In an executive order released by the White House today, President Trump seeks to reverse the core policy safeguards put in place by the Obama Administration to address climate change. The Trump order represents a sweeping attack on action to account for intensifying and anticipated climate impacts to the American West. These impacts include declines in mountain snowpack and streamflow, insect and wildfire outbreaks on our forests, disruptions to urban electricity and water supplies, and drought-induced economic hardship to our farms and ranches. Climate change is also an international problem; Trump’s secretary of defense, James Mattis, cites climate change as a driver of international instability and a national security threat.
Trump’s order sets in motion a hodgepodge of the fossil fuel industry’s wish list. In short, the order seeks to eliminate or weaken forward-looking action put in place by the Obama Administration to reduce climate pollution and to account for the consequences of climate change to American infrastructure, communities, and resources, including the West’s iconic public lands. Such actions are short sighted and riddled with problems.
Exemplifying the climate order’s problems, Trump’s climate order would rescind long-needed guidance completed by the Council on Environmental Quality in August 2016 to improve and provide consistency in how federal agencies account for climate change in environmental reviews completed pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. The order would also weaken tools, such as the “social cost of carbon” metric, that requires agencies to account for the economic costs of rules and fossil fuel projects shouldered by the public.
“Trump’s actions will sow grave uncertainty in how agencies plan for changing climate dynamics in the American West, whether we’re talking about energy production, watershed protection, or the construction of bridges, highways, power lines, dams, and other critical infrastructure,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “The order will also hide the true costs of fossil fuel projects to the public, skewing decision-making in favor of the corporate, rather than the public, interest.”
Further exemplifying its problems, the Order seeks to suspend and either rescind or re-write rules promulgated by the Bureau of Land Management in November 2016 to reduce natural gas waste from oil and gas production on public lands.
“Each year, over $330 million in natural gas that could be used by homes, schools, and businesses is wasted to the atmosphere from sloppy drilling practices on our public lands,” said Tom Singer, Ph.D., senior policy advisor with the Western Environmental Law Center. “Trump’s order would set in motion action to sanction this waste, reduce oil and gas royalties that pay for public services in cash-strapped states such as New Mexico, and exacerbate climate and health impacts to communities that live near oil and gas drilling. That’s foolish.”
“Fundamentally, the Trump climate order shows a reckless disregard for the American West and the importance of science and reason as the foundation of good decision-making in the public interest,” added Schlenker-Goodrich. “But rest assured: we will wield the full power of the law to combat the Trump order and continue our advocacy to transition away from fossil fuels and to build the resilience of our public lands, our rivers and forests, and our communities to withstand the impacts of climate change. We’re all in this together.”