Trump to Repeal Obama's Environmental Legacy: "Nightmare Budget" Would Destroy America As We Know It
March 28, 2017
The League of Conservation Voters & Alexander C. Kaufman / The Huffington Post & Michael Roberts / OpEd News
The White House plans to scrap rules on power plant emissions, eviscerate the Clean Power Plan and kneecap US participation in the historic Paris Climate Accord. Trump's OMB Director dismisses funding to address climate change "a waste of money." A review of the programs targeted under Trump's "Nightmare Budget" is both astonishing and appalling.
Special to Environmentalists Against War
Trump Prepares to Repeal FOUR Obama Orders on Environment
The League of Conservation Voters
"We are not spending money on [climate change] anymore. We consider it to be a waste of your money."
-- Mick Mulvaney, Director, Office of Management and the Budget
(March 27, 2017) -- We've got word that a new Trump executive order will be announced tomorrow. Leaked drafts show that Trump aims to repeal four major Obama executive orders on climate change -- while at the same time opening public land to coal extraction and allowing unlimited levels of carbon emissions from power plants.
This is happening now -- and we need to stop it. We're working with allies in Congress to throw up procedural roadblocks, and mobilizing supporters on a massive scale for the Peoples Climate March in just a few weeks -- but how big we can go depends on our resources, and right now, they're running low.
This newest executive order is only the most recent threat to our environment. From Trump's proposed budget, which cuts 31% from the EPA's budget . . . to the State Department giving the go-ahead to construction on the destructive Keystone XL Pipeline . . . to a House bill that would abolish the EPA altogether . . . our bedrock environmental protections have never been in this kind of jeopardy.
In two weeks, Congress breaks for their April recess -- the first opportunity for constituents to really make their voices heard since these attacks were announced.
If we can show up big in districts around the country -- holding rallies, packing town hall events, increasing pressure at district offices -- we have a real chance to block the worst of these radical anti-environmental efforts just like what just happened when they tried to repeal Obamacare.
Donald Trump Is About To Undo
Obama's Legacy On Climate Change
Alexander C. Kaufman / The Huffington Post
(March 27, 2017) -- President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order on Tuesday rolling back Obama-era policies to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Sunday.
In an interview on ABC's This Week, Pruitt said the order will be called the "Energy Independence Executive Order." It is expected to undo former President Barack Obama's signature program to deal with climate change, the Clean Power Plan, which limited greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
"We have made tremendous progress on our environment. We can be both pro-jobs and pro-environment," Pruitt said. "The executive order will address the past administration's effort to kill jobs throughout the country through the Clean Power Plan."
The executive order will likely take other measures to protect the coal industry, such as instructing the Department of the Interior to lift a temporary ban on coal leasing on federal lands that the Obama administration put in place last year. The order is also expected to scrap federal guidances instructing agencies to factor climate change into policymaking, and to disband a team tasked with calculating the "social cost of carbon."
Undoing The Clean Power Plan
Trump's executive order will likely kneecap the federal government's most important policy for reducing carbon emissions. Doing so would also hamper US efforts to meet the commitments made more than a year ago in the 195-country Paris Agreement -- the first global climate deal to include the US and China, the world's biggest polluters.
The long-expected order would give teeth to Trump's America First Energy Plan, a vague policy outline he issued after his inauguration to eliminate Obama's Climate Action Plan.
Obama's plan, launched in 2013, set a strategy for combating climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The utility sector accounts for the greatest portion of the US carbon footprint, producing 30 percent of all emissions, according to 2014 data from the EPA. That's largely because coal, by far the dirtiest-burning fossil fuel, has long served as the country's primary source of electricity.
The core of Obama's initiative was the Clean Power Plan, a sweeping EPA rule that aimed to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels. The policy set new standards for new natural gas-burning power plants, and put stricter limits on coal-fired, steam-based plants.
By implementing the plan, the US hoped meet its emissions reduction goals as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. (The failure of previous global deals, such as the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, hinged partly on the United States' refusal to implement emission cuts.)
