The Trump Watch: What Does the New Administration Portend for the Environment?

 Mark Latham and Rachel Oest

The results are in. Following one of the most contentious presidential campaigns in our history, the people have spoken—or at least the Electoral College has spoken. Hillary Clinton may have won the popular vote by over two million votes, but she lost the election. Try explaining that to your new Peruvian sister-in-law. According to our system, Donald Trump is now poised to serve as the forty-fifth President of the United States.

Within seconds of this “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment, environmentalists went to the airwaves, blogosphere, multitudinous list serves, and the mainstream media to ponder what the Trump Presidency will mean for the environment. We’ve peered into our crystal ball, admittedly the same crystal ball used by those at The New York Times for its prediction that Clinton had an almost 90 percent chance of winning the presidency, but nonetheless, here are our predictions regarding several of the policy decisions the Trump Administration will make on the most significant environmental issues we face.

1. What the Frack! Big Oil and Gas Take Over Washington

At a recent victory tour rally in West Allis, Wisconsin President-elect Trump succinctly stated his energy policy: “On energy we will cancel the restrictions on the destruction of American energy, including shale, natural gas and clean beautiful coal.”[1] The Donald has assembled a Fossil Fuel Dream Team to lead the charge to accomplish this key administration policy objective—the starting lineup: Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson; Secretary of the Department of Energy nominee, Governor Rick Perry; Administrator of the EPA nominee, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt; and, Secretary of the Department of Interior nominee, Rep. Ryan Zinke.[2]

Since these four will soon reside in powerful positions in Washington D.C., our investigative reporters followed the money to see just how close the nominees’ bonds are to Big Oil and Gas. It appears that Pruitt and Zinke received campaign contributions, respectively, of “only” $318,000 and $345,136 from the oil and gas industry.[3] Rick Perry’s bond appears a bit tighter having received in excess of $2.6 million from oil and gas interests to fuel his two failed presidential bids.[4]

Such paltry figures, though, amount to pocket change for the future Secretary of State. Big Oil and Gas can rest easy here—Tillerson is joined at the hip with the industry. As CEO of Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly-traded oil business, Tillerson’s 2016 compensation was $24.3 million. To most Americans this is a princely sum of money, but among the One Percenters is apparently a salary so low that it didn’t even crack the top twenty U.S. CEO salaries.[5] The Wall Street Journal reported that the Exxon board is considering whether to grant Mr. Tillerson stock options currently worth more than $175 million, which nicely supplements the 2.6 million shares of Exxon Mobil stock that he has amassed in his 41-year career with the company, along with his $69 million pension.[6]

The Trump Watch confidently predicts that Big Oil and Gas are about to receive an unimaginable return on their investments with the Fossil Fuel Dream Team. Assuming that Rick Perry can remember where his office is, this starting lineup is well poised to slam dunk the Obama Administration’s un-American energy policies.

2. “Damn, it’s Awfully Hot!” – So Long to The Federal Government’s Meddlesome Efforts to Combat Climate Change

Since so many scientists (and Professor Parenteau) believe that climate change is the single most important environmental issue humanity faces, we decided that the potential derailment, by The Donald, of the Obama Administration’s work in this area merited an early look into the crystal ball, despite the fact that the nomination of the Fossil Fuel Dream Team likely tells us all that we need to know. With only one brief peek, it is exceedingly clear that very little will remain of the federal efforts to address climate change once President Trump takes charge. The only fuzzy response in our globe of glass is whether Trump and his deeply Red Congress will kill the federal efforts to combat rising temperatures first, or the much-despised Obamacare?

According to Mr. Trump, the fact that each month is warmer than the same month the previous year has nothing to do with the adverse consequences associated with spewing obscene amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Instead our Denier-in-Chief has asserted that climate change is nothing but a monstrous plot by the Chinese to gain the upper hand in the global economy: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” (#(@realDonaldTrump, Nov. 6, 2012)[7] and “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.” (#(@realDonaldTrump, Jan. 2, 2014).[8] By the way, if anyone knows exactly what “our GW scientists” mean could you please let us know? We fear that in Trump-speak it may mean our “Great White” scientists but we would not want to unfairly jump to the conclusion that our President-elect is a racist.

