Trump Dismantles U.S. Climate Rules, Virtually Ensuring U.S. Will Break Paris Accord Promises

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to dismantle a slew of climate rules established by President Obama. If carried out, the executive order will virtually guarantee that the United States will fail to meet its 2015 Paris Agreement pledge to reduce emissions in order to curb the effects of climate change. The executive order marks the first step to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan to limit emissions and replace coal-fired power plants with new solar and wind farms. Trump signed the executive order at a ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency while being surrounded by a group of coal miners, as well as EPA head Scott Pruitt, who himself denies the human impact on climate change. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today I’m taking bold action to follow through on that promise. My administration is putting an end to the war on coal. Gonna have clean coal, really clean coal.

With today’s executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations. AMY GOODMAN: The executive order also ends President Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan, which outlined the federal government’s approach to curbing climate change. Trump never mentioned climate change or global warming during his remarks, even though 2016 was the warmest year on record, breaking the record set in 2015. He also only mentioned the EPA’s mission to protect the environment once. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to continue to expand energy production, and we will also create more jobs in infrastructure, trucking and manufacturing. This will allow the EPA to focus on its primary mission of protecting our air and protecting our water. Together, we are going to start a new energy revolution, one that celebrates American production on American soil.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, joining us from New Orleans. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jacqueline. Talk about the effect of this executive order, its significance. JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Yes, it is so significant. Thanks for having me. So, there are so many far-reaching implications for this rule, if the actions go forward as presented. Certainly—certainly, fortunately, labor experts and market experts say that regardless of this rule, which seeks to release the restriction on leasing of federal lands for coal, they’re saying that it’s not necessarily going to bring back the coal industry. But if it did, the coal industry is so harmful not only to the communities that are host to coal-fired power plants, but also to the very workers whose jobs that President Trump purports to save, including the fact that 76,000 coal miners have died of black lung disease since 1968, while the industry has fought against the regulations to protect them from coal mine dust. So we have those implications. We have implications like the communities that are host to coal-fired power plants are choking down sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, arsenic, lead, not to mention that coal is the number—coal-based energy production is the number one contributor to greenhouse—to carbon dioxide emissions, which is the number one greenhouse gas emission that drives climate change.

So, those implications are significant. AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about how, in particular, it will affect communities of color? JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Yeah, so, for example, African American—68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. And we know that with the emissions, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, they’re known to have a link to exacerbating respiratory conditions such as asthma. We also know that African Americans—71 percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of air pollution standards. And we know that the African-American children are three to five times more likely to enter into the hospital from asthma attacks and two to three times more likely to die of asthma attacks. When we connect the dots in terms of exposure and in terms of the health conditions of African-American children and people, we start to see the ties in terms of the impact, the disproportionate impact, of the coal industry, in particular, on communities of color.

We know that African-American adults are more likely to die from lung disease, but far less likely to smoke. When we put out our report, "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People," back in 2012, we went around, and we visited with communities that were host to coal-fired power plants. And we heard time and time again from folks who had—half the kids in their school were on inhalers. Half the people in their church were on respirators. I spoke to a fellow in Indiana whose wife had died of lung disease. They lived within seeing distance of a coal-fired power plant. She had never smoked a day in her life. I spoke to a woman whose father worked in a coal plant and who died of lung cancer, but had never smoked a day in his life. So we see these stories—we hear these stories, and we see the statistics. And the disproportionate exposure and the differential impact are clear.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Earthjustice Policy Vice President Martin Hayden, who questioned whether President Trump’s executive order will have a significant effect on the coal industry. MARTIN HAYDEN: [We] are a net exporter of coal, by a long shot. So, producing more coal isn’t going to make us more energy independent. And the other piece of producing more coal—and you saw many of the coal company executives say this last night—that while it may raise coal production some, it’s not going to create many more jobs, because they are more automated today, that the—that the trend has been fewer and fewer jobs in the coal fields, irrespective of how much coal is mined, because they’re using more mechanized approaches and less people approaches. AMY GOODMAN: So, that issue, Jacqueline Patterson, of what the president keeps pushing, the issue of coal jobs? JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Yes, so—yes, so, as I was saying at the very beginning, both the labor industry and the market say that it’s not necessarily going to bring back coal.

