Repeal And Disgrace

03/29/2017 03:58 pm ET Updated Mar 30, 2017

After botching last week’s attempt to take away Americans’ health insurance, Donald Trump dusted himself off yesterday and launched an all-out attack on clean air, clean water, clean energy, public lands, and our climate. Typically, the results are disgraceful, irresponsible, and of dubious legality.

Things actually got started last Friday when the Trump State Department approved a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline (a terrible decision, but not the end of that fight). Then at the EPA this afternoon, Trump unveiled an executive order aimed at repealing President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. To do that, he’s directing federal agencies to reconsider the mandate to cut emissions from coal-fired power plants, end the moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands, cancel new standards governing methane pollution from oil and gas operations, and throw out any consideration of how carbon pollution harms public health and our economy. There’s more, unfortunately, but those are the low points.

It sounds bad (and for everyone but fossil fuel executives and climate-denying crackpots it is bad), but for the most part this is more bluster than well-thought-out policy, and it won’t work any better than the Muslim travel ban or the attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s big problem is the EPA’s previous “endangerment finding,” which holds that carbon pollution threatens public health and welfare, and that (per the Supreme Court) it falls under the scope of the Clean Air Act. To change that finding would require convincing a court that Trump and his fossil fuel backers have science on their side, which is right up there with convincing Americans that paying more money for less health insurance is a “really terrific” plan or that a Muslim ban isn’t targeting people on the basis of their religion. For that reason alone, these actions are highly vulnerable to legal challenges (and rest assured they will be challenged).

Beyond the dubious legal footing of these actions, though, it’s also important to expose the lies behind them.

Lie number one is that Trump can instantly undo our progress. We’ve already secured the retirement of more than 250 polluting coal plants, and these actions won’t undo a single one of those victories.

Lie number two is that doubling down on fossil fuels would somehow increase our “energy independence.” Instead, it would prolong our reliance on dirty energy sources even as the rest of the world moves aggressively toward developing clean renewable energy.

Lie number three is that promoting fossil fuel development would create more jobs. The reality (there’s that word again) is that Department of Energy data show that clean energy jobs (including from solar, wind, energy efficiency, smart-grid technology, and battery storage) already outnumber all fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1. They exceed all jobs in coal and gas by 5 to 1. Promoting fossil fuels over clean energy — which is entirely what Trump’s executive order aims to do — will actually hurt job growth. But when have actual facts ever gotten in the way of Trump policy, where down is routinely up and less is always peddled as more?

What we’ve seen from Donald Trump is exactly what you’d expect from an incompetent policymaker who owes his presidency in large measure to the support of out-of-touch billionaires. As long as Trump keeps ignoring what Americans actually want from their government (which more than ever includes climate action and more investment in clean energy), he’s doomed to keep failing.

The Sierra Club and its allies will, of course, work hard to ensure that Trump doesn’t succeed in taking America backward on climate, energy, or anything else. As with Trump’s other disastrous policies, though, public outcry and resistance to these attacks on climate action needs to be loud and widespread. For that reason, mark April 29 on your calendar to join the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C., and around the nation. This is a fight for the future and we haven’t a moment to waste.

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