Our prediction that with Trump comes the end of the federal government’s involvement on the climate front is further cemented when we consider that he selected a gentleman named Myron Ebell to lead his environmental transition team.[9] Profiled several years ago in Vanity Fair, Mr. Ebell was described as “Tall, slim, and youthful at 53, his blond hair swept back from a handsome face set off by serious glasses, Ebell is one of those rare breed, an elegant nerd.”[10] He sounds exactly like the kind of elegant nerd we would cast to guide the transition of an important federal agency from one chief executive to another.

Unfortunately for Planet Earth, Mr. Ebell is a well-known and unrepentant climate change denier. He was quoted in the Vanity Fair profile saying that “People prefer warmer climates. They do better in them. People do better in Phoenix than they do in Buffalo. They feel better, they’re happier, they’re more productive. They live longer.”[11] At least he is an optimist.

His selection to lead the environmental transition effort might be funny if the future of our planet were not at risk as a result of the incessant pumping of tens of gazillions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, with no end in sight. Coupled with the Fossil Fuel Dream Team Mr. Ebell’s appointment does not bode well for the serious, engaged and continued involvement of the U.S. in domestic or international efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Instead Mr. Ebell seems perfectly suited to eviscerate the efforts of the Obama Administration to reduce carbon emissions as part of the international cooperation to spare the globe from looming catastrophe.

For those concerned about the risks associated with climate change, we do have good news. Mr. Ebell does offer solace—unfortunately only to the Koch Brothers or to Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State nominee from Exxon Mobil. Ebell posed the question in Vanity Fair: “What is the risk of some of the consequences of global warming happening and having to deal with them compared to the risks of putting the world on an energy-rationing diet?”[12] Speaking of rationing, our crystal ball tells us that we should expect that the Republican Congress will put most, if not all, federal funding for climate science research on a starvation diet.

Closely related to the imposition of this climate change research starvation diet will be the efforts of the Trump Administration to root out all federal employees who have been involved in any aspect of climate change policy or research. Our sources tell us that the Attorney General nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, has already prepared a memorandum that provides the legal justifications for sending such employees to Guantanamo Bay as a threat to our national energy security.

If you still have a glimmer of hope that the federal government will continue to play a meaningful role and remain engaged in carbon reduction efforts under the Trump Administration, consider this: Mr. Ebell is employed at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in Washington, D.C. Consider these views expressed by Mr. Ebell’s colleague Iain Murray, CEI’s Vice President of Strategy, on climate change:

Alarm over the prospect of Earth’s warming is not warranted by the agreed science or economics of the issue. Global warming is happening, and humans are responsible for at least some of it. Yet this fact does not mean that global warming will cause enough damage to Earth and to humanity to require drastic cuts in energy use, a policy that would have damaging consequences of its own. Moreover, science cannot answer questions that are at heart economic or political, such as whether the Kyoto Protocol is worthwhile.[13]

To further understand CEI’s perspective on the federal government’s efforts to combat climate change, take a look at the organization’s Free to Prosper: A Pro Growth Agenda for the 114th Congress, published last year. In the chapter on climate change, the CEI calls for Congress to repeal or defund virtually every federal effort enacted by Obama to target climate change, ranging from the ability of the EPA to regulate CO2 as a pollutant at all to the Clean Power Plan, which has no chance of clemency before its swift execution at some point in 2017.[14] According to CEI, “The Clean Power Plan represents an EPA power grab over state electricity policies through an implausible interpretation of a minor provision in the Clean Air Act for a purpose that Congress never intended.”[15] Additionally, under attack is the carbon pollution standard rule. “If utilities want to build coal power plants they can, but it will bankrupt them.”[16]

Furthermore, the CEI notes in its Pro-Growth Agenda for the 114th Congress:

Climate change mitigation policies pose serious risks to U.S. prosperity, competitiveness, and living standards. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the inescapable byproduct of carbon energy use. Commercial technologies do not exist for removing CO2 emissions from vehicles, power plants, and factories. Consequently, mitigation policies would make carbon energy scarcer and more costly—and the more aggressive the policies, the larger the economic impacts.[17]

To curtail this danger to our economy, created by the Obama Administration’s misguided efforts to save the planet from overheating, as if it were a rabbit overdosed with gonadotropic hormones, the CEI also proposes in the Pro-Growth Agenda for the 114th Congress that it should “Amend the Clean Air Act to clarify that it never delegated to the EPA the authority to enact climate policies through the Act.”[18]

Finally, when it comes to appointing climate deniers to key posts, our new President is certainly consistent. His nominees for Attorney General, CIA Director, and National Security Advisor, respectively, Senator Jeff Sessions, Representative Mike Pompeo and retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, are all, according to reports, climate deniers, and stand ready at the call of Coach Trump to sub for the Fossil Fuel Dream Team.[19] This proves what Jay Leno purportedly once said about climate change: “According to a survey in this week’s Time magazine, 85% of Americans think global warming is happening. The other 15% work for the White House.”[20]

It is for all the above reasons that our crystal ball predicts that by 2019 Bill McKibben will change the name of his climate organization from 350.Org to “It’s Hot as Hell on Earth.Org.”

