He has been defeated in the election, but Donald Trump, in his almost four years as president, will be leaving a dark legacy of environmental destruction. He has weakened or overturned major rules for clean air, clean water, wildlife protections, toxic chemicals and most seriously, climate change. An article in the New York Times lists a hundred such environmental rollbacks. Here are a few of them:
- Obama-era fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks were weakened.
- California’s ability to set higher tailpipe emission standards were revoked.
- Obama’s limits on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants were withdrawn.
- Trump replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which set limits on carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants, giving states power to set their own rules.
- Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement.
- The requirements to report and limit methane gas emissions from oil and gas-drilling operations were canceled.
- Obama’s executive order that set the goal of cutting the federal government facilities’ greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent in the next 10 years was revoked.
- Policies for tighten pollution standards for offshore oil and gas drilling facilities were thrown out.
- Trump opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, and the Tongas National Forest to logging.
- The Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline were approved.
- Trump proposed opening most of American’92s coastal waters to offshore drilling.
- The Endangered Species Act was weakened, and longer-term threats due to climate change were discounted.
- Pollution protections for certain tributaries and wetlands were removed.
- Safety assessments for potentially toxic chemicals were weakened.
President-elect Joseph Biden could reinstate some protections that Trump dismantled by executive order. But other parts of his agenda will require Congressional approval. Biden’s victory did not come with a blue or green wave. Democrats have lost seats in their majority in the House, and it is likely Republicans will maintain their narrow majority in the Senate.
Will Congressional Republicans work with the Biden Administration to address long standing issues — climate change, health care, immigration, infrastructure. Or will they stonewall Biden like they did to Obama? Will Trumpism live on and the nation remain bitterly divided? Can Biden bridge the great divide? The next four years will be a cliff hanger.
Ed Perkins farms in Athens County.