A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment

The Trump administration’s tumultuous first months have brought a flurry of changes—both realised and anticipated—to U.S. environmental policy. Many of the actions roll back Obama-era policies that aimed to curb climate change and limit environmental pollution, while others threaten to limit federal funding for science and the environment. The stakes are enormous. The Trump administration takes power amid the first days of meaningful international action against climate change, an issue on which political polarisation still runs deep. And for the first time in years, Republicans have control of the White House and both houses of Congress—giving them an opportunity to remake the nation’s environmental laws in their image. It’s a lot to keep track of, so National Geographic has been keeping an abbreviated timeline of the Trump administration’s environmental actions and policy changes, as well as reactions to them. PESTICIDE AVOIDS TOTAL BAN 29 March 2017 – Against the advice of the EPA’s chemical safety experts, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt rejects a decade-old petition asking that the EPA ban all use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. In 2000, the EPA banned its use in most household settings, but the pesticide is still used on some 40,000 farms, which EPA scientists recommended stop. Research suggests that chlorpyrifos may be associated with brain damage in children and farm workers, even at low exposures—though Dow Chemical, chlorpyrifos’ manufacturer, argues that it is safe when properly used. The U.S. Department of Agriculture welcomes Pruitt’s decision as helpful for U.S. farmers. CLIMATE ACTIONS UNDONE 28 March 2017 – President Trump signs an executive order that seeks to dismantle much of the work on climate change enacted by the Obama administration. The order takes steps to downplay the future costs of carbon emissions, walks back tracking of the federal government’s carbon emissions, rescinds a 2016 moratorium on coal leases on federal lands, and strikes down Obama-era executive orders and memoranda aimed at helping the country prepare for climate change’s worst impacts, including threats to national security. Most notably, the executive order begins the process of rescinding the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants. 27 March 2017 – Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, notifies a federal court that it has pumped oil into the pipeline laid underneath North Dakota’s Lake Oahe. The pipeline, which aims to connect North Dakota’s shale oil fields with pipeline networks in Illinois, runs near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and through land promised under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie but later taken away. The pipeline sparked protests over its potential to contaminate water and damage a sacred tribal site—a movement that grew into the largest Native American protest in recent history. KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE APPROVED 24 March 2017 – The Trump Administration’s State Department grants a permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The 1,200-mile pipeline would connect Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in Texas. President Obama had rejected the project in late 2015, amid concerns that the pipeline’s economic benefits were hype—and fears that the pipeline would exacerbate future carbon emissions. In 2014, the U.S. State Department found that the project would increase emissions but no more than other transport methods. U.S. BUMBLEBEE OFFICIALLY LISTED AS ENDANGERED 21 March 2017 – The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) officially becomes listed as an endangered species, the first bumblebee and eighth U.S. bee species to receive federal protection. Originally, its listing was to be finalised on 10 February —but a 20 January executive order delayed it by over a month, as the Trump administration reviewed Obama-era regulations that hadn’t yet taken effect. FLINT FUNDING CONTINUED 17 March 2017 – The EPA issues a news release saying that the agency has awarded $100 million to Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. The money—provided in a law signed by President Obama in December 2016—will fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades in Flint, Michigan, where drinking water remains contaminated with lead. FUEL EFFICIENCY STANDARDS RECONSIDERED 15 March 2017 – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announce that the EPA will reconsider the Obama-era emissions requirements for vehicles with model years between 2022 and 2025. The move may presage a rollback of Obama’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, regulations that aim to improve cars’ fuel economy. On 12 January 2017, the Obama EPA attempted to lock in its CAFE standards, which require light-duty vehicles to have average fuel efficiencies of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Trump administration and automakers have argued that this goal is unachievable. SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT BUDGET THREATENED 13 March 2017 – The White House releases its first preliminary budget under President Trump. Confirming weeks of speculation, the budget outlines deep cuts to U.S. science and environmental agencies—notably EPA and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—and a vast array of social programs, in an effort to increase defence spending by $54 billion. Congressional and public opposition