3. No April in Paris

An important aspect of the U.S. effort to combat climate change involves cooperating with other countries (even France). Climate change is, after all, a global problem requiring international cooperation to develop effective solutions. NBC News reported in September 2016 that “President Barack Obama capped his environmental legacy and foreign policy pivot to Asia by formally ratifying the Paris climate deal on Saturday in a ceremony in Hangzhou, China.”[21] Let’s hope that this particular cap hasn’t become the president’s favorite hat because he’s not going to wear it much longer. Like a grade school bully, Trump is about to slap it off his head.

With our new Chief Executive in the Oval Office we can expect a swift end to global cooperation by the U.S. on the climate front. During a campaign stop in North Dakota, Mr. Trump made his views known about the international climate agreement reached by 195 countries in 2015 in Paris:

President Obama entered the United States into the Paris Climate Accords – unilaterally, and without the permission of Congress. This agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use right here in America. We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop–unbelievable—and stop all payments of the United States tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.[22]

Here, too, Mr. Ebell is likely to exert significant influence. Writing about the Paris Accord, Mr. Ebell contends that:

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, and their legal allies in environmental pressure groups may quibble all they want that, although it may be considered a treaty by the United Nations and the entire international community, it’s still just a piece of paper that doesn’t rise to the level of a treaty requiring ratification by the Senate; but they cannot hide the reality that it is a treaty and according to the U.S. Constitution cannot go into force in the U.S. until it has been ratified by the U.S. Senate.[23]

Mr. Ebell concludes by further asserting that without approval of the Senate the Paris Accord is non-binding on the United States:

President Obama and his minions will pretend that the Paris Agreement is not really what the Constitution means when it states in Article 2, Section 2 that, “The President…shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur….” It is now up to the Senate to decide whether to fulfill those responsibilities that the U. S. Constitution requires of it.[24]

Of course, the Paris Accord stands roughly the same chance of succeeding through the Senate as does Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court: zip, zero, nada, or as Trump’s good friend Vladimir Putin would say “Nyet!”

Moreover, our dear leader-in-waiting, the master of the deal, is looking to “negotiate” a quick exit from the Paris climate deal.

According to Reuters, a source in the Trump transition team said the victorious Republican, who has called global warming a hoax, was considering ways to bypass a theoretical four-year procedure for leaving the accord. ‘It was reckless for the Paris agreement to enter into force before the election,’ said the source, who works on Trump’s transition team for international energy and climate policy, speaking on condition of anonymity.[25]

Could President Trump pull off this feat of a unilateral exit from the Paris Accord? Well, the answer appears to be yes. First, he could yank the U.S. out of the agreement that underlies the Paris Accord. That is, President Trump could have the U.S. pull out of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which requires only a year’s notice to do so.[26] Second, he could tell the parties to the Paris Accord that the U.S. is out, which purportedly involves a four-year process.[27] (Of course, the impetuous Trump could immediately give the middle finger salute to either agreement, and it’s not clear that anyone could then do too much about the premature U.S. withdrawal.) Or third, he could simply direct what is left of the EPA not to implement or enforce any of the emissions targets that were made when the U.S. entered the Paris Accord.[28] Viola – done!

Thus the Paris Accord looks like it will face the same fate as the Kyoto Protocol did during President George W. Bush’s Reign of Error. Supposedly, shortly after the election, President-elect Trump suggested to Secretary of State Kerry that the U.S. delegates that attended the international climate discussions in Marrakech pack their bags and head back home.

Oh well. First Lady Melanie Trump and Ivanka Trump will likely go to Paris at some point during President Trump’s first term to attend the festivities surrounding a Fashion Week or two. But the ongoing U.S. involvement in the international climate change framework established in Paris will feel no love once The Donald has the keys to the White House.

