Donald Trump is no friend of climate change activists or climate scientists, but many have wondered whether his talk prior to the election would translate to action as president. He has outright denied that the increases in average temperature over the past century are the result of human activities, and instead insisted that they are a fabrication of the Chinese.
The first action taken by the Trump administration worth noting would be his appointment of former attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Pruitt is well known for his opposition to the agency and will likely do all that is within his power (which is to say quite a bit) to hamstring the already weak agency.
Pruitt has been vocal about his dislike of the EPA and believes the agency harms the American economy saying, that “the American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.” He also plans to create a new “federalism unit” in order to combat what he views as a federal overreach by the EPA.
While being the head of the EPA gives Pruitt significant powers over regulations, it will not give him the power to undo all of the EPA’s work under Obama and previous administrations. He would have to provide a public notice before he changes any of these regulations, so for now, the EPA will function similarly to how they did in the past.
Pruitt is not alone amongst Republicans in his opposition to federal protection of the environment. H. Sterling Burnett of the Heartland Institute argues: “I read the Constitution of the United States, and the word ‘environmental protection’ does not appear there … I don’t see where it’s sanctioned. I think it should go away.” This form of federalism is commonly used by Republicans to defend cutting back on environmental regulations, and it seems to have gained significant traction with the Trump administration.
Appointing Pruitt as head of the EPA is not the only move that the Trump administration has made to undercut the EPA’s regulatory power. President Trump has promised to drastically increase military spending, without decreasing spending on social security and medicare. So where is he planning on getting the money to do so? Most likely by cutting spending on “unnecessary regulatory agencies”. One such unnecessary regulatory agency is the EPA.
Trump has plans to cut funding to many agencies. According to Shannon Pettypiece and Jennifer A Dlouhy, a writer for Bloomberg “…including medical research, veterans care, education, national parks, food and drug regulation — would have to be cut on average by about 10 percent, though some programs might be cut more and some less. The State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are targeted for cuts in particular.” These cutbacks on spending on the EPA and national parks will have an effect on the ability of climate scientists to track and cover changes in the climate over the next four years.
He also plans to take steps to make working at the EPA an even less inviting offer. His “advisers on Trump’s transition team said its funding and staff could be slashed below its $8.3 billion budget this fiscal year” continues the article. This would make it significantly more difficult to work at the EPA.
All of these efforts on the part of the Trump administration work to diminish the power of the EPA, an agency which President Trump has been a vocal critic of since he first ran for election.
By: Kevin Clark