Developments in Environmental Policy Under the Trump Administration

Donald J. Trump has been in office for 231 days. These days have been filled with Twitter fights, awkward handshakes, failed bills, and 43 executive orders. One executive order was Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement, an international commitment to take steps to reduce climate change. In doing so, the United States became one of only three countries to oppose the act. The executive decision initially garnered substantial news coverage; however, due to the short attention span of today’s 24-hour news cycle, the environmental coverage soon disappeared in light of other polarizing governmental actions. Given this constant shift in the attention of the news media and the government itself, it is not clear what the environmental policy of the Trump Administration even entails.

During his campaign, Donald Trump often characterized environmental policy as an impediment to business. His administration estimates that US coal and oil reserves could be worth as much a $50 trillion. This sentiment and belief is shared by Trump’s choices for key environmental cabinet appointments. He appointed Rick Perry, former Texas Governor and an oil and gas executive, to the position of Secretary of Energy. Trump’s pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, is a climate change denier. And finally, Congressman Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Interior, is an advocate for mining on federal lands. These appointments have allowed—or, perhaps more accurately, encouraged and convinced—Trump to implement regressive environmental policies.

Photo courtesy of the Catalyst Archives

One of the Trump Administration’s first actions in office was the America First Energy Plan. The plan makes no mention of renewable resources and has a heavy emphasis on coal despite reports by the Natural Resources Defense Council showing that coal consumption has declined by 20 percent over the past decade. This is due in large part to growth in the natural gas and renewable energy sectors.

In an effort to cut government spending, the Trump Administration has also proposed budget cuts to multiple environmental programs. In March, the administration announced plans to cut the EPA budget by 31 percent. In May, Congress approved the budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, cutting the entire budget by only 1 percent. However, Republicans said cuts in the 2018-2019 fiscal year will be much larger. Trump’s 2018 budget proposal also cuts the Department of Interior funding by $1.5 billion.

In order to combat these sweeping changes, many politicians are simply not following the environmental policy of the commander-in-chief. After the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Hawaii independently committed itself to goals outlined in the agreement. Shortly thereafter, California, New York, and Washington formed the United States Climate Alliance to continue to support the climate accord. The alliance has grown to include 10 more states, and it has the support of multiple mayors and businesses. On the local level, individuals have continued to show their support for organizations that take measures to reduce our environmental impact.

Here at Colorado College, in a community of outdoor and environmental enthusiasts, it is important that we show our commitment to reduce climate change. Register your room as green-certified, be sure to dispose of waste properly, and ride your bike or walk to downtown destinations. More broadly, volunteer for organizations that help protect the spaces you know and love, such as the Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Pikes Peak Climber Alliance. Go to the State of the Rockies lectures to educate yourself about environmental issues, and write to your local and state government with your concerns. It is only through both individual and communal commitment that we may effect change despite the Trump Administration’s regressive environmental actions.

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