Trump’s Pro-Environmental Acts — A VERY Short List

Despite its general hatred of environmental protection, the Trump Administration did manage a few positive steps.

This being the last day of Trump’s presidency, it’s appropriate to look back on his environmental record.  Basically, Trump was to environmental  law as General Sherman was to Georgia.  In the time between his “American carnage” Inaugural Address to his unleashing of carnage on Capitol Hill, he and his minions devoted themselves to environmental destruction.

Even so, there were a few occasions where the Administration backed actions to protect the environment — sometimes willingly, sometimes not.  After scratching my head for a while, here’s what I was able to come up with.  There wasn’t much to find. Yet it’s surprising that there’s anything at all to list.  

  • The 2020 omnibus spending bill. Besides devoting funding to environmental agencies, including some spending increases, and extending tax credits for renewable energy, the bill included provisions regulating CFCs, which are super-potent greenhouse gases.  It also had limited provisions addressing methane leaks from pipelines, and it established a new River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Trump wasn’t happy with all this but he did reluctantly sign the bill. More details here.
  • The Great American Outdoors Act. Hailed by the Sierra Club as an “epic public lands bill,” this law provides permanent funding for $900 million annually to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provides $9.5 billion for the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog. The motivation for passing the statute was to shore up the reelection chances of a couple of Western GOP Senators, at which it was a partial success.
  • Hazardous Waste Cleanup.  This is one of the few areas where the Trump EPA was at all serious about implementing an environmental law. Scott Pruitt, who was otherwise a disaster as EPA Administrator, pledged to ramp up cleanup efforts. To everyone’s surprise, he did that, and actually sued the responsible parties for the cost.
  • Pentagon Climate Action. Each year since Trump took office, Congress has passed climate legislation as part of Defense Department spending. Trump has signed all of those laws.  In 2017, there was a congressional finding that climate change is a threat to national security.  In 2018, it was a mandate for climate and energy resilience. Last year’s bill required the Pentagon to engage in planning about climate change and required the Director of National Intelligence to create a Climate Security Advisory  This year’s bill requires the Defense Department to report on all its carbon emissions over the past decade and on the impact of extreme weather on its operations.  All of the bills have included funding for research in advanced energy technologies. With the exception of his unsuccessful 2020 veto effort, Trump has gone along with all these provisions, though he surely did not favor them.

None of these would have been terribly noteworthy if a Republican such as George W. Bush or Mitt Romney had been in the White House.  Still, we should take note of these few points of light in the dark abyss of Trump’s environmental record.

Let no one accuse my perspective on the Trump Administration of being one-sided.





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Reader Comments

4 Replies to “Trump’s Pro-Environmental Acts — A VERY Short List”

  1. Well, the administration did eventually deny critical permits for the proposed Pebble Mine, which threatened Bristol Bay salmon runs. As many have said, the about-face came because Don Jr. and Tucker Carlson liked fishing for big salmon, not to protect the ecosystem. And the list is still very short. Thanks for the summary!

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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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