Trump Has Thrown Down the Gauntlet

Trump’s latest cabinet appointment confirms the pattern: he plans to govern from the far Right.

Given that Trump has shifted his positions so often, there’s always been at least a faint hope that he would rethink his vehement opposition to environmental protection. True, he had called climate change a Chinese hoax, but he later said he had an open mind about the Paris Agreement and then he had an apparently cordial meeting with Al Gore.

Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruit to head EPA has ended any of those hopes. Pruitt has a record of opposition to environmental regulation that goes back years. In terms of climate change, Pruitt has fought against any effort to limit carbon emissions. According to the Washington Post,

“Pruitt was quoted as saying: ‘The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.’

“Pruitt, who has written that the debate on climate change is ‘far from settled,’ joined a coalition of state attorneys general in suing over the agency’s Clean Power Plan, the principal Obama-era policy aimed at reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. He has also sued, with fellow state attorneys general, over the EPA’s recently announced regulations seeking to curtail the emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the oil and gas sector.”

Trump and Pruitt have pledged to continue efforts to protect clean air and water.  But I haven’t seen any evidence of Pruitt championing environmental enforcement efforts in Oklahoma.

Pruitt does know something about environmental law from the Oklahoma AG’s office, although we don’t know how deeply involved he was in the actual legal work or how big a share of the office’s work was environmental. There’s a big difference between litigating a few controversial regulatory actions and running a regulatory agency as big and complex as EPA.

The last time we had an EPA nominee with such outspoken anti-environmental views, it was Reagan’s first appointee to head the agency. She only lasted a couple of years before going down in flames.


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Reader Comments

11 Replies to “Trump Has Thrown Down the Gauntlet”

  1. “…..Pruitt, who has written that the debate on climate change is ‘far from settled’……..”

    Reasonable people would agree there are unsettled issues regarding climate change which are the subject of on-going intellectual discourse, so it is correct and accurate that the debate is far from settled. Mr. Pruitt is right about this point.

    There are allegations that Pruitt has “outspoken anti-environmental views.” Mr. Pruitt objects to certain illicit activities by the EPA which overreach its regulatory authority, but he supports good environmental protection. Pruitt has pledged to continue efforts to protect clean air and water. We want to improve the EPA and make it a better regulatory agency.

  2. Dan, we had 8 years to save our environment during the Obama administration and all we did was produce endless academic exercises.

    So now intellectuals have wasted all that time and far too many opportunities, we have Trump and Pruit, and the greatest lesson in history about intellectuals failing to meet the challenges of change is threatening our civilization once again.

    We were warned, but the warning was marginalized at our rapidly increasing peril:

    1. Anthony,
      Thanks for your thoughtful contributions to this forum. The Obama administration has been very benevolent to climate practitioners so their anxiety over job security is understandable. Going forward, we must adapt to new leadership under the Trump and Pruitt administration. This will be an easy transition for those of us who have already adapted to climate change, but adaptation may be difficult for those who stubbornly cling to discredited schemes of climate mitigation. Have a good day and don’t worry about the climate.

      1. The greatest American, and worldwide tragedy is that environmentalists had our best opportunity to protect quality of life for future generations during the Obama years.

        Even worse we have marginalized Ike’s grave warning since 1961:
        “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”

        So unless the IPCC has mitigating solutions we can implement today, we shall have failed to adapt in time and your side shall have produced the worst case scenario by default.

        1. Anthony said to bqrq;
          “…..your side shall have produced the worst case scenario by default….”

          Dear Anthony,
          Our hopeful and optimistic environmental scenario is based on objective truth and it promises the opposite of “worst case.” Our good scenario offers more overall peace and happiness for the most citizens.

          The IPCC does not have any valid solutions to mitigate climate change and neither does anyone else, so why bother with mitigation? Adapt my friend, its easy and more fun than forever fretting about what the global climate may do in the future (which we have no control over). Whistle a happy tune, adapt !!!

          1. Honestly BQRQ, I keep expecting LP professors and scholars to have conversations to defend their positions on their own blog, but their communications are one-way only when it comes to dealing with deniers directly.

            This attitude is what lost Hillary and the democrats the presidency and both houses of congress, and soon SCOTUS. The attitude of marginalization of We The People by educators is exactly why we are losing the battle to protect our environment, and our democracy.

          2. Anthony, we are reading your comments, as well as everyone’s, on this blog. We do appreciate your comments as well as your faithful readership.

            We have found – based on experience – that spending time engaging in comment threads with deniers is generally a waste of our time. This is a view shared by almost everyone who works on this issue. We could argue endlessly about this with deniers, but that would be pointless. Most Americans believe in human-caused climate change, and believe that we should address it through policy solutions. Unfortunately, that majority view has not always been powerful enough to win elections, for a variety of reasons – but winning elections isn’t our job. We do our best to provide analysis and information about legal and policy issues to inform public discourse. In that way, we hope to inform people who already know and/or care about the issue and may benefit from our synthesis of information, as well as others who are open-minded.

            We often post links to the science that supports the evidence for the causes and impacts of climate change, explain the factual basis for our blog posts within our blog posts, and explain the rationale for various policy solutions to address climate change’s causes and impacts. (Note also that most of us on this blog are not scientists; we link to, and rely on, the work of scientists, but getting into the weeds of many technical and scientific issues would require us to go beyond our expertise. And neither do we have specific expertise in how to communicate science to laypeople in an effective way, though sometimes we try to do that as well.)

            Many of us have also spoken extensively in general media and in other public forums, to diverse groups of people, about these issues. That’s much of the point of this blog: to speak to a broader audience than we would reach solely through academic engagement. And based on feedback we’ve gotten, I’m certain we’ve had some success at that. At the same time, we can always do better. We will do our best to take your comments to heart – not by engaging deniers in comment threads, but in whatever constructive ways we can.

  3. Anthony said;
    “…. I keep expecting LP professors and scholars to have conversations to defend their positions on their own blog….”

    Dear Anthony,
    The professors and scholars on Legal Planet suffered a set back after the election and appear to have lost their confidence on climate issues.

    1. BQRQ, I most fervently hope you are wrong about their psychological state because today, more than ever before, they must learn to interact with, educate and motivate We The People to protect our planet, and transcend their culture that fears “impurities that come with being public” that Hofstadter and Dirks wrote about.

      Our national and international politicians are total and complete failures, and as the history of our civilization proves repeatedly, intellectuals are truly our only possible salvation if we are going to save ourselves from ourselves at all before time runs out totally beyond our control.

  4. Professor Hecht said:
    “…… Most Americans believe in human-caused climate change, and believe that we should address it through policy solutions….”

    Dear Professor,
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. With all due respect, we have not seen any viable policy solutions to climate change. All of the “policy solutions” proffered to date have been totally worthless with no effect at all on global climate, but are extremely expensive and burdensome. An enormous waste of public money and resources that borders on corruption.

    Recently, we voted on Obama’s phony baloney “policy solutions” and rejected them, now we have a new solution – Scott Pruitt. At last there is hope for real progress on adapting to climate change and abandoning the myriad of bogus mitigation scams.

  5. Our new CALIFORNIA magazine has the latest wisdom on the future of climate change:

    “Matter of Degrees: How Hot It Gets Still Depends on Us”

    A conclusion by Dan Kammen is:

    “We are already committed to a lot of climate change and the saddest part of the story is not that we could have avoided it by acting sooner, but that the poor who have the least voice will suffer the most.”

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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