Eleven months into the Trump administration, it’s worth seriously pondering the question: Does Donald Trump have something against clean air? Did a smogless day insult his mother, and now he’s out for revenge? It seems silly, but it’s hard not to wonder when the Trump administration seems so determined to roll back every bit of progress the Obama administration made when it comes to reducing air pollution and hopefully slowing down the rate of global warming.
(OK, it’s probably that Trump just hates Obama that much.)
To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, a million here, several tens of thousands of dollars there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.
Much has been written in recent weeks about cabinet secretaries’ profligate use of charter aircraft at the taxpayers’ expense. While Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price racked up almost a million dollars in flights this year — a revelation that led to his abrupt resignation — other Trump administration officials including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have also been racking up the miles.
Zinke’s more than $12,000 charge for a charter flight home to Montana and Pruitt’s $58,000 in private and military flights should rightly raise the hackles of taxpayers.
One promising hallmark of President Donald Trump’s tenure has been the ability of federal courts to check his administration’s impulsive actions.
A recent appeals court ruling on methane emissions is an important example. By a 2-1 margin, the U.S. Court of Appealsfor the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s 90-day suspension of new methane emissions standards for oil and gas wells.
The EPA had delayed implementation of the new rule for 90 days and has proposed extending that delay for another two years. The court found this was a smoke screen for repealing the rule without following the appropriate process.
As members of the team that developed the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, we write to thank Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) for joining their Democratic and independent colleagues in successfully opposing a congressional resolution to overturn that rule.
The United States is the largest natural gas producer in the world, yet the public does not benefit fully from this energy resource. Between 2009 and 2015, oil and gas producers on public and Indian lands leaked, released or flared enough gas to supply more than 6 million households for a year. This wasted gas pollutes the air and costs federal taxpayers, states and tribes millions in lost royalties. The BLM rule will require producers to repair leaks, replace outdated equipment and use industry-developed best practices to reduce other losses. But the rule faces another threat: At President Trump’s direction, the Interior Department stated that it will review and “suspend, revise, or rescind” the rule. Thus far, this administration has focused on environmental rules’ costs, willfully ignoring the climate crisis and the public-health benefits of reducing pollution. Any changes to the methane rule must be made through a fair and open rulemaking process. If the department engages in such a process, its experts will conclude — as before — that there are cost-effective ways to reduce gas waste, recoup appropriate royalties for the public, reduce impacts on nearby communities, and protect public and Indian lands, air, water and wildlife for future generations.