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December 31, 2016

Fiends of the earth


December 31, 2016

There’s a case to be made that the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental regulation won’t be devastating; that market forces will prevail in the coming energy revolution; that the environment and public health will continue to be protected under the EPA and other agencies, and that state governments will do their part as well; and that a newly-elected president, self-branded as an astute businessman and dealmaker, will be open to the wisdom of ensuring a safe and healthy America.

But there are two fatal flaws with this argument – you weren’t born yesterday and you don’t come to this page to be lied to.

The Trump administration’s cabinet nominees and transition staff are a wall-to-wall collection of zealots, ideologues and latter-day Robber Barons. Their collective message, both stated and implied, is that the American government’s ability to protect the environment, already besieged and underfunded, is on the brink of oblivion.

In early December, the cavalcade of aspirants and celebrities seeking an audience at Trump Tower included two high profile climate activists, former Vice President Al Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Gore’s visit was brokered by the First Daughter-Elect, Ivanka Trump.

Upon exiting, Gore told the press gaggle that meeting with the Trumps was “extremely interesting”. Combined with Trump’s declaration to the New York Times that he had an “open mind” about climate change, the wilted spirits of environmentalists were revived. Kudos to Gore and DiCaprio for making their case, but now, let’s return to climate reality.

A day after Gore’s meeting, Trump announced the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt    to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. In his six years on the job in Oklahoma, Pruitt has enjoyed the support of keystone local industries, including fossil fuel and poultry.

He’s not let them down, helping to lead a battle – against the agency he’ll be in charge of if approved–on the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States definition (WOTUS). WOTUS and the Clean Water Act hold a particular irony, since the anticipated assaults on  Section 404    of the Clean Water Act could make it easier to drain real, not metaphoric, swamps from coast to coast.

Ryan Zinke    is a first-term Montana congressman who accepts that climate change is real. In the past, he’s called climate change a “threat multiplier,” but that Obama’s climate strategies would unleash “catastrophic” economic costs.

He earned a three percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters in 2015. Unlike many on the Trump team, he’s voiced opposition for turning federal lands over to states.

An avid hunter, Zinke says he’d like to see more intensive use of federal lands by both sportsmen and oil and gas drillers, and is expected to favour opening controversial export terminals to ship Montana and Wyoming coal across the Pacific.

If approved, Alabama Senator        Jeff Sessions  would serve as Attorney General. He’s said that efforts to bring clean energy to developing nations would be a veritable assault on the world’s poorest people. He believes CO2 is a benign “plant food,” and famously launched a bizarre interrogation of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier this year.

Doug Domenech       is a former Virginia state official who blames the “regulatory war on coal” for tough times in Appalachia, and says that the miracle mineral can relieve energy poverty. But coal jobs have been on a steady swan dive since the Reagan Administration due to mechanisation.

As Transportation Secretary-designate,     Elaine Chao    would lead on major infrastructure projects, including the Obama Administration’s plans to ramp up electric vehicle charging stations nationwide. Chao resigned her seat on the Bloomberg Philanthropies Board in 2015 when the charity decided to increase its support of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign. She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – a helpful reminder that sometimes, guilt by association means that you’re guilty.

Senior Counselor Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News site regularly touts climate denial. Bannon accused the Pope of “hysteria” for embracing climate action. Domestic transition head Ken Blackwell believes that climate models are rigged, and the science is a “hoax.” Chief of Staff Reince Preibus said “melting icebergs aren’t beheading Christians in the Middle East.” And Vice President-Elect     Mike Pence    has at times said climate change is real, but that government policy can’t impact it. But he’s also called it a “myth”.


This article has been excerpted from: ‘Fiends of the Earth’. Courtesy:



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