I was saying what the implications would be if it did, in any way, increase—increase coal production—coal-based energy production in the United States. But then there’s the other side of the fact, that even if we’re exporting coal, and other countries are using coal, as we know, any use of coal burning to produce energy affects climate change overall. And we know that communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to feel the impacts from climate change. And so, whether it’s communities that have poor housing stock, communities that are underinsured, communities that are—whose homes are located in the floodplains, we see that these communities are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change and more likely to be impacted by climate change. We know that these communities are often the ones that are—don’t have access to healthy and nutritious foods.

They have food insecurity. And we know that shifts in agricultural yields is another impact of climate change and that—and that this might make food insecurity even greater in these communities. So the far-reaching implications of any type of increase in coal-based energy production are felt no matter where it happens, are felt globally, and particularly in vulnerable communities and vulnerable countries. AMY GOODMAN: We’ve been talking about coal plants, but let’s talk about coal-fired plants. Jacqueline, talk by your own growing up in Chicago. JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Yeah, so I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where there were three coal-fired power plants within a 15-mile radius of where I lived, the Fisk and Crawford plants on the South Side of Chicago and the State Line plant on the northwest side of Indiana. So, unbeknownst to me, really, because, you know, these things are there, and you often just don’t know the impacts of these—of these facilities in your community, I was living in this toxic corridor. And fast-forward to today, when I was doing the work on the "Coal Blooded" report, I visited with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, PERRO and others in Chicago who were doing work on the Fisk and Crawford plants.

And they had done a partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health. And through the community-campus partnership, they found that 40 asthma deaths and a thousand hospitalizations were attributed to the Fisk and Crawford coal plants, which gave them what the—the fuel that they needed to be able to inform the community, which eventually resulted in the City Council passing an ordinance around clean air and Mayor Rahm Emanuel giving a ultimatum to either clean these coal plants up or shut them down, which eventually did happen. And so, again, I was growing up in harm’s way. My father—my father passed away a few years ago of lung disease. And his doctor specifically cited that it was due to environmental exposures. And now I wonder what the cumulative impact might have been of living on the South Side of Chicago in that toxic corridor with those three coal plants and other toxins in the air. AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Jacqueline Patterson, just the overall broader issue of cuts to the EPA and the whole direction the Trump administration is going? And, I mean, he signed this executive order at the Environmental Protection Agency, which he said he is going to slash by almost a third.

This is with the acquiescence of the head of the EPA—right?—the former Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times before he’s now become its head. JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Mm-hmm, yes. And unfortunately, not only—if it was just slashed off of the EPA budget in general, that would be bad enough. But the fact that it’s targeted slashing of environment justice programs, that are meant to protect communities like Mossville, Louisiana, which is in this petrochemical corridor, which is a cancer cluster, which has already these existing impacts for their community, communities like Uniontown, Alabama, which, again, has multiple assaults in terms of its environmental exposures, the communities across the nation that are, again, disproportionately communities of color, disproportionately indigenous communities and low-income communities, communities in Appalachia, who are suffering under the impacts of mountaintop removal and so forth and so on.

And so, the Environmental Protection Agency, as we—as per its name, it is there to ensure that we have the monitoring and the enforcement of safeguards for our health and well-being. So I shudder to think what the impacts will be if that agency does not serve that function. AMY GOODMAN: Jacqueline Patterson, I want to thank you for being with us, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, speaking to us from New Orleans. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the House votes on internet privacy. Stay with us..

