The Energy 202: Environmentalists deride Trump’s speech touting accomplishments on the issue

Source: By Rachel Van Dongen, Washington Post • Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Environmentalists and critics derided President Trump’s speech yesterday in which he touted his environmental accomplishments.

“Facing Cabinet members, including his Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department chiefs, the president said he had urged his deputies to tackle environmental challenges “so we can provide the highest quality of life to all Americans,” my colleagues Juliet Eilperin and Seung Min Kim reported.

They added: “’We want the cleanest air, we want crystal clear water. And that’s what we’re doing,’ [Trump] said. ‘These are incredible goals that everyone in this country can rally behind, and they are rallying behind.’ Touting the United States’ level of access to drinking water, Trump boasted that his White House was working ‘harder than many previous administrations’ on the issue of the environment, adding: ‘Maybe almost all of them.'”

Not so, cried environmentalists, who say the Trump administration is more likely to be remembered for rolling back President Obama’s environmental policies and not doing much to advance climate change after withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord.

They pointed to a number of ways in which the president’s rhetoric is inconsistent with his actions. “Regrettably, the president’s rhetoric and the statements he’s made on climate are, at best, disingenuous,” former congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) told Juliet and Seung Min.

  • The administration recently rolled back Obama’s clean power plant regulations, allowing power plants to produce more pollution that is blamed for worsening climate change.
  • It soon intends to freeze tougher mileage standards for cars and pickup trucks. Twenty-three governors, in mostly Democratic-led states, announced last night they will back California in sticking to pre-Trump administration admissions goals.
  • Federal data suggests air quality is worsening: “The number of unhealthy days for ozone and soot pollution reached 799 in 2018 and 721 in 2017, according to EPA data, the highest levels they’ve hit since 2012. The nation’s carbon dioxide emissions increased more than 3 percent last year, according to the federal government, their biggest increase since 2010,” report Juliet and Seung Min.
  • EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler echoed Trump’s boasts, saying: “I do believe that our air is cleaner and our water is cleaner than other countries around the world. And I think the data supports that,”  according to my colleagues.
  • But: “While U.S. water quality ranks among the highest in the world, and Americans face relatively low exposure to fine particle pollution, or soot, the country’s smog problem is much worse than dozens of other countries across the globe. The Health Effects Institute’s State of Global Air 2019 report shows the United States ranks 123rd out of 195 nations when it comes to smog, or ozone pollution.”

The bottom line is Trump argues he is taking a “practical approach” to regulating environmental hazards that takes into account a “strong economy,” according to administration officials. But critics believe that strategy is far too industry friendly and risks any progress made toward mitigating the effects of climate change.

Many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have made climate change a priority in their campaign messaging. Although new Washington Post/ABC News polling shows that climate change still ranks relatively low on a list of issue priorities for voters, “81 percent of Democrats said climate change was ‘very important,’ compared with more than the 56 percent of independents and 26 percent of Republicans,” write Juliet and Seung Min.

Here’s a smattering of reactions to Trump’s speech, which some noted took place after an awful Washington, D.C. rain storm:

Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur:

Sahil Kapur

@sahilkapur

Whatever is true of Trump’s environmental record, the fact that he feels the need to defend it smacks of a shifting Overton window on climate change. This isn’t something modern Republicans have felt much of a need to talk about.

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The Guardian’s Emily Holden:

Emily Holden

@emilyhholden

No mention of change, though Trump touted emissions reductions, which his administration is stalling and he has essentially argued don’t matter.

See Emily Holden’s other Tweets

Emily Holden

@emilyhholden

This is definitely an attempt to steer the message as Democrats talk environment and polls show voters care. Rick Perry says this is “the chance to tell a story that often doesn’t get told in a proper way.” Then says America is No. 1 oil producer in world.

See Emily Holden’s other Tweets

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes:

Chris Hayes

@chrislhayes

Very clear that Trump people have polling that shows that people care A LOT about clean air and water ,which is why they 1) keep hammering this lie and 2) pivot to this particular lie whenever the climate crisis is raised. https://twitter.com/froomkin/status/1148311969436491777 

Dan Froomkin

@froomkin

EPA administrator Wheeler says: “I do believe that our air is cleaner and our water is cleaner than other countries around the world. And I think the data supports that.” Fact check: Despite his “belief” this is FALSE https://www.factcheck.org/2018/08/u-s-not-ranked-the-cleanest-country/ https://twitter.com/froomkin/status/1148311239694659584 

459 people are talking about this

Via HuffPost’s Alex Kaufman:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination:

Bernie Sanders

@BernieSanders

DC is flooded. It was 90 degrees in Alaska last week. Sea ice has shrunk to record lows in Antarctica. June was the hottest month ever recorded.

And today Trump is “touting” his environmental record.

We don’t have time for more lies. We must address the climate crisis now. https://twitter.com/ABCPolitics/status/1148273198083059712 

ABC News Politics

@ABCPolitics

President Trump is set to tout his environmental record and what the White House says is “America’s environmental leadership” in a speech.

Trump campaigned on rolling back some of the stringent environmental proposals put forth under President Obama: https://abcn.ws/2NGeGq0 

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Clean Air Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

John Walke@jwalkenrdc

For good reason, this isn’t titled “Trump’s Environmental Leadership”
1. Here’s a partial thread detailing his atrocious environmental record: https://twitter.com/jwalkenrdc/status/1146496989217140736?s=21 
2. Trump will take credit for achievements by past environmental laws & rules—ones he is rolling back. 1/ https://twitter.com/mirandacgreen/status/1147248133333803008 

Miranda Green

@mirandacgreen