By Jack Clarke: Environment, one year later
So let's look at both the good and bad aspects of President Trump's first year in office, focusing on the environment.
Bad news: In his first budget, the president proposed to slash Environmental Protection Agency funding by a third, to its lowest level in 40 years, while eliminating nearly half its staff. EPA is the nation's premier public health agency established by a bi-partisan Congress and signed into law by GOP President Richard Nixon in 1970 to protect the nation's air, land and water.
Good news: Since Congress has yet to agree on a 2018 budget, the federal government is still operating under a series of continuing resolutions without budget reductions to the EPA or other federal agencies.
Bad news: National monuments, sanctuaries and wildlife refuges are under assault as the President seeks to reduce protections by downsizing boundaries and encouraging oil drilling and other commercial exploitation on these sensitive public lands.
Good news: Along with our conservation partners across the country, we are lobbying Congress and supporting lawsuits against the administration to protect America's 400 national parks, 560 national wildlife refuges, 154 national forests, and 120 national monuments; 787 marine protected areas and, 23 offshore sanctuaries; plus seashores and lakeshores; wilderness, conservation, and recreation areas; federally designated wild and scenic rivers; and trails.
Clean Power Plan
Bad news: The president issued an Executive Order to repeal the Clean Power Plan, one of the strongest sets of standards ever drafted by the United States to combat global warming. The plan set the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants — the largest source of the pollution that's driving climate change.
Good news: Irrespective of government action, America is well on its way to achieving the plan's goals even with it locked-up in federal courts for the last two years as Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and 13 other attorneys general sue to prevent repeal. Coal continues to decline as other energy sources, including renewables, become increasingly cost-competitive and businesses and homes across the country reduce carbon emissions, improve energy efficiencies and increase their use of wind and solar energy. It is likely that judicial proceedings will prevent the administration from repealing and replacing the plan before the 2020 election.
Paris Climate Agreement
Bad News: Last summer, the president announced the United States was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. The accord marked a turning point in the battle against climate change as world leaders united for the first time in history to legally ratify action against pollution.
Good News: It will take more than a speech to withdraw from the agreement. Under the rules of the deal, the earliest any country can leave is Nov. 4, 2020. That means the U.S. will remain a party to the accord for most of President Trump's present term.
Bad news: The president can unilaterally weaken or repeal regulatory protections. Of the almost 4,000 on the books today, the president claims to have withdrawn or delayed 1,579 of them.
Good news: Contrary to presidential tweets, the administration has actually repealed only 63 regulations. While 23 are environmental provisions, Attorney General Healey and her fellow attorneys general have gone to court to stop 11 of the worst rescission attempts.
Bad news: With the same party in the White House and a majority in the Congress, Capitol Hill can't seem to pass any major legislation, whether it's health care or a budget. (The recent tax bill is an exception, as it was passed employing a parliamentary gimmick). Washington is in gridlock.
Good news: Washington is in gridlock.
Bad news: On his own, the president can cut funds for existing programs, fail to enforce the law, make hostile political appointments, reduce the workforce, or simply drag his feet on implementation of programs. And, he is doing all that.
Good news: The next presidential election is in 34 months. And meanwhile, governors, state legislators, mayors, businesses, and local communities continue to make progress in improving our economic and environmental health here in Massachusetts and beyond.
Jack Clarke is director of public policy and government relations for Mass Audubon.
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