The president's elder daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, convinced the president to remove language from his new order that was critical of the Paris accord, according to The Wall Street Journal. It's unclear how the US can meet its commitments without the Clean Power Plan in place.
Last year, a coalition of Republican-controlled states -- led by Pruitt, who was then Oklahoma's attorney general -- filed a lawsuit to stop the emissions rules, prompting the Supreme Court to grant a stay suspending implementation. Pruitt launched at least 13 lawsuits against the EPA before he became the agency's administrator last month.
Repealing those rules could prove expensive and deadly, costing the US economy up to $600 billion by removing critical incentives to increase energy efficiency, according to the research firm Energy Innovation. The CCP's repeal could lead to billions of tons of carbon being released into the atmosphere, which in turn could contribute to more than 120,000 premature deaths, according to a writeup of the study in Forbes.
Still, another Supreme Court decision may hinder the Trump administration's efforts to completely scrap the plan. In 2007's Massachusetts v. EPA, the court ruled that greenhouse gas emissions constituted pollution, requiring the EPA to take action. Plus, courts work both ways: Environmental groups are widely expected to sue over attempts to stop cutting emissions.
"In order to make policy change, it's going to need to be supported by the science, and that's where I think ultimately the effort is going to founder," Pete Fontaine, a veteran environmental lawyer who worked at the EPA, told The Huffington Post. "Yes, you can cut programs and you can go about it with your fiscal authority to try to change policy, but in order to modify regulations, you have to be able to withstand an arbitrary-and-capricious standard."
Such standards, which can be used to overturn previous court rulings, would need to stand the test of climate science, Fontaine said.
"Facts will not be changed by people expressing beliefs in an alternative set of facts," he said. "The science is well settled on climate change, and that science is based on literally more than a century of scientific inquiry and the laws of physics, which are going to govern here no matter what people say is contrary to their beliefs."
Yet a battle appears to be brewing in the Trump administration over the future of the endangerment clause, policy that spawned from the Supreme Court's ruling categorizing carbon dioxide and methane emissions as a public health threat. David Schnare, an appointee from the EPA transition team, quit suddenly earlier this month in part because Pruitt refused to take on the clause, Politico reported.
"The backstory to my resignation is extremely complex," Schnare told E&E News, an energy and environment news wire. "I will be writing about it myself. It is a story not about me, but about a much more interesting set of events involving misuse of federal funds, failure to honor oaths of office, and a lack of loyalty to the president."
King Coal's Decree
By lifting the temporary moratorium on coal leasing, the Trump administration is ending a policy aimed at lessening the environmental impact of mining and increasing the government's yield on investment.
The current rules grant coal companies the right to apply to schedule leases at times favorable to them, as well as to design the tracts and control the terms on which they're offered. Critics say the standards are lopsided, giving coal producers above-market-value cuts of revenue generated from mining.
The government levies an 8 percent cut of revenue from underground mining and takes 12.5 percent from surface mining, which includes environmentally destructive techniques such as mountaintop removal and open pit mining. That money is split between the federal government and the state where the coal is mined.
But Dan Bucks, former director of revenue for the state of Montana, a major coal producer, said the leasing program is "essentially broken," with more than 90 percent of leases awarded without real competition.
"Lease payments, for those of us who have examined from outside can determine, have failed the market value standard test," he said. "The American people have been shortchanged on the leasing side as well as the royalty side."
"The Obama administration wanted to fix that," added Bucks, who is not aligned with either Democrats or Republicans. "They wanted to update the leasing program so public issues, namely environmental issues and climate change, could be taken into account before leases were offered."
Trump vowed to resuscitate the coal business by axing environmental rules that he and the industry blame for years of decline and thousands of layoffs. Those promises won him big victories in coal country. But shrinking market demand has actually played a bigger role in coal's decline.
Cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas has devoured coal's share of the electricity market over the past decade. In response, coal companies have bet big on continued demand from China. But Chinese demand peaked in 2012, and has since plummeted due to the country's slowing economy and a move to suspend the construction of coal-fired power plants in favor of renewable energy.
A War On Environmental Protections
Trump has put numerous other environmental regulations on the chopping block since his inauguration. He and many Republican lawmakers argue that these rules created unnecessary and at times pricey hurdles for corporations and small businesses.
Earlier this month, the White House proposed slashing the EPA's budget by nearly one-third, a move that would eliminate popular programs like Energy Star and environmental justice initiatives, and would cripple the agency's enforcement division. The EPA scrapped a rule earlier this month requiring oil and gas drillers to report leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas 40 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Last month, after House Republicans voted to overturn a rule protecting waterways from coal mining pollution, Trump signed an order instructing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to overhaul the 2015 Waters of the United States rule, which expanded federal control over wetlands and other waterways by 3 percent. The rule essentially provided guidelines on whether anti-pollution laws would apply if, for example, a farmer dams a stream to make a pond for livestock or a developer fills in a marsh to build a new house.
But in the view of the country's top environmental policymaker, the pendulum swung too far in the direction of environmentalists under the previous administration, and course correction is needed.
"We need a pro-growth and pro-environment approach for how we do regulations in this country," Pruitt said on Sunday. "For too long, we have accepted a narrative that if you're pro-growth, pro-jobs, you're anti-environment."
Alexander C. Kaufman is a business and environment reporter at The Huffington Post, based in New York. He previously worked at The Boston Globe, The Wrap, Fishbowl NY and the International Business Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trump's Nightmare Budget
Michael Roberts / OpEd News
(March 27, 2017) -- EVERYBODY, I mean EVERYBODY is now hollering about President Donald J. Trump's budget proposal. I say "proposal" because Congress by the law and United States Constitution still has the "power of the purse" and can roll back many of the odious parts of the proposal.
At the very core of Trump's grandiloquently named "America First: A Budget Blueprint To Make America Great Again," is his belief that jacking up military spending by $54 billion is going to "make America great" as if ONLY military spending was going to grow the economy.
But the cuts also reveal an attempt to realize an old Republican goal -- a smaller federal government. Trump plan would drastically cut the federal government down by eliminating agencies, services, and programs that he sees as useless, and shift the burden and to pick up the slack on to state governments.
Indeed, his budget proposal, such as it is, calls for draconian cuts to 18 agencies that Trump sees as either not important or unnecessary to his "America remake" plans. Driven by his own nativist brand of populism that relies on a narrow, myopic, inward-looking meme, Trump's budget is an American nightmare in the making that is designed to "make America suffer again."
And the funny thing is that, if his budget is enacted as is, the people who would be hurt the most are Trump voters and supporters suddenly waking up to the reality of so-called "Obamacare" and its benefits and "their party's" efforts to replace it with a "hideous something else."
Trump's plan would eliminate long-standing federal programs that help the poor, fund scientific research, and promote America's "soft power" abroad. Some agencies would be hit particularly hard, with sharp reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments, and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency that some Republicans, including the president, vowed to eliminate all together.
The budget proposal also proposed eliminating future federal government support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be cut by Trump's knife.
According to historical budget records these cuts represents the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since World War II. Economists say that they could lead to a sizable cutback in the federal non-military workforce; something White House officials said was one of their goals.
Virtually every agency will see some sort of cut, with only Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs getting a boost. Still, Congress will have the final say, and some lawmakers have already expressed opposition and concern to many of the proposals.
Here's a Breakdown of
Trump's Nightmare Budget Proposal:
Proposed Department Cuts
* Health and Human Services, the department responsible for implementing Obamacare and its proposed repeal, would face a $12.6 billion cut -- a 16.2% decrease
* Environmental Protection Agency: $2.6 billion, or 31.4%
* State Department: $11 billion, or 28.7%
* Labor Department: $2.5 billion, or 20.7%
* Agriculture Department: $5 billion, or 20.7%
* US Army Corps of Engineers: $1 billion, a 16.3% cut
* Cuts National Institutes of Health spending by $5.8 billion, a nearly 20% cut. Also overhauls NIH to focus on "highest priority" efforts and eliminates the Fogarty International Center.
