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Appetite for Destruction: Trump’s War on the Environment

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Photo by Bureau of Land Manageme | CC BY 2.0

From the senseless slaughter in Las Vegas to the horrific impacts of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, to Trump’s boisterous threats against North Korea and unfolding strife within the White House — it’s easy to get lost in the world’s madness and the nefarious mind of Prez Trump. It’s a dangerous vortex, no doubt, but Trump’s twitter storm and paper towel tossing photo ops are little more than a distraction from his administration’s unfettered assault on the environment.

This past week, Team Trump quietly denied protection for 25 species that are on the verge of extinction, including the Pacific walrus and black-backed woodpecker. The reason, of course, is that science doesn’t mean jack shit to the corporate barons ruling our government.

“Denying protection for these 25 species despite the imminent threat of climate change and ongoing habitat destruction is typical of the Trump administration’s head-in-the-sand approach,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

This is only Trump’s latest violation of our country’s endangered species. In June, Trump stripped protections for Yellowstone’s imperiled grizzly bear.

Under the noses of the environmental community, as Steve Horn and I recently reported, the Trump admin is also moving forward with new regulations that would allow certain liquid natural gas (LNG) exports in the US to skirt environmental reviews, a literal wet dream of America’s fracking empire. In many cases, Trump’s war on the environment and appetite for fossil fuels is shared by the so-called opposition in the Washington. The push for expediting LNG exports, for example, is largely spearheaded by former Clinton campaign employees.

Then there’s Trump’s overt destruction of the EPA, typically the last stopgap against environmental plunder. Indeed, Trump’s defanging the EPA is one campaign promise he’s managed to uphold. The EPA employs a mere 14,000 people, but Trump is doing his best to shrink that number substantially. Not only is there a current hiring freeze in place, it was reported last June that the EPA was planning to offer buyouts to more than 1,200 employees. Buyout is short for forced retirement. In September a wave of these forced retirements swept the EPA and at least 362 employees accepted Trump’s buyout last month.  The EPA hasn’t been this small and impotent since the Reagan era.

It’s all by design. Trump, with help from Congress, is hoping to slash the agency’s budget by 31% next year. EPA administrator Scott Pruit, who infamously denied the existence of climate change, is carrying out Trump’s mission to scrub all science from the EPA’s toolbox. But what’s better than banning science research at the agency? How about getting rid of the EPA altogether, one employee at a time. Sadly, Trump is carrying on with a trend President Obama set into motion. During his second term, the Obama admin paid more than $11 million to buyout 436 EPA employees. Shrinking the government is a bipartisan affair.

However, if Trump and Pruitt have their way, they’ll take Obama’s move a step further and scrap Superfund cleanup funds along with eliminating 50 other EPA programs. Also on the chopping block is the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, which works to protect our most environmentally impacted poor, minority communities.

Of course, we also have Trump signing an executive order to expand offshore drilling, wanting to back out of the Paris climate deal, as well as a push to open up oil exploration in ANWAR. He also hopes to scrap Obama’s climate regulations. And Trump, along with Secretary of the Interior Zinke, are working to reduce the size of nearly half of our National Monuments. To top it off they are also seeking to open these wild lands to oil and gas development. Nothing is sacred.

No doubt President Trump is a daily, almost hourly, train wreck — but his antics are coming at a very real cost to the environment and those species and people most impacted by its destruction.

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JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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