withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, he’d go down in history as a dismal failure on the environment. The climate crisis is almost certainly the greatest menace that humanity has ever faced, so it’s understandable that his failure of leadership on that issue has gotten the lion’s share of the headlines, but there have been other failures as well. A lot of them.

CC-licensed image by John Fowler

Less than a year after assuming office, he announced plans to decimate two national monuments in Utah. Bears Ears National Monument was to be reduced in size by 85 percent, Grand Staircase-Escalante by half. These two pristine sites were federally owned treasures protected for the benefit of all of the American people. Now vast portions of them, including archaeologically sensitive areas and sites sacred to several Native Americans peoples, are open to destruction from mineral extraction and other commercial interests. Since then, he has pursued an ongoing agenda involving giveaways to corporate industries at the expense of public health, wildlife, and land conservation. The favors he’s done for his polluter friends include:

  • rolling back provisions of both the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, two of the oldest and most fundamental federal environmental laws on the books;
  • removing sensitive wetlands from the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers;
  • expediting approvals for the Dakota Pipeline, an extremely disruptive project that intrudes on sacred Lakota lands and threatens the drinking water supply for tens of thousands of people;
  • opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration;
  • removing protections for waterways in the vicinity of coal mines, threatening the drinking water of innumerable people;
  • removing protections for migratory birds;
  • weakening habitat protections under the Endangered Species Act;
  • loosening rules on mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants;
  • lowering fuel economy standards for new automobiles;
  • declining to ban pesticides found to be toxic to children.

And of course he has waived numerous environmental rules to enable the building of his ridiculous border wall. (More on that in a later blog.) If this gutting of established rules had a noticeable effect on air or water quality at Mar-a-lago, of course he wouldn’t have pursued them. But they don’t. Instead, they have a disproportionate effect on people of color and people in lower-income areas—the sort of people he disdains.

This is the same sort of deregulation that the Republicans have been pursuing for many years, ever since they began purging their party of moderates in the early 1990s. It’s worth saying, however, that the scale of the deregulation we’ve witnessed during these four years is unprecedented, and DT is almost certain to increase the pace of these rollbacks if he’s given the opportunity. The results wouldn’t be pretty: we’d have dirtier water, dirtier air, accelerated extinction of endangered wildlife, increased destruction of irreplaceable landscapes, and rising rates of premature death, cancer, and respiratory diseases. Much of the damage caused by this flurry of giveaways can be undone if we limit DT to one term.

What about GAOA?

It is true that earlier this year DT signed the Great American Outdoors Act, a major piece of environmental legislation that undeniably will have positive effects. It is also true that a broken clock is correct twice a day. Why did he sign it? Who knows. It had significant support from congressional Republicans as well as Democrats, perhaps because it was essentially uncontroversial by anyone’s standards, even among corporate polluters. Supporting such a law provided cover for Republicans in tight races who could point to it and claim to be pro-environment. In any event, it in no way makes up for all the damage done.