4. Keystone XL Pipeline Redux

Jim Hansen described the Keystone XL Pipeline as the “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet,”[29] and our crystal ball tells us President-elect Trump is highly likely to set it alight. “If I am elected President I will immediately approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. No impact on environment & lots of jobs for U.S.,” so tweeted Mr. Trump on August 18, 2015. (#@realDonaldTrump).[30]

Indeed milliseconds after the surprise election results were reported, plans were already in the works to have President Trump revisit the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will transport crude oil from Canadian tar sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. According to one report “TransCanada Corp. says it’s evaluating ways to engage the newly elected Donald Trump administration on the potential benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline,”[31] which President Barack Obama refused to approve. Perhaps environmentalists can tie up the project in the courts until President Trump, in a fit of pique, replaces the entire federal judiciary with a Trump Court. But there is little likelihood that he will change course on his promise to reverse President Obama’s no-go decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Oh, and did we mention that Rick Perry, the nominee for the Secretary of the Department of Energy, serves on the board of directors for Energy Transfer Partners? “Who in Hades is that,” you may ask? It just so happens that Energy Transfer Partners is the entity that was denied the permit to complete the highly publicized and controversial Dakota Access pipeline.[32] Thus the prospects for this pipeline project are looking up too—well at least for Big Oil and Gas.

5. Good Bye to the EPA as We Know It?

According to the assessment of General Electric’s legendary, former CEO Jack Welch, “We have been stuck in a terrible, over-regulated economy for eight years.”[33] Well, Mr. Welch, not for too much longer. Our gaze into the crystal ball quickly and confidently told us all that we need to know about President-elect Trump’s views about the federal agency tasked with protecting the environment: he hates it. “Environmental protection, what they do is a disgrace; every week they come out with new regulations.”[34] Just so that we are clear here about how he feels, Mr. Trump promised to “get rid of [EPA] in almost every form. We are going to have little tidbits left but we are going to take a tremendous amount out.”[35] Mr. Trump has not only appointed the previously mentioned Myron Ebell to oversee the Trump environmental transition team, but Mr. Ebell brought forward Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as the next EPA Administrator.[36] Mr. Trump really does have a brass set!

Mr. Pruitt is, on the one hand, a curious choice to lead the EPA. He has generally viewed the agency, shall we say, in negative terms and his only relationship to it is that he likes to name it as a defendant. If you take our President-elect at his word, however, then Pruitt is the perfect choice. He will undoubtedly be tasked with dismantling large swatches of the agency’s regulations that were promulgated to not only reduce carbon emissions but promote clean air and clean water, as well as prevent another Love Canal.

President Trump’s efforts to pare back the reach of the EPA will find abundant support within the Republican-controlled Congress. Rand Paul, one of the Republicans vanquished by Trump on his way to the White House recently told CNBC that “You’re going to find that we are going to repeal a half dozen or more regulations in the first week of Congress. . . .And I’m excited about it because I think the regulations have been killing our jobs and making us less competitive with the world.”[37] Well, on the bright side it’s about time the members of Congress did something besides raise gobs of money for the next campaign.

If you too are interested in putting an end to the EPA and assisting in the destruction of the planet, the good news is that the Trump Administration is hiring! But there are a few things that you should keep in mind as you polish off your resume and write that cover letter:

Service in the Trump-Pence Administration will be service to our Nation and thus a high honor, which demands both sacrifice and dedication. There are many factors to consider: The time commitment is significant and the pace is fast and appointments and jobs of the Trump-Pence Administration are demanding, and the application process is rigorous.[38]

For those of you who are contemplating the pursuit of an EPA appointment in the Trump Administration, please keep in mind, nothing in the transition plan speaks to exactly how the President-elect will reduce the EPA to “tidbits.” Our crystal ball, however, says that there is a chance the EPA headquarters could land on the list of potential targets for the very first drone strike ordered by the new Commander-in-Chief.

6. Regulatory “Deform”

For a flavor of what’s in store for environmental regulation under the Trumpster’s regulatory deform proposal, which is one of his top priorities, our crystal ball steered us to his online transition plan:

Regulatory reform is cornerstone of the Trump Administration, and the effort will include a temporary moratorium on all new regulation, canceling overarching executive orders and a thorough review to identify and eliminate unnecessary regulations that kill jobs and bloat government.[39]

Faced with a hostile Congress, the Obama Administration developed measures to reduce carbon emissions through the creative use of Executive Orders. The Obama Administration also used the Clean Air Act to develop measures like the Clean Power Plan, which calls for the states to put in place regulatory mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.[40] However, the Clean Power Plan is currently tied up in the D.C. Circuit, thanks to the efforts of industry challengers and states’ rights minded attorney generals, like Scott Pruitt.

