Unsurprisingly, groups committed to the environment were aptly unimpressed with President Donald Trump’s speech this week designed to make him look like an environmental champion.
No one is drinking that particular water, especially here in Vermont.
According to Brian Shupe, head of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, “From our standpoint Trump’s speech was a continuation of lies and deception about his administration’s record on the environment. He is systematically dismantling basic protections for clean water, gutting regulations that protect Americans from toxic chemical pollution.”
Shupe said Trump and his administration are not only failing to address climate change, “his policies (abandoning the Clean Power Plan, rolling back CAFE standards, easing regulations for oil and gas drilling) are actually exacerbating the problem and — literally — putting the future of humanity (not to mention all of the other species) at risk.”
The administration is also locking citizens out of the process. Shupe points to a telling example here in Vermont.
“For example, the administration just released a plan that would exclude public input on potentially 90% of the decisions affecting our national forest lands, and this is now playing out here in Vermont, where the Green Mountain National Forest recently moved forward with a large-scale road building and clearcutting proposal without allowing the public to comment on the environmental analysis,” Shupe noted.
Shupe and other environmental leaders were completely dismissive of the 45-minute speech. Their indignation spilled over in quotes and sound bites, commentaries and interviews.
What is surprising is one response — that of former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman. She is a Republican who served under President George W. Bush.
In a rebuke of Trump this week, Whitman said Trump’s effort was doomed to fail amid an ongoing assault on air and water protections.
In an interview with HuffPost, Whitman said the speech showed Trump “knows he’s on shaky ground” going into the 2020 election in which, for the first time, global warming and ecological collapse may emerge as core issues.
Whitman said Trump’s attempt to put a positive spin on his administration’s environmental record is unlikely to impress anyone beyond his loyal base of supporters.
“He’s living in his own reality,” said Whitman, a former New Jersey governor. “He’s definitely in another world.”
In the speech, Trump scraped the barrel for environmental achievements that didn’t require an asterisk, pointing to his signing a bipartisan bill to reduce garbage in the ocean. Other items he highlighted were more problematic in terms of making his case.
He bragged about progress in delisting Superfund sites, but that’s largely a procedural step based on clean-up work that began, in some cases, decades ago. He stressed how much he values public lands, noting the 1.3 million acres he designated for protection ― but glossed over the more than 2 million acres he shaved off other national monuments, according to media reports.
He was joined at the podium by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and together they spotlighted a 74% reduction in air pollution since 1970, skirting the latest federal data that show a 15% increase in days with unhealthy air in 2017 and 2018, compared to 2013 through 2016.
The Huffington Post noted: “Adding policy weight to the president’s routine taunting of climate scientists ― he delights in pointing to temporary cold snaps as evidence disproving irrefutable long-term warming trends ― the administration appointed climate-change skeptics to key White House positions and gutted science advisory boards.”
Joining the chorus of detractors, Whitman said: “I don’t think the American people are going to buy that we are somehow going to do better with the environment when we are rolling back every regulation and eviscerating the Science Advisory Board. Right now, Republicans and the president are on the wrong side of the issue.”