In the 116th Congress, with its new pro-environment leaders, there is an opportunity for much-needed climate action on Capitol Hill. But even after the American people decisively rejected President Trump’s pro-polluter agenda in the 2018 midterm elections, his administration is plowing ahead on policy goals that threaten our environment and our health.
Signaling the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore drilling, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) announced last week that oil companies can now search the Atlantic Ocean for oil and gas deposits using seismic air guns that would “incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals.” Seismic exploration is dangerous to marine life of all types, from zooplankton to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which fewer than 500 remain.
Drilling for oil and gas in waters off the Atlantic coast isn’t just dangerous to animals, it’s potentially devastating to the coastal communities that would bear the immense economic damage from accidents and spills off their beaches. Voters firmly rejected offshore drilling in elections in South Carolina and in Florida, two states whose Atlantic coasts are now at risk after NOAA’s announcement.
Trump’s Interior Department under Secretary Ryan Zinke also announced last week it would roll back hard-won protections for the sage grouse, a keystone species with an already declining population. This change would let oil and gas companies explore and develop in habitats across seven states at the direct cost of further endangering an iconic bird species and the ecosystems that rely on them.
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced last week that they are weakening emissions standards for new coal plants, allowing them to open without also using carbon capture and storage technology. This announcement comes just after a new international report found that carbon dioxide emissions have hit an all-time high this year.
The administration’s antagonism toward environmental protection and climate change is also being reflected abroad. Earlier this month, as leaders of the world’s biggest economies met in Argentina for the annual G20 Summit, President Trump was the only leader who refused to affirm his nation’s commitments to the Paris climate agreement. And just this past weekend, the Trump administration joined Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait in blocking the endorsement of the most recent findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned the world that only a dozen years are left to curb the worst impacts of runaway global warming.
Come January, the House of Representatives will enjoy pro-environment leadership that will be willing and able to hold Trump accountable for his attacks on our oceans, our lands, and our air. Until then, you can keep up the pressure by reaching out to your current representatives and senators in Congress and telling them that they should oppose any last-minute legislation that supports the president’s dangerous anti-environment agenda.