* Other double-digit cuts include Commerce at 15.7%; Education at 13.5%; Housing and Urban Development at 13.2%; Transportation at 12.7%, and Interior at 11.7%.
Proposed Program Cuts
* Eliminates the USDA Water and Wastewater loan and grant program, a reduction of $498 million
* Cuts $250 million by zeroing out National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants and programs that support coastal and marine management, research and education
* Reduces or eliminates 20 programs within the Department of Education, including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership and Impact Aid support payments for federal property and international education programs
* Cuts FEMA state and local grant funding by $667 million, including the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program and Homeland Security Grant Program
* Eliminates funds for Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing
* Ceases payments to the United Nations' climate change programs for the Green Climate Fund and precursor funds
* Scales back funding for the World Bank and other international development banks by $650 million over three years
* Cuts federal subsidies to Amtrak and eliminates support for Amtrak's long-distance services.
* Cuts funding to the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Program so new projects will not be funded
* Shrinks the Treasury workforce by an unspecified amount
Stops funding for the Clean Power Plan
Programs Trump Proposes to Eliminate or Zero Out
Trump's budget would eliminate funding for some small, independent agencies entirely, as well as zero out some federal programs:
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program (which supports before- and after-school programs and summer programs)
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which funds research including clean energy
African Development Foundation
Appalachian Regional Commission
Chemical Safety Board
Community Development Block Grant, which in part funds Meals on Wheels
Community Development Financial Institutions Fund grants, under Treasury
Community Services Block Grant, under HHS
Corporation for National and Community Service
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Delta Regional Authority
Economic Development Administration
Essential Air Service program
Global Climate Change Initiative
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Chesapeake Bay funding, and other regional programs under EPA.
HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, all under HUD
Institute of Museum and Library Services
US Trade and Development Agency
Legal Services Corporation
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program
Minority Business Development Agency, under Commerce
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
NASA's Office of Education
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
Northern Border Regional Commission
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
State Energy Program
Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program (the second-largest program feds have used to influence local education)
TIGER transportation grants
United States Institute of Peace
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
Weatherization Assistance Program
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
[Source: www.CNN.com ]
The $1.5 trillion proposed budget is already causing great anxiety, especially in rural America, and Trump's base. For example, in Republican Kentucky that Trump won and he's consistently boasting about bringing back "coal jobs," he's now set to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission. The ARC is a 52-year-old federal agency that seeks to create jobs in 420 counties across 13 states, including the West Virginia and Kentucky coalfields.
The ARC began its work in 1965 as part of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson's famous "war on poverty." In the past two years alone, the agency has spent $175.7 million on 662 projects that is says has created or retained more than 23,670 jobs.
That investment has paid off: In Kentucky, the commission has awarded $707,000 to the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, which used the money to train 670 people who now have full time jobs earning a combined $13.6 million in wages.
Indeed, as details of President Trump's budget starts to sink in across the nation, Americans, especially "ordinary Americas" that the president claims to be working for, are trying to parse how the changes to the government's spending plan will impact their daily lives.
To be sure, it is only a proposal, an opening gambit, if you will, in what is likely to be a protracted public argument over national priorities. But for ALL Americans this proposal is very important, and historically crucial, because it signals what and how the president is thinking and his wish list for the size and shape of government.
And it's not pretty. In fact, it's downright scary and brutal.
Michael D. Roberts is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local community relations. He has covered the United Nations, the Caribbean and Africa in a career that spans over 32 years in journalism. As Editor of New York Carib News, a position that he's held since 1990, he is in a unique position to have his hands on the pulse of the over 800,000 Caribbean-American community in Brooklyn, and the over 2.5 million members resident in the wider New York State community.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.