Environmental law scholars have, nevertheless, devoted tens of thousands of pages of law review articles to debate the plan’s legality by parsing sections 111(d) and 112 of the Clean Air Act. Armies of research assistants have poured over millions of microfiche pages of Clean Air Act legislative history, mostly discussing when the congressional staffers might break for lunch. These environmental academics, nonetheless, hope their work guides the D.C. Circuit judges to conclude that the statutory interpretation efforts of the EPA were not too clever for its own good.

Alas, according to our crystal ball, it tells us that the odds are high that we’ll never know whose interpretation of the Clean Air Act is correct. In the Trump Administration, the key regulatory ammunition of the Obama Administration’s “war on coal,” the Clean Power Plan, now has the same shelf life as “fresh” gas station sushi. The Trump Transition Plan website pledges that it, too, shall quickly fall victim to the new administration’s regulatory deform efforts:

We will end the war on coal, and rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration. We will eliminate the highly invasive “Waters of the US” rule, and scrap the $5 trillion Obama-Clinton Climate Action Plan and the Clean Power Plan and prevent these unilateral plans from increasing monthly electric bills by double-digits without any measurable effect on Earth’s climate.[41]

And before we forget, what about the “Waters of the United States” rule that was promulgated by the EPA in a heroic attempt to clarify Clean Water Act jurisdiction after the Supreme Court’s nonsensical decision in Rapanos v. U.S.? Well, not only is the rule well-ensconced in the bowels of the federal building home to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, we further regret to inform you that, as noted above, this rule too is highly likely to suffer mortal wounds in the upcoming regulatory deform wars.

But we need not fear for adverse environmental impacts that the highly expected regulatory rollback might cause. “The Trump Administration is firmly committed to conserving our wonderful natural resources and beautiful natural habitats,”[42] so long as you don’t mind open pit mines, oil rigs, and methane flares as far as the eye can see.

This cloud, too, has a silver lining. The Trump regulatory reform movement should be welcome news for law students laboring to understand the Chevron two-step do-si-do and its progeny. President Trump is not a lawyer but he will nonetheless leave his mark on Administrative Law with the “workers test” that federal courts across the land will soon employ to evaluate the legitimacy of federal administrative agency regulatory actions: “Any future regulation will go through a simple test: is this regulation good for the American worker? If it doesn’t pass this test, the rule will not be approved.”[43]

To further ease the despair that you may now feel about this massive environmental regulatory rollback, please understand that you’re not alone. Hordes of K Street lobbyists are apoplectic at the thought of Trump’s proposed regulatory reform, as well as pro-business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The expected wholesale destruction of the federal regulatory regime presents an existential crisis for the K Street crowd and pro-business organizations. That is, who will now pay their exorbitant hourly fees and membership dues, and what purposes will they serve, after business gets everything it needs to pillage and plunder the earth’s resources anywhere and anytime?

7. Drill Baby, Drill!

Forget any further federal emphasis by the Trump Administration on increasing renewable sources of energy through new policies, research efforts or otherwise. It is the express view of our Denier-in-Chief and his transition energy team that the notion of renewable sources of energy is a foolish idea foisted upon a gullible public by tree-hugging, book-reading, Chardonnay-sipping, Prius-driving, vegan lefties, many of whom attended the University of California at Berkeley and now live in either Portland, Oregon or in Vermont communes. To make matters worse, many of these cultural elites vacation in such God-forsaken places such as Provence or Brooklyn. Then to further compound this foolish error in federal energy policy, minions of pointed-headed federal government bureaucrats, with no business experience—most of whom attended the likes of Harvard and other insular Ivy League institutions—were then emboldened by President Obama to try and actually implement a renewable energy policy. Thankfully the Trump Administration will pull back the U.S. from the brink of this misguided policy nonsense before true disaster strikes:

There has been a big push to develop alternative forms of energy—so-called green energy—from renewable sources. That’s a big mistake. To begin with, the whole push for renewable energy is being driven by the wrong motivation, the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions. If you don’t buy that—and I don’t—then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves.