Trump Fails To Mention Climate Change During Earth Day Address

This past Saturday was Earth Day, and during his Earth Day address President Donald Trump failed to mention the terms climate change or global warming, even one time. During his entire address there was not a single mention of climate change or any climate change related events. Basically, Donald Trump went out there on the day that we're supposed to acknowledge that we as human beings are destroying this planet, he went out there and said basically nothing. He didn't talk about the fact that we've got to cut carbon emissions. He didn't talk about the fact that we have to protect coastal low lying communities from the increase in water level. He didn't say anything about actually protecting, preserving, and making the planet better. Instead, he gave us typical republican talking points. Smart regulations, you know, ones that don't hurt businesses. Well, I have news for you Mr. Trump, and every republican ever.

Regulations don't kill jobs. In fact, according to every study on the issue, regulations actually provide a net benefit to economies as opposed to letting those regulations go away. Meaning that regulations create more jobs, create more economic activity than undoing those regulations would do. Furthermore, repealing regulations, which is what this Trump White House is all about, that's why they're cutting the EPA by 31% and laying off over 3,000 workers, we're losing economic activity. We're losing human health because we're letting corporations get away with destroying the environment. An American Lung Association report last year showed that air quality in 2016 actually improved. Now, there's still 166 million American citizens living in areas where the level of air pollution is considered dangerous, but overall things are getting better.

Donald Trump is going to undo all of that. That's not speculation, that's not hyperbole, that is what he said he's going to do. Why? To benefit corporations in the fossil fuel industry. Unless you are a CEO of a fossil fuel company, repealing environmental regulations has no benefit to your life. Basically what, there's maybe 30, 40 people in this country who would benefit from that? That's it. Is that worth laying off 3,000 people from that their government jobs? Is that worth risking the lives of 4,000 people every year by doing away with Obama's Clean Power Rule? We're putting the profits of corporate fossil fuel CEOs over the lives of American citizens. You know, since the Clean Air Act was passed in the 1970s an estimated 160,000 lives have been saved per year from reduced airborne particulate in this country.

160,000 lives every year. We're still losing on average 200,000 lives every year in the United States, premature deaths due to air pollution alone. We could keep reducing that number. We could literally save lives, thousands of lives, possibly hundreds of thousands of lives every year if we would just say, "Hey corporation, fossil fuel, coal power plant, you can't spew that crap into the air anymore." That's all it takes. That is all it would take to save American lives, reduce the number of people who have asthma attacks every year, reduce the number of sick days that employees take so productivity actually increases, but we're not willing to do that because of 30, 40 fossil fuel CEOs that we want to take care of. That's what's more important in this country today. Your life is worth less than the few extra dollars that a corporate CEO gets to put in his pocket. I want you to realize that, and I want you to think about that next time you head into your precinct and cast your vote. Which candidate is supporting the money of the fossil fuel companies, and which candidate thinks that your life is more important than a $10 or $20 bill going to a corporate CEO?.

Climate Change Wiped from White House Records

>> Kait: So Trump has held true to his word of denying climate change with his first stop being the White House Website. >> Chris: Which should not be a surprise what so ever. >> Kait: Not at all. So according to PRI, shortly after Trump was inaugurated all mentions of the phrase climate change have been wiped out. So, I actually tested this. I went to the White House website a couple of days ago and I typed in climate change and only two links came up for me. None of which were related to the environment. One was, like, the change of something, but I don't know what we are changing, and the other the climate of a state. Like oh it's a beautiful climate in the state. >> Chris: It's a good thing you don't work for the state of Florida. And we're, ah, right now in Washington because otherwise. >> Kait: Because you could be arrested. >> Chris: Ya, you could be arrested for mentioning climate change.

