Storm Brews Over Trump’s Environmental Vision

By Brandi Buchman

coal-lanlWASHINGTON (CN) – As environmentalists prepare for the fallout of Donald Trump’s commitment to coal power and oil drilling, those industries are celebrating the Republican’s presidential ascendancy.

Underneath a banner calling for monthly donations to “protect our planet from Trump,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune warned in a Nov. 10 blog post that “the election of Donald Trump could be devastating for our climate and our future.”

“Donald Trump now has the unflattering distinction of being the only head of state in the entire world to reject the scientific consensus that mankind is driving climate change,” Brune added.

The reference speaks to a Twitter post by Trump on the campaign trail, in which he called global warming a hoax “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Trump later denied this stance in the presidential debates, but has maintained that he would cancel the Paris climate agreement and “stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.”

Trump also said vowed to revoke the Clean Power Plan, a hallmark of the Obama administration that requires a 32 percent reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants across the nation by 2030, relative to 2005 levels.

The Sierra Club, a champion of the plan, hopes Trump will reconsider this position too.

“Campaigning is one thing; governing is another,” the post from Sierra’s Brune says. “Trump must choose whether he will be a president remembered for putting America and the world back on a path to climate disaster, or for listening to the American public, investing in the fastest-growing sector in the U.S. economy – clean energy – and keeping us on a path of climate progress.” (Emphasis in original.)

One stance that Trump has solidified since his Nov. 8 election meanwhile is his pledge to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.

Myron Ebell, the climate-change skeptic Trump tapped to lead the EPA transition, is a longtime lobbyist at Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The Washington Post reported that ExxonMobil is a big donor for the conservative policy group, which has also received funding from Donors Trust.

Though no law requires that Virginia-based organization to disclose its contributors, the Post says it is staffed largely by people who have worked for Koch Industries or nonprofit groups supported by the conservative Koch brothers.

Oil and gas groups meanwhile are celebrating Trump’s promise to double down on coal- and shale-energy extraction, while rebuffing sustainable energy options like solar power and wind farms.

“Our industry stands ready to help America reach its energy potential while creating jobs and economic prosperity,” said Don Santa, president of the International Natural Gas Association, in a statement.

American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard voiced similar optimism Thursday at a press conference.

“We have found through market conditions and at the start of this energy renaissance, we can be a leader in world production and at the same time, address climate concerns rather than have a divisive conversation about who is a believer or a denier,” Gerard said.

“Mr. Trump said we can do this in such a way to protect the environment and create more jobs and help local communities,” Gerard added. “Voters said overwhelmingly that they want their economy to come back. We believe some of the regulatory approach in the past put in the finger on the scale of using certain energy forms and the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers.”

A representative from the Trump campaign did not return multiple requests for comment, but Trump has long dismissed solar power as too costly for taxpayers.

“The shale energy revolution will unleash massive wealth for America,” he told energy industry executives back in September, as reported by the New York Times.

Trump has also told rural rallygoers that he would “end the war on coal and the war on miners.”

Oil executives meanwhile have pinned their hopes on Trump’s promise this May to have Trans Canada renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline.

Amid a vow to eliminate any policies “that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies,”

Trump has offered to lift moratoriums against energy production on federal lands.

“Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped,” Trump said in a May statement.

In addition to eliminating regulatory duplication and uncertainty, Trump said local officials and residents should get to choose the policies that affect them.

Excited at the prospect of a freer energy market which could be less hemmed in by regulatory bodies, API’s Gerard has repeatedly referred to Trump’s election as the beginning of an “energy renaissance.”

“We encourage the incoming administration to look at the U.S. success story. Let’s model energy policy around what really works as opposed to ideological conversations,” Gerard told reporters last week.

“There is a $1.1 trillion investment potential just in energy infrastructure in the U.S. That’s a huge opportunity that doesn’t require taxpayer dollars,” Gerard said. “That’s the energy industry coming out and saying ‘how we do get our product into the marketplace?’ We need to take a close look at permitting.”

Another pipeline whose future hangs in the balance of a Trump presidency is the $3.7 billion project in North Dakota.

Massive protest by the Standing Rock Indian Reservation ground construction of the Dakota Access pipeline to a halt, but Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, told NBC with “100 percent” certainty that a Trump administration will approve the pipeline.

Though Trump railed against special interests in his campaign, the Guardian reported that Warren had donated $100,000 in June to the Trump Victory Fund.

Trump’s campaign also received a further $3,000 from Warren.

Trump’s campaign financial disclosure forms meanwhile revealed the president-elect has between $500,000 and $1 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners.

Sierra Club’s Brune called on Trump to open his eyes.

He can’t change the fact that the world is heating up, and that we are reaching a tipping point,” Brune wrote. “He can’t change the fact that clean energy sources are outcompeting dirty fuels like coal, gas, and nuclear power all over the country. He can’t change the fact that both the market and the climate movement are aligned to replace coal plants with clean energy — nearly 250 plants to date, with many more to come. Scientists, students, business leaders, and activists are moving this nation beyond dirty fuels to clean energy, and Donald Trump can’t reverse that tide.”

Taking credit for defeating 184 new coal plants proposed during the George W. Bush administration, Brune says it will work just as diligently in a Trump administration.

Brune also noted that “both public opinion and the market strongly favor clean energy over fossil fuels.”

“In fact, there is a consensus among Clinton supporters and Trump supporters that supporting clean energy jobs should be a priority — just look at the defeat of the anti-solar Amendment 1 in Florida for one example of bipartisan popular support for solar and wind,” Brune added.

As for the Paris agreement, Brune said it remains to be seen whether Trump can fulfill his promise to cancel it.

Defenders of Wildlife president Jamie Rappaport Clark released a statement last week, urging the Trump administration to “protect and sustain wildlife heritage” and “conserve the spectacular and diverse public lands, encourage private conservation of habitat and support habitat connectivity.”