The most popular source of green energy is solar as several decades after installing solar panels to get your money back. That’s not exactly what I would call a good investment. Even if that number is only half right, what kind of investment do you want to make that takes 20 years before you break even.[44]

As expected by an administration led by a Chief Executive who rejects the scientific consensus that the combustion of fossil fuels is harming the planet, the U.S. is poised to enter yet another “Drill Baby, Drill” phase. With his Fossil Fuel Dream Team in place President-elect Trump’s transition plan for energy is unrepentant in its zeal to provide fast, open access to federal lands for Big Oil and Gas:

America possesses more combined coal, oil, and natural gas resources than any other nation on Earth. These resources represent trillions of dollars in economic output and countless American jobs, particularly for the poorest Americans.

Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America’s fossil fuel producers, the Trump Administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters. We will streamline the permitting process for all energy projects, including the billions of dollars in projects held up by President Obama, and rescind the job-destroying executive actions under his Administration.[45]

As further evidence that the environmental and energy regulatory path that we were headed down during the Obama Administration is about to take a dramatic shift to the right, let’s consider Rep. Zinke who has been tapped to head the Department of the Interior (DOI). The problem that we discovered, though, is that no one seems to know anything about Zinke beyond the fact that he was a Navy Seal. According to a VLS/Trump Watch poll 74.4 percent of Montana residents who voted for Zinke have no idea who he is, where he’s from, or what he’s done beyond his service to our country. The DOI is, nonetheless, under his leadership widely expected to throw open federal lands to increased oil and gas exploration and production, as well as mining. Perhaps fracking on federal lands will occur too!

Unfortunately, we are disappointed in his nomination because our favorite to lead DOI was Sarah Palin.[46] We looked forward to see Secretary Palin ink deals to allow for fracking in Yosemite, mining in the Badlands, and, at long last , oil exploration and production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Sadly, without Governor Palin leading the DOI, we will miss out on frequent appearances by Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live.

8. Environmental Justice

“It used to be, cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now, the cars are made in Mexico and you cannot drink the water in Flint. That’s not good.”[47]

Trump does make a valid point about the awful situation in Flint, Michigan. The state-appointed city managers decided to pinch pennies by providing water that was so corrosive, even GM said “No, thanks.” Once exposed to this corrosive brew, the pipes in the aged and outdated municipal water system leached lead into the water that was foisted upon the residents as a money saver. The largely African American population of Flint became subject to this poisonous water and almost immediately reported health concerns. Lead is perfectly fine for some things, bullets and car batteries come to mind, but certainly not the central nervous system of children. Their developing neurons don’t do particularly well when bathed in lead. Nasty side effects such as severe brain damage and even death can result.

Perhaps our President-elect forgot this little factoid in his zeal to reduce the EPA to “tidbits” and the nomination of Pruitt to lead the destruction of the EPA, but it is this federal agency that is tasked with regulating public water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Act authorizes the EPA to ensure our water is safe to consume, wash and cook with without the fear that it may be hazardous to our health.

One of President Trump’s senior advisors should remind him that if he and Scott Pruitt do indeed have their way with the EPA, the ten or eleven employees who will remain at the agency will have a pretty short bench when it comes to protecting our nation’s public water supplies, in addition to implementing the congressional commands of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and so forth.

Oh! Now we get it…that’s the whole point of regulatory deform! Or is this a scam to sell Trump Water across the nation as more and more public and private drinking water sources are fouled by the fracking that will soon take place far and wide across the country? Without a capable EPA, environmental justice will be a thing in the past.

9. Further Woes for the Environment: Steve Bannon and Breitbart News

It is no surprise that, as widely expected, Mr. Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, was appointed as Chief White House Strategist and Senior Advisor to the President-elect.[48] For you cultural elites who obtain your news from the likes of Rachel Maddow, The New York Times, and NPR, let us introduce you to the preferred news source of the “alt-right,” which is a nice way of saying the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nation, Posse Comitatus and every other white supremacist group in America. Breitbart News, for the uninformed, makes the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal and Sean Hannity of Fox News look like the stuff that the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party would read or watch. To further enlighten you, here are a few Breitbart News headlines that have accompanied some of the finest examples of American journalism:

The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ is Simple: Women Should Log Off’

Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew

Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy

Hoist it High and Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage

Gay Rights Have Made us Dumber, It’s Time to Get Back in the Closet

Gaby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield[49]

Perhaps it is because of such headlines and stories that, “Critics, including some conservatives formerly associated with it, have denounced Breitbart in its current incarnation as a hate site steeped in misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, white nationalism and anti-Semitism.”[50]

Now since you’re wondering, here’s the relevance for the environmental policies of the Trump Administration: Bannon’s former employer, Breitbart News, also reports on science! Yes, including climate change. Anyone with a real science background may think that Breitbart News gets its take on science from interviews with members of the Flat Earth Society. That would be false. Our sources tell us that every week the Breitbart editorial board has séances where it channels the members of the Roman Inquisition, who they believe rightfully convicted Galileo for spreading the blasphemous falsehood that the sun was actually larger than the earth and then to further compound the sin of his heresy claimed that the earth revolved around the sun.