Maybe Trump will make the whole nation that way. You know. >> Kait: Oh great. Don't give him any ideas. He could be watching this. So, instead of climate change being on there Trump has put his own future plans on the website. Those include… In the proposal, Trump commits to elimination the Climate Action Plan, a sweeping set of policies aimed at cutting carbon pollution, including a number of President Barack Obama's executive actions. Trump also promises to eliminate the Waters of the United States rule, a technical document that defines which waterways come under the jurisdiction of federal regulations under the Clean Water Act. The 2015 rule is intended to protect smaller streams, tributaries and wetlands from development and has drawn sharp criticism from Republican lawmakers and from the farm and manufacturing interests. So, these are not the only ones that he put on the website. Those are just a few that we wanted to mention.

But, ultimately this really comes at no surprise. I mean he mentioned it in his campaign. But, he also nominated Scott Pruitt to be his head of EPA. And, we all know how much Scott Pruitt just loves the EPA. He loves them so much that he sued them 13 times. And when he was, you know, I think it was Oklahoma. >> Chris: Ya >> Kait: He actually removed the EPA from his own state. >> Chris: Well, it's funny because during his own nomination process that was a hot topic was the EPA. >> Kait: Yes. So, [laugh] this is really bad news. I mean ultimately Trump is, you know, is trying to make moves to shut down the EPA but the Washington Times spoke out about their joys of the fact that the EPA's trying, going to be shut down by saying….What great news for an agency with a history of executive overreach and lawlessness (using the Clean Power Plan to wipe out the coal industry, expanding its authority to lay claim on any pond or waterway, colluding with the environmental groups to expand their own power through rule-making).

So, some people are celebrating. >> Chris: Ya. Ya, definitely some people are celebrating. >> Kait: I'm not celebrating. >> Chris: It's not like the EPA does ton of stuff for us. >>Kait: Ya. >> Chris: They just sit around sucking us dry. >> Kait: I know. >> Chris: They're like the lazy people… >> Kait: With their 8 billion, you know. >> Chris: Ya >> Kait: Drain on our money, you know…. Blah blah blah. I mean it doesn't make sure we have clean water or that the entire United States doesn't turn into LA with all the smog and air pollution. >> Chris: Exactly. It's not like they have regulation that specifically states that we have to have clean air, clean water, clean lands. That we have to restore the lands that we have used for mining or for fracking. >> Kait: Or monitor and create Superfund sites so that more people don't get sick. >> Chris: Nah, they don't do any of that. Nothing.

>> Kait: Oh no. And they don't even hold the rules for the emissions of the cars so that we have more electric vehicles or anything like that. They don't do any good. Their just a drain. >> Chris: Completely. Completely a drain. >> Kait: So, I don't know what's going to happen if Trump follows through with this but ah, ya. >> Chris: Well, climate change is ah Chinese hoax. >> Kait: Oh I know right. >> Chris: At least that is what Trump tells me. Is that, and I believe everything that he tells me. Everything. He has pretty big hands. >> Kait: [laughing] So, ya, let's just keep an eye on this. I mean nothing has fallen through altogether. A lot of it, there is going to take a while to cut it all back. I mean at first he was just talking about cutting it back a little bit, maybe even just 10%.

I'm not really sure. I mean Scott Pruitt might be in his ear talking a lot. But ah, just keep an eye out. Heard though. and I don't know how accurate this is. If we have information we will put it on our website. But, there might actually be an Earth, a rally Earth march on Earth day. To help to protect the environment. So, keep a look out about that event. Try and see if there is anything in your area. But, um, that is definitely I think something we should do if this is happening. >> Chris: Definitely, definitely think so. >> Kait: And if you like this content and want to hear more please subscribe to us..

Trump Picks Climate Change Denier To Lead EPA

Donald Trump has picked Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of the state of Oklahoma, to head the EPA in the new Trump administration. Just like every other appointment Donald Trump has made, he’s picked someone who is grossly unqualified and downright dangerous for a cabinet position. Pruitt, in case anybody wasn’t aware at this point, is a firm climate change denier. He believes that the science behind the issue is certainly not settled and that there’s really no proof that climate change is even a thing.

Continue reading “Trump Picks Climate Change Denier To Lead EPA”