to the budget crystallises almost immediately. EPA CHIEF DOWNPLAYS CLIMATE 9 March 2017 – In a sharp break with scientific consensus, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt says in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that carbon dioxide’s role in the Earth’s changing climate remains unclear. U.S. and international scientists have repeatedly connected rising carbon emissions to the Earth’s changing climate. A 2014 review by the National Academy of Sciences, the United States’ preeminent scientific advisory body, observed that the Earth’s warming since the 1970s “is mainly a result of the increased concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.” ‘SCIENCE’ SCRUBBED 7 March 2017 – The New Republic reports that the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology removed the word “science” from its mission statement, based on information provided by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. The updated language marks the latest change to the EPA’s website under Trump, as website updates downplay the Obama administration’s previous climate initiatives. FEDERAL LANDS WON’T BE UNLEADED 2 March 2017 – After riding to work on a horse, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spends his first day on the job rescinding an Obama-era prohibition of lead ammunition on federal lands and waters. The Obama Administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service had issued the ban on 19 January 2017, the day before Trump’s inauguration. The National Rifle Association and hunting groups laud Zinke’s move as supportive of hunting’s economic contribution, while conservation groups decry it, noting that lead ammunition can poison wildlife. WATER PROTECTION MAY DRY UP 28 February 2017 – President Trump issues an executive order formally asking the EPA to review the “Waters of the United States” rule, an Obama-era rule meant to clarify which U.S. waters fall under federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The rule had extended federal protections to some headwaters of larger waterways, wetlands, and isolated lakes. SCOTT PRUITT CONFIRMED AS EPA CHIEF 17 February 2017 – The U.S. Senate confirms Scott Pruitt as the head of the U.S. EPA. In his prior role as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt frequently sued the EPA over its regulations, notably leading a 27-state lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. Emails released days after Pruitt’s confirmation show that in his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt’s office maintained a cosy relationship with oil and gas companies. STREAMS REOPENED TO MINING WASTE 16 February 2017 – President Trump signs a joint resolution passed by Congress revoking the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Stream Protection Rule.” That rule, finalised shortly before President Obama left office, placed stricter restrictions on dumping mining waste into surrounding waterways. Congressional Republicans characterized the rule as redundant and onerous. FOSSIL FUEL CEO BECOMES CHIEF DIPLOMAT 1 February 2017 – The U.S. Senate confirms ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Tillerson’s extensive ties to fossil fuels—and difficult-to-pin-down stance on climate science—sparked fierce opposition to his nomination among environmentalists. Questions linger over what Tillerson and the Trump administration will do about U.S. involvement in the Paris Agreement, the international climate pact negotiated under the Obama administration. MARCH FOR SCIENCE MATERIALISES 25 January 2017 – After news that the Trump administration had removed all references to climate change from the White House’s website, online commenters begin calling for a “Scientists’ March on Washington,” styled after the record-breaking Women’s March on 21 January. Momentum quickly builds, resulting in plans for the March for Science, scheduled for 22 April. PIPELINES GREENLIT 24 January 2017 – President Trump issues several memoranda aiming to hasten permitting for the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. Trump also calls for the U.S. Department of Commerce to come up with a plan ensuring that pipelines built across the United States are made with U.S. steel. However, later reports clarify that the memo does not apply to the Keystone XL pipeline. PARK SERVICE #RESISTS 20 January 2017 – Trump is inaugurated president. Minutes later, the National Park Service posts a photo on Twitter comparing Trump’s crowds with the much larger crowds at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Trump’s subsequent criticism of the National Park Service triggers an unofficial “resistance” movement of social media accounts that claim to be run by U.S. government officials. SCRAMBLE TO SAVE SCIENCE DATA 10 December 2016 – Fearing that the incoming Trump administration may attempt to delete or bury U.S. climate databases, meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus asks on Twitter for suggestions of important databases to back up. His query sparks a movement across academia to back up key databases, resulting in “data refuges” and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. TRUMP TAKES ALL 8 November 2016 – Real estate developer Donald Trump wins the 2016 U.S. presidential election. His upset victory comes after a months-long campaign that focused little on environmental issues, but did denounce the Obama administration’s climate policies and champion the U.S. fossil fuels industry.

National Geographic, 31 March 2017 ;http:nationalgeographic.com ;