(ANALYSIS) — “Environmentalism is out of control.”
That’s Donald Trump, speaking at a press conference with auto industry CEOs in his first week as US President.
As he spoke, reports emerged that he was preparing to sign executive orders to revive the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.
It was just the beginning.
It’s hard to keep up with what’s actually happening in Washington these days.
We’re just a couple of weeks into the Trump administration, and he’s already signed a raft of executive orders, embarked on a radical restructure of the federal government, set off a series of diplomatic fires, and made all sorts of promises with typical bluster.
Energy and environment has featured prominently in the President’s plans, so let’s cut through the noise and get to the truth.
What has he done?
The Dakota Access Pipeline was the subject of enormous protests throughout 2016 as it emerged that it would end up violating Indigenous land rights.
The project is already mostly complete, and it’s hard to envision a scenario in which it doesn’t end up happening — but Trump’s order doesn’t actually do that much.
In December then-President Obama ordered the Army Corps to review its plans to build over the c
Trump has basically told the Army Corps to hurry up.
On Keystone XL, the executive order is similarly symbolic.
TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the proposed pipeline, which would carry oil from the dirty Alberta tar sands to the heart of America, already had their application rejected.
So Trump essentially invited them to reapply, which they were already doing.
Also he wants it to be built with US steel, which was unexpected but oddly fitting.
But there are more pipelines that the two everyone’s heard of, and in a bizarre twist it looks like Trump may have accidentally delayed any new pipelines by up to a year.
According to the Washington Post, by replacing the head of the energy regulator FERC the government has frozen the approval process in its tracks.
There’s not enough people on the quorum to make any decisions, and there won’t be for a few months — at which point seasonal issues may emerge.
There was the Twitter war with National Parks and the overturned Department of Agriculture gagging order.
But really the be-all end-all has been the battle at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Emails have been leaked to Slate chronicling the mess at the EPA, and the Guardian reports of fear and anxiety within the Agency.
Some of that is due to a still-ongoing battle over the censorship of climate data, and some of that is the likely arrival of longtime enemy-of-the-EPA Scott Pruitt coming in to run it .
It does appear best to ignore Myron Ebell, who lead the transition team for the EPA but who has come to Europe touting his closeness to the Trump administration without having ever having met the President.
Trump’s quixotic executive order that every new regulation must be countered by scrapping two existing ones also poses an interesting problem.
On this front Trump has enjoyed much success.
His pick for Secretary of State – former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson – is now in the job, and looks likely to support the President’s intention to lift sanctions on Russia.
Scott Pruitt, the anti-EPA attorney picked to lead the EPA, has passed committee hearing and looks set to step into the role imminently.
When that happens, you can expect Obama’s Clean Power Plan – which is how the US intends to fulfill its commitment to the Paris climate agreement – to be unraveled by its number 1 enemy.
Away from Trump’s eye, congressional Republicans are passing a series of controversial environmental bills.
They’ve reversed an Obama-era rule to protect streams from the effects of coal mining; repealed regulation limiting methane emissions from oil and gas production; and undone a law that required fossil fuel companies from disclosing payments to foreign governments.
But they backed off a bill to sell off lots of public land, so at least there’s that.
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