To give you a flavor of the quality of its science reporting, here’s a lengthy bit from a recent article it published about climate change titled Trump’s War on the Green Blob Will Make (Almost) All of Us Richer, Happier, and Freer:

“Make no mistake, the Donald Trump presidency represents the biggest blow yet to the Great Global Warming Swindle. Climategate was merely an amuse-gueule. This is the main event because it won’t just involve cross words in the blogosphere but actual deeds.

Specifically, those deeds will involve the U.S. withdrawal from the (albeit toothless and meaningless) COP21 climate agreement (aka “Clexit”); the effective dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency by the able and sensible Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute; and also, I would suspect, much laxer federal regulations on matters like fracking, oil pipelines, and fossil fuels generally, as well as an end to the massive subsidies paid to renewables such as the bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes which the President-Elect is so right to hate.

For the Greenies, all this must feel like Armageddon come early. . . .

I really don’t think it’s possible to exaggerate just what a world of pain is coming to the [G]reenies thanks to Donald J. Trump. . . .”[51]

From that same article, here’s why we at The Trump Watch are convinced that Breitbart News does indeed believe that the sun orbits the earth:

“Those of us on the skeptical side of the climate argument have two massive points in our favour.

One is that we’re right – all the facts are on our side (The establishment elite just haven’t caught up with this yet.)

And the other thing is that the tide of history is on our side. We’ve finally got our man in the White House; the field is ours.”[52]

It may be correct that they’ve finally got their man in the White House, but “all the facts” about climate change are on the side of the climate deniers? With our limited budget The Trump Watch doesn’t have, say, an astrophysicist on staff, but we did fact check Mr. Delingpole’s assertion with Professor Michael Dworkin, who’s kind of really smart, and he said “Huh? Anyone who would say that must also believe that the sun orbits the earth.” So we are compelled to rate the assertion that all the facts about climate change are on the side of the skeptics as “liar, liar pants on fire.”

What a combination of presidential advisors–Ebell and Pruitt leading the charge to destroy the EPA, alongside the Fossil Fuel Dream Team, with the full support of Bannon and his rag, the mouth piece of lunacy, Breitbart News.

Now What?

We’re so sorry that this is such a downer, particularly around the holidays, but that concludes, for now, our predictions about the likely impact the election of Donald J. Trump will have on the direction of U.S. environmental policy. The Trump Watch realizes that this is a sobering assessment of what we expect is in store for the environment from our new President.

The U.S., and indeed the world, face a number of pressing environmental issues, most notably climate change, but other threats to the environment remain, including contaminated drinking water, air pollution, and ancient wastewater treatment systems. If you believe that it is a crucial mistake for the U.S. to refocus its environmental and energy policies back toward the extraction and combustion of as much carbon as possible, and accelerate humanity’s journey to the unknown world of rising seas and increasing temperatures, what can you do?

Well, we offer the following suggestions for coping just in case the stuff really hits the fan. If it appears that the Trump Administration will succeed in its efforts to accelerate the destruction of the planet as we know it: 1) invest in a couple of cases of pretty good scotch–14 year old Oban is what the medical staff here at The Trump Watch regularly prescribe to our writers to combat deadline anxiety and 2) you just might consider moving to one of the states that has legalized recreational pot.

With the Trumpster and his minions firmly in charge of all three branches of the federal government: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Senate, the House, and the judiciary, as its final prediction our crystal ball tells us that we all will likely need to alter our mental status from time-to-time in order to get through the next four years.

[1] Juliet Eilperin, Steven Mufson and Philip Rucker, The Oil and Gas Industry Is Quickly Amassing Power in Trump’s Washington, The Washington Post (December 14, 2016),

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Top 200 2016 CEO Salaries, The New York Times, (last visited Dec. 18, 2016).

