Editorial

Trump’s Cabinet Will Throw Us Into Environmental Catastrophe

14 December, 2016

By: Marc Yaggi

Trumps Environmental Cabinet CatastropheThe facts are clear. President-Elect Trump’s Cabinet nominees represent a targeted and well-thought out assault on America’s environmental protections. The President-Elect is stacking his leadership with not only the fossil fuel industry’s closest allies, but the actual CEO of ExxonMobil. At least two of his nominees have publicly commented on the overreach of the very agencies they have been selected to run, and all of them have, at some point in their careers, undermined efforts to address climate change, put public health at risk, and attempted to weaken United States’ clean air and water regulations. Indeed, the nominations of Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, Rex Tillerson, and Ryan Zinke mark the transformation of our democracy to corporate oligarchy, and put the entire planet at risk of climate catastrophe.

Here are a few of their worst offenses:

RICK PERRY – Nominated Energy Secretary (pending Senate confirmation)

With the Department of Energy pick, the Trump Administration continued the charade of appearing to build out agency appointments while truly signaling that he will undermine each agency’s mission.  Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is being tapped head the agency that he – in his own Gary Johnson “Aleppo moment” – couldn’t remember the name of when he said he wanted to close it down in a 2011 debate.  He clearly does not see the value of an agency charged with ensuring America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges.  It seems you can be appointed to a cabinet post even if you call Trump a “cancer on conservatism” as long as you are willing to cripple federal agencies and be a booster for fossil fuels.  

Like Pruitt and others, Perry is a climate denier.  His position on climate change aligns nicely with the millions of dollars he has taken from Big Oil and Gas over the years.  It further fits with his role on the board of Energy Transfer Partners – the entity behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.  For a demagogue looking to make the rich richer by tearing down the vital agencies that protect our rights to clean air, clean water, and more, Rick Perry is a natural fit in Trump’s cabinet.   

SCOTT PRUITT – Nominated U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator (pending Senate confirmation)

An outright climate change denier, Scott Pruitt owes much of his successful election as Attorney General of Oklahoma to enormous campaign contributions from corporate interests like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Walmart, the Oklahoma Pork Council, and Monsanto, as well as individual donations from corporate giants like Harold Hamm, Don Tyson, and John H. Tyson.  Shortly after taking office, Pruitt characterized himself as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” the very agency he has now been selected to run.  He followed this up with multiple lawsuits against the EPA, getting rid of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Unit entirely, lobbying for Devon Energy at EPA, and forming a secretive alliance between Attorneys General and Energy Firms. He has misrepresented the scope of the Clean Water Act and the impact of the EPA’s Clean Water Rule to achieve his goal of neutering the EPA. He has undermined the Clean Water Act by publicly taking a position on the Clean Water Rule nearly identical to the one long advocated by its leading opponent, the American Farm Bureau Federation, which aggressively opposes every EPA effort to control pollution from multinational agribusiness interests under the Clean Water Act.

REX TILLERSON – Nominated Secretary of State (pending Senate confirmation)

As CEO of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson’s ties to Big Oil need not be overtly stated; he has been an employee of the company responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, one of our country’s worst environmental disasters, for 41 years. Under Tillerson’s leadership, Exxon has struck deals with countries around the world to explore for, buy, and sell oil, greatly exacerbating the rise of fossil fuel infrastructure around the world.

Exxon has, for decades, knowingly disseminated misinformation to the public on climate change and has failed to comply with U.S. environmental, worker safety, and other regulatory requirements resulting in injuries to human health and the environment. These practices have been condoned by ExxonMobil’s management team which has operated under Tillerson’s rule since 1995. Under his management, Exxon has funded groups seeking to discredit climate science, fuel public skepticism, and undermine government efforts to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. ExxonMobil had internal knowledge acquired through decades of research about the existence of, causes and dangers of climate change, yet neglected to change its business practices, displaying a profound lack of business ethics and integrity.

RYAN ZINKE – Nominated Interior Secretary (pending Senate confirmation)

Congressman Ryan Zinke represents Montana’s at-large congressional district. His voting record on environmental issues has awarded him both a Lifetime Score and 2015 Score of 3% from the League of Conservation Voters, thanks to consistently voting anti-environment in 2015. He has sponsored and supported bills to:

  • undercut climate legislation and the Clean Power Plan;
  • increase support for coal mining and fossil fuel extraction;
  • reduce support to renewable energy production;
  • eviscerate protections for endangered species;
  • undermine clean water protections; and,
  • subsidize polluting factory farms

Despite his opposition to transferring ownership of federal public lands to states, Zinke has consistently voted for increased fossil fuel infrastructure, especially coal extraction. He has criticized legislation meant to reduce inadvertent methane emissions from oil and gas drilling operations, citing these types of extractions as “a stark reminder that we need to invest in infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline.” While not an outright climate change denier, he has publicly said, “It’s not a hoax, but it’s not proven science either.”

In a world where so many are suffering the devastating impacts of climate change, Trump’s administration has the potential to add an additional 3.4B tons of carbon to the atmosphere, reversing many of the efforts the United States has made to reduce its climate impacts. The American public deserves better than this. The global community deserves better than this. We have a moral obligation to base our policies on sound science, to invest in a clean-energy future based on renewables, and to protect the air, water, and health of future generations.

ACT NOW: Write your Senator today and demand they do not approve Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, and Rex Tillerson to Trump’s Cabinet.

 


About the Author

Marc Yaggi is Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water. Marc has dedicated his entire career to environmental advocacy and has been instrumental in expanding the Waterkeeper movement around the world for nearly 20 years. Marc leads with a deep, personal passion for clean water and provides organizational leadership by developing strategic partnerships and promoting the Waterkeeper model of advocacy. Marc works daily to raise public awareness about the issues central to the organization’s vision for drinkable, fishable, swimmable water worldwide.

Before joining Waterkeeper Alliance, Marc was a Senior Attorney and Watershed Program Director for Riverkeeper, Inc., where he worked to protect the 2,000-square mile watershed that serves as New York City’s drinking water supply. Previously, Marc served as a Staff Attorney with the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.

In addition to authoring numerous articles, Marc has appeared in publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, and Politico, and his quotes have been picked up by wire services such as AP, Bloomberg, and Reuters. For the past two decades, he has inspired audiences all over the world with keynote speeches, conference panels, and corporate seminars.

Marc has a degree in Administration of Justice from The Pennsylvania State University and a J.D. and an LL.M in Environmental Law from the Pace University School of Law. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children. They love getting out on the water as a family as often as they can.