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Trumping the Environment

Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump was elected, the environment is going to suffer.

Both have supported horizontal fracking, the destruction of the earth to extract oil and gas. The use of fracking is so harmful to the environment and public health that numerous banks refuse to lend funds to individuals who wish to build or sell their houses near drilling operations. Numerous lenders have also refused to loan money to corporations that wish to drill.

Hillary Clinton, while secretary of state, promoted the use of natural gas within foreign countries. In 2010, she told a meeting of foreign ministers, “Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel available for power generation today.” One reason for the Obama/Clinton push for natural gas exploration and distribution in overseas countries is because geopolitics plays “a significant role in whether a number of gas projects are realized and come online and where pipelines are built. . . . Individual country decisions about natural gas resources can have dramatic impacts on responses in international discourse,” according to a research analysis published by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Amy Myers Jaffe and Dr. Meghan L. O’Sullivan, co-editors of the study, also pointed out, “The relative fortunes of the United States, Russia and China—and their ability to exert influence in the world—are tied in no small measure to global gas developments and vice versa.”

In Romania, the Social–Democrats came to power in 2012 on a promise to ban shale gas drilling. However, following extensive lobbying by Clinton, the Romanian parliament voted against a proposed fracking moratorium. Thousands of Romanians, many of them farmers, later protested Chevron’s 30-year lease with the government  to resume drilling. The protests in Summer 2013 led the government to send in the national police to suppress the citizens’ rights of assembly and freedom of expression.

Clinton does support stronger environmental laws and an increase in the budget for drinking and wastewater systems, and several other environmental measures, and now believes in a moratorium on fracking on federal land in the U.S. She still believes natural gas is a “bridge fuel” to cleaner energy.

Trump wants to make desalination of ocean water more affordable and has presented some environmentally-friendly proposals, but his overall environmental policy diminishes in comparison to that of Clinton and most environmentalists. The incoming president’s environment record is “one of the most stridently anti-environment platforms of any recent major party nominee,” according to the 2.4 million member Natural Resources Development Council.

The incoming president says he would approve the last segments of the 1,959 mile Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada is an Alberta-based corporation that is building the controversial pipeline that will carry bitumen—thicker, more corrosive and toxic than crude oil—through 36-inch diameter pipes from Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, almost all of it to be exported. The northern leg of the $7 billion pipeline was held up until President Obama either succumbed to corporate and business pressures or blocked the construction because of environmental and health issues. There will be only a couple of dozen permanent jobs for U.S. citizens if the pipeline is completed, and the President vetoed legislation from the Republican Congress to accelerate construction.

The pipeline would add about 240 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, according to Environment America. To complete the pipeline, the Canadian corporation used the right of eminent domain, which allows government to seize private property and pay a fair market share to the owner if it is in the public good, including building highways and bridges. The pipeline primarily benefits a foreign nation and a private corporation, does not benefit American workers, and has already caused significant disruption of the environment and animal biodiversity. Trump claims eminent domain is necessary but erroneously says that it’s because the government is paying as much as ten times the value of the property. He supports private industry being able to dictate the seizure of land.

Trump announced he would rescind the Clean Power Plan and end a moratorium on leasing federal coal reserves to private enterprise. Thousands of signs—“Trump Digs Coal”—began appearing during the final two months of Trump’s march to the presidency. He claims that digging for coal will preserve jobs and is a source of energy. However, jobs in the renewable energy industry now exceed those in the fossil fuel industry, and coal miners can become renewable energy technicians. Numerous scientists have determined that mining and burning coal has been a contributing factor in the expansive hole in the earth’s ozone layers that protect the planet from deadly ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Trump claims wind farms and solar energy are unproven, although dozens of large scale operations have been developed over the past decade, with Iowa producing 20 percent of its energy needs solely from renewable energy, and other states escalating their renewable programs. He claims renewable energy is “very expensive,” but neglects facts that reveal renewable energy costs are now matching those of fossil fuel costs, and are continuing to plunge.

Trump opposes increased environmental regulation and fracking, and believes the Dakota Pipeline, which is currently being protested by Native Americans, is necessary. Unlike 97 percent of climate scientists who believe climate change is the result of humans using fossil fuels, Trump believes climate change is a hoax “created by and for the Chinese,” and that the numbers fluctuate. Anthony Scaramucci, one of his senior advisors, in June declared climate change to be “irrefutable [and] tragic that some people think it’s a hoax,” but during this past week after being appointed to the transition team said he didn’t know if climate change is occurring.

He wants to significantly cut back the Environmental Protection Agency. His choice to be EPA director, Scott Pruitt, opposes the EPA, has sued the EPA numerous times, believes global warming is a hoax,  disregards the finding of environmentalists and other scientists of a connection between fracking and water pollution, fracking and air pollution, and fracking and earthquakes.

Trump’s choice of secretary of state is Rex Tillerson, multi-millionaire CEO of ExxonMobil, who believes in risk management practices that allow fracking and other dangerous oil/gas extraction to proceed if they are economical and don’t exceed projected pay-out costs for damage to the environment and for health care as a result of drilling. This is the same Rex Tillerson who protested a proposed 160-foot water tower that would be used for fracking operations. The reason why Tillerson opposed the tower was because it was near his home and, he says, would have obstructed his view. He has no problems with ten-story rigs, and noise and light pollution affecting residents by ExxonMobil carving up the environment, often using eminent domain as a way to bisect private property and public forests to open up drilling.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost the Democratic nomination to Clinton, and Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee, want a moratorium placed on fracking and stricter enforcement of current regulation to preserve federal lands and to protect private property and owner rights. They and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson were the most environmentally-aware candidates for the presidency.

Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee, campaigned to assure “strict accountability, not government agency and arbitrary standards, should regulate pollution.” He opposes governments, which he calls “the biggest polluters of the environment” and corporations, which embed government fines within increased costs to the consumer. Companies, said Johnson, don’t have the incentives “to be stewards of the environment [and] instead are able to stagnate as long as profits are protected by limited liability laws.”

Nevertheless, the protection that Sanders, Stein, and Johnson would have given to protect the environment will be subverted by policies preached by President Trump.

More articles by:

Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an analysis of the history, economics, and politics of fracking, as well as its environmental and health effects.

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