Donald Trump claims environmental progress; environmentalists disagree | News Coverage from USA

Donald Trump claims environmental progress; environmentalists disagree

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump spotlighted his environmental record Monday, even as environmental groups ripped his administration for promoting the kinds of pollution generated by oil drilling, natural gas extraction and coal mining.

“We want the cleanest air, we want crystal clean water – and that’s what we’re doing,” Trump said during a speech at the White House.

As Trump rolled out his presentation, a long list of environmental groups issued indictments of the president’s record, from promotion of oil and gas drilling on public lands to deregulation of energy companies.

“Donald Trump is resorting to greenhouse gaslighting the public to try and cover up the fact that he is the worst president in history for the environment, climate and public health,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

In his speech, Trump said his administration is pursuing “technologies and processes” to make energy production cleaner and to remove pollutants from natural sources of water. Trump said the U.S. is leading the way in reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of countries in the Paris climate accord that he walked away from two years ago.

In a frequently political speech, Trump said Democrats want to improve the environment by reducing energy production in ways that would cut American jobs.

“The United States does not have to sacrifice our own jobs to lead the world on the environment,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. can have a strong economy and clean environment at the same time.

At another point, Trump ripped the so-called “Green New Deal,” a plan promoted by some Democrats to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years. He claimed it would cost the economy nearly $100 trillion dollars, though there is no way to know if that is true. 

Trump administration officials cited overall air pollution reductions, using a timeline stretching back to the creation of the EPA in 1970.

“We have made a lot of advancements, and the environment is getting cleaner under the leadership of President Trump and this administration,” said Andrew Wheeler, director of the Environmental Protection Agency.

During the ceremony, Trump brought up Wheeler and other aides to praise their environmental stewardship.

More: Andrew Wheeler, who’s been leading Trump deregulatory charge, confirmed by Senate as EPA chief

Trump told a crowd of invited guests at the White House that “a lot of tremendous things are happening,” but critics said his environmental agenda is more harmful than helpful.

But environmental groups took issue with Trump’s self-evaluation.

Trump is “the most anti-environmental president in U.S. history. Period,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, the League of Conservation Voters’ senior vice president of governmental affairs. “It is beyond absurd that he is giving a speech pretending otherwise.”

Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity called it “bizarre that Trump thinks he can slap a happy face sticker over the vast wounds he’s inflicting on America’s environment.”

“There’s no hiding his massive assault on crucial protections for our air, water and climate,” said Hartl, the center’s government affairs director. “As Trump gives away our public lands and guts safeguards for endangered wildlife, most Americans see how much damage he’s causing to our children’s future.”

Environmentalists said many pollution numbers will turn back up because of the Trump administration’s deregulation of polluting industries like oil, gas and coal.

The Trump administration has aggressively tried to roll back dozens of Obama-era regulations aimed at improving air and water quality, scaling back energy exploration and protecting animal habitats.

Among the regulations targeted for rollback are ones that would strengthen disposal of toxic coal ash, expand the definition of bodies of water protected by the Clean Water Act and limit drilling and mining in wildlife areas. The Trump administration has also sought to relax rules on methane emissions, off-shore oil drilling safety and car emissions.

Groups also protested Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate accord. Wheeler said that deal put more burdens on the United States than on other countries, and the U.S. would consider a more equitable agreement.

Contributing: Ledyard King and Doyle Rice

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