This is your periodic update on the president’s war against the environment. It’s mostly bad news, with some good news mixed in.


By all accounts, President Donald Trump’s war against the environment is going really well.

On March 28 he signed the presidential order Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, which:

• Directs the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan, created during President Barack Obama’s administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by the production of electric power. For complicated reasons, the Clean Power Plan cannot be canceled; so the first step to getting rid of it is for the EPA to review it and come up with a whole new rationale (that courts might buy) for why it is unnecessary.

• Restores the prospect of leasing federal lands for the purpose of coal mining.


• Formally drops the plan created under Obama to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

• Removes the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in the granting of federal permits.

• Does, by most accounts, nothing whatsoever about energy independence.

On April 28, Trump signed an executive order to authorize the expansion of offshore drilling for oil in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, and to determine whether energy exploration can take place legally in marine sanctuaries off both coasts. (The good news, I guess: It will take years to get this all arranged, if it even turns out to be legal.) Just to remind you of how drilling can go wrong: the Deepwater Horizon explosion of 2010.

On April 26, Trump ordered the Department of the Interior to review monuments created by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to limit use of public land for historic, cultural, scientific or other reasons, as the Los Angeles Times summarized it. The monuments that will come under review are in Western states on land the federal government under Trump could well end up leasing or selling to the highest bidder. On Gov. Paul LePage’s logic-defying advice, Trump’s team afterward threw Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters national monument in for review too, even though it does not meet their stated criteria for review.

On May 5, it was announced that nine of 18 outside experts will not be reappointed to second three-year terms on the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors; 13 of the board’s 18 seats are now vacant. An EPA spokesman said the agency wants to broaden the board’s makeup from scientists to include members who understand the effects of regulation on industry. It’s money that matters in the USA, to quote an old song. “This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda,” Ken Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The New York Times.


The EPA took down its Web page on climate change for “updating.” I guess we know where this is going — i.e., no doubt the federal government will soon be offering official alternative facts about climate science.


Maine Attorney General Janet Mills joined other states in lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to do away with the Clean Power Plan, among other anti-environment actions, such as the relaxation of limits on methane gas emissions.

A study by University of Colorado at Boulder researchers concluded that as global climate change creates conditions for significantly heavier average rainfall, the growth of tropical forests is likely to accelerate — not, as had been thought, become slower. This is good news because the tropical rain forests absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas. The more trees grow, the more CO2 is absorbed.


Another study found that after years of slowing, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has picked up. In 2004 the annual deforestation rate was about 11,000 square miles, and in 2012 about 1,700 square miles, but it’s risen again. In 2016 there was a 29 percent increase in the rate of tree-clearing. The fewer trees there are, the less carbon dioxide gets taken out of the atmosphere.


According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at UC-Boulder, last year Arctic sea ice saw a record low extent for November. The researchers attribute the lack of ice to unusually high air temperatures and warm ocean. Antarctic sea ice extent also hit a record low for that month. Less sea ice is more evidence of predicted changing sea ecologies and rising sea levels.


A court granted an EPA request to suspend lawsuits against the Clean Power Plan. This sounds hopeful, but what it means is that the EPA is no longer defending against lawsuits challenging the plan.

Reports from “fake” news media like The Washington Post and The New York Times say that powerful voices in the Trump administration disagree over whether the U.S. should stay in the Paris Accord on climate action. EPA Director Scott Pruitt said he believes the U.S. should “exit” the deal. Secretary of State and former Exxon executive Rex Tillerson has said the U.S. should maintain a “seat at the table.” This difference of opinion offers hope that Tillerson’s view could help the U.S. remain part of the solution instead of mutating into an expanding rogue threat to the health of the Earth. But remember, Trump has the final decision, and he views climate change as a hoax whose main effect is to prevent big money from making more money.

And as observed before, money is the central moral issue in Trump’s world. In the absence of significant resistance from Republicans with moral consciences that operate beyond finance, the war against the environment is going to continue to go well for him, and really badly for the rest of us.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at [email protected] His recent book is “Summer to Fall: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods” available from North Country Press. Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

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