President Trump traveled to Florida on Tuesday and pitched himself as a strong defender of the environment, despite his unprecedented moves to overturn regulations put in place to safeguard the country’s air, water and natural resources.
“Trump is the great environmentalist,” the president said of himself at a ceremony in Jupiter, where he signed an executive order to extend a ban on offshore oil drilling in three states. “And I am, I am. I believe strongly in it.”
Left unsaid at the ceremony for the executive order, which covers South Carolina, Florida and Georgia, is that it was Trump’s own proposal to allow drilling along the coasts of those states that sparked the backlash that led him to reconsider his initial plan.
In his remarks, Trump called himself “the No. 1 environmental president since Teddy Roosevelt,” citing his signing of the Great American Outdoors Act, which provided $1.9 billion for infrastructure improvements in the national parks.
But it was his administration that lopped off 2 million acres from two cherished wilderness areas in Utah, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.
In February, nine of the nation’s leading environmental groups issued a joint statement calling Trump the “worst president for our environment in our history.”
“Donald Trump’s administration has unleashed an unprecedented assault on our environment and the health of our communities. His policies threaten our climate, air, water, public lands, wildlife, and oceans; no amount of his greenwashing can change the simple fact: Donald Trump has been the worst president for our environment in history,” said the statement from Alaska Wilderness League Action, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, EDF Action, Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society.
That assessment stems from the fact that the Trump administration has sought to weaken or roll back roughly 100 environmental regulations since he became president.
President Trump at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum in Jupiter, Fla., on Tuesday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
A little over a week ago, the administration rolled back an Obama-era regulation that would have forced coal plants to upgrade how they treat wastewater so as to lower the amount of mercury and arsenic they release into rivers, streams and lakes.
Trump has reversed fuel efficiency standards, opened more land for oil drilling (including in national parks), weakened restrictions on methane emissions, eased rules on power plant emissions, watered down rules on air pollution at national parks, sought to repeal Obama-era clean water rules and proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act.
Perhaps the biggest impact that Trump’s presidency will have on the environment will be felt in regard to climate change, which the president has called a “hoax.” He has submitted his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and revoked an Obama executive order that laid out the goal of cutting federal greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in 10 years. Indeed, Trump has seemed to take special glee targeting regulations on greenhouse gases.
He has never acknowledged that climate change represents a problem for humanity, and he often portrays steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as impediments to economic growth, reserving special scorn for wind and solar power. In 2018, when presented with the findings of a report produced by his own government that showed that unchecked global warming would cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year, Trump responded, “I don’t believe it.”
Owing to the risk of catastrophic oil spills, offshore drilling is highly unpopular in coastal states. But Trump campaigned, and for the most part has governed, as an enthusiastic supporter of oil and gas drilling and fracking.
Obama administration is killing American industrial renaissance by stopping drilling and fracking. Terrible for economy.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2013
In fact, his opposition to fighting climate change has now become a central issue of his reelection campaign.
“To our political opponents, environmental policy is just an excuse to advance a socialist platform that will impose trillions and trillions of dollars in new taxes and send our jobs overseas, making it impossible to open up new companies and to live less expensively,” Trump said Tuesday.
But polls show that a growing number of Americans in recent years believe climate change is a serious problem, especially those who live near coastlines. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in June found that 63 percent of U.S. adults now see climate change as having affected their local community. For those living near a coastline, that figure jumps to 73 percent.
With those statistics in mind, climate activist groups like the League of Conservation Voters have been launching campaigns in states like Florida to highlight the president’s record on the environment. That might also explain why Trump traveled to Jupiter on Tuesday to sign an executive order designed to convince voters he is indeed a “great environmentalist.”
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