[6] Bradley Olson and Liz Hoffman, Exxon faces dilemma on Rex Tillerson’s Pay, The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 14, 2016)

[7] Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (Nov. 6, 2012, 11:15 AM),

[8] Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (Jan. 1, 2014, 4:39 PM),

[9] Brady Dennis, Trump taps climate-change skeptic to oversee EPA transition, Washington Post (Nov. 11, 2016),

[10] Michael Shnayerson, A Convenient Untruth, Vanity Fair (May, 2007).

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Iain Murray, An Issue of Science and Economics, Competitive Enterprise Institute (Nov. 19, 2010),

[14] Climate Change, Competitive Enterprise Institute, (last visited, Nov. 21, 2016).

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Stephanie Gaskell, President Donald Trump’s Cabinet: Here’s Every Member of His White House Team So Far, Policy.Mic (Nov. 18, 2016),

[20] Daniel Kurtzman, Global warming jokes, funny late night jokes about climatecchange and global warming, About Entertainment (Nov. 30, 2016),

[21] Kristin Donnelly, Obama Caps Environmental Legacy with Paris Climate Change Deal, NBC News (Sept. 3, 2016)

[22] Avaneesh Pandy, Donald Trump Wants to ‘Cancel’ the Paris Climate Deal—Here’s How He Could Do It, Int’l Bus. Times (Nov. 9, 2016)

[23] Myron Ebell, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat Announces Steps for Signing and Ratifying the Paris Climate Treaty. The Next Step is Up To the Senate., Global (Jan. 29, 2016),

[24] Id.

[25] Trump Seeking Quickest Way to Quit Paris Climate Agreement, Says Report, The Guardian (Nov. 13, 2016),

[26] Pandy, supra note 14.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] Elizabeth McGowan, NASA’s Hansen Explains Decision to Join Keystone Pipeline Protests, Inside Climate News (Aug. 29, 2011),

[30] Donald Trump, (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter, (Aug. 18, 2015, 1:39 PM),

[31] Brent Patterson, Trump & Trudeau Support for KXL Likely to Renew Pipeline Fight, Council of Canadians (Nov. 9, 2016),

[32] Eilperin, supra note 1.

[33] John W. Schoen, Regulation Buster Trump Takes Aim At the EPA, CNBC (Nov. 10, 2016),

[34] Id.

[35] Jeremy Symons, Meet Trump’s Pick to Dismantle EPA, Huffington Post (Nov. 13, 2016),

[36] Henry Fountain, Trump’s Climate Contrarian: Myron Ebell Takes On the EPA, New York Times (Nov. 11, 2016),

[37] Schoen, supra note 24.

[38] Serve America: President-Elect Donald J Trump, The Presidential Transition,

[39] Regulatory Reform: President-Elect Donald J. Trump, The Presidential Transition,

[40] Press Release, Office of the Press Secretary, Fact Sheet: President Obama to Announce Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants (Aug. 3, 2015) (on file with The White House).

[41] Energy Independence: President-Elect Donald J. Trump, The Presidential Transition,

[42] Id.

[43] Press Release, Trump Pence Make Donald Trump Again 2016, An America First Energy Plan, (May 26, 2016) (on file with Trump Campaign).

[44] Donald Trump, Crippled America, 65 (Nov. 3, 2015),

[45] Energy Independence: President-Elect Donald J. Trump, The Presidential Transition,

[46] Kate Sheppard and Alexander C. Kaufman, Donald Trump’s Pick for Interior Secretary Could Do A Lot of Damage: Especially When Sarah “Drill, Baby, Drill” Palin is On the Short List, Huffington Post (Nov. 14, 2016),

[47] Kathleen Gray and Katrease Stafford, Trump’s Remarks in Flint Cut Short By Pastor, Protesters, Detroit Free Press (Sept. 15, 2016),

[48] Jill Disis, 10 of Breitbart’s Most Incendiary Headlines, CNN (Nov. 15, 2016),

[49] Id.

[50] Daniel Victor and Liam Stack, Stephen Bannon and Breitbart News, in Their Words, New York Times (Nov. 14, 2016),

[51] James Delingpole, Trump’s War on the Green Blob Will Make (Almost) All of Us Richer, Happier, and Freer, Breitbart News (Nov. 14, 2016),

[52] Id.

Mark Latham, Professor of law at Vermont Law School, and Rachel Oest, member of Vermont Law School’s Class of 2018.

Vermont Law School does not endorse or oppose any particular view or position on this matter. This blog should not be construed as the school’s endorsement of or, opposition, to any particular view on this subject.