© 2023 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

President-Elect Trump Threatens to Slash Environmental Protections

Last week’s Presidential election had little or nothing to do with environmental issues. And yet, even though voters didn’t vote on it, the environment is now squarely in the crosshairs of the incoming Trump administration.

In the few instances when the environment did come up during the campaign, Trump made it clear that he thinks global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, and that about 70 percent of regulations should be eliminated.

Here’s Trump talking about slashing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during a Republican primary debate in March.  "Department of Environmental Protection: We are going to get rid of it in almost every form.  We’re going to have little tidbits left.  But we’re going to take a tremendous amount out."

Since his election, Trump has appointed an outspoken climate skeptic, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to lead his transition team for the EPA. That is another indication that Trump will try to dismantle President Obama’s carbon dioxide limits for power plants, as well as ambitious new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

Trump has also said he will try to cancel a landmark international greenhouse gas control agreement signed last year.

"He said that he would walk away from the Paris climate agreement," said Bob Deans, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That would be a disaster for U.S. leadership – after all, it was a generation of concerted diplomacy, led by the United States, that enabled us to go to Paris last year and get the United States, China and more than 180 other countries to put real plans on the table to shift away from fossil fuels that are driving climate change toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.  We can’t walk away from that Paris accord, that would send the wrong message around the world and we don’t want this president to start off as a global pariah. That would make it more difficult to get things done around the world with our partners and allies."

Trump promised voters in West Virginia, Kentucky and other economically-troubled mining regions that he would bring back the coal industry.

But Mike Tidwell, founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, suggested that these blue-collar voters will inevitably feel betrayed when Trump can’t deliver this.

"The number one reason coal has been in decline is not because of government regulation,"  Tidwell said. "It’s been because of the fracking boom – the fracking revolution involving more and more gas being fracked out of the soil.  So unless you ban fracking, or somehow reduce the amount of fracking, it is highly unlikely that no matter what President Trump does there is going to be a big revival of coal."   

So what’s the answer?  If federal leadership flags, the states will be forced to pick up the slack with regard to stopping pollution. And citizens who care about the environment will have to rise up and fight back.

Tom Pelton, a national award-winning environmental journalist, has hosted "The Environment in Focus" since 2007. He also works as director of communications for the Environmental Integrity Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to holding polluters and governments accountable to protect public health. From 1997 until 2008, he was a journalist for The Baltimore Sun, where he was twice named one of the best environmental reporters in America by the Society of Environmental Journalists.