BY BOB D. ROUNSAVELL
As an active environmentalist, I have seen how the president’s cabinet wields extraordinary power in our nation because they formulate policies and design programs that address key national concerns like threatened wildlife, clean air, clean water, energy policy, and most important the underlying threat of global warming/climate change. Hence, they can determine critical regulations affecting these issues and also undermine existing government programs that have been successfully implementing the national agenda.
Here are four cabinet members, notably all men, who are about to impact life on planet earth significantly in the next four years. Our president has chosen them because of their anti-climate change philosophy, hence the Sierra Club has dubbed them the “four henchmen of the Environmental Apocalypse.” These four cabinet appointees are the generals in the war against the environment. [Thanks to the Sierra Club for providing much of this information.]
First, and perhaps most notable is Oklahoma’s former Attorney General Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. A quote from Pruitt: “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” The source of his information is unknown, but my own sources affirm that 90%-plus climate scientists believe in the significant impact of human activity on global warming/climate change.
Having Pruitt as head of the EPA is like having the proverbial fox guard the henhouse. Pruitt is considered the worst of the four federal officials. A confirmed climate change denier, a lackey of the fossil fuel industry who has sued the EPA often and collaborated with oil and gas companies in lawsuits, he described himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
When one examines his resume closely, obviously President Trump could not have chosen anyone worse to serve as chief environmental protector. Pruitt’s environmental decisions as Oklahoma’s attorney general served to pad the profits of big polluters at the expense of the environment in direct opposition to EPA mandates and regulations.
He has filed lawsuits against EPA regs to keep water sources safe, notably the Clean Water Rule. Rather than write his own letters as attorney general, he sent letters under his signature ghostwritten by the oil and gas industry, raising questions about his ethical standards. Are they suited to the job he now holds? I, for one, don’t think so.
In another attack on the EPA Clean Power Plan, he challenged rules on mercury and cross-state air pollution. Note the plan formulated by PSO, EPA, Sierra Club, and the state of Oklahoma would do away with PSO’s two coal-burning generators by the end of 2026 and utilize only gas-fired units, a notable improvement over existing generators. By the way, the first coal-burning generator has already been shut down.
Established by President Richard Nixon, EPA has prided itself in being science-based throughout its history. This reliance on science in turn allowed the Obama Administration to press for more efficient cars and trucks, cleaner air and water, and safer power plants. All these EPA accomplishments have contributed to less air pollution and thus a more sustainable environment.
Unfortunately, we now may be facing the growing reality that eight years of progress under Obama could be reversed by the Pruitt EPA. To echo our president, sad!
Second, the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, once remarked: “Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around – we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”
Here’s another coup by Trump. He has now put the former ExxonMobil CEO in charge of America’s Department of State. Big question: does his tenure as an oil company executive qualify Tillerson to be America’s chief diplomat and architect of our foreign policy.
We certainly need to be worried about his inadequate experience as a diplomat. A more important concern is the fact that he spent his 31 years pursuing a strong fossil-fuel agenda while leading a company that has been charged with deliberately lying about the impact of these fuels on climate change. ExxonMobil even misled its investors on this issue.
While CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson pressured our government to open the Arctic area for oil exploration. He also pursued a dangerous agenda of climate denial and joined the anti-environment lobby, aligning himself with the Koch family-funded American Legislative Executive Council [ALEC].
Like his new boss President Donald Trump, Tillerson has over the years fostered close business and personal ties to Russia.
America is in need of a Secretary of State who will advance the issues important to our country’s future, not the fossil fuel industry’s or Russia’s. If it is to continue to be a world leader in this century, our nation needs to move away from the fossil fuels and increase investments in the renewable energy sources, the world’s best hope for resolving the threats presented by climate change.
The future presented by Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State is clearly one of increased oil and gas drilling, more oil spills in the Arctic region and elsewhere, and a rapidly warming world. Things do not bode well for the human race unless he makes more intelligent choices.
Third, meet our new Energy Secretary, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a long-time climate denier, two-time failed presidential candidate, and Dancing with the Stars contestant.
The irony is that Perry will be leading a department he forgot existed, and then called to be abolished. Perhaps the more tragic irony is that we are at a point in history when America needs to develop a clean energy agenda. Our new president has solved the problem by choosing a climate denier who has called the evidence of climate change as “so-called science.”
Over his years as governor, Perry cut environmental regs and worked for production expansion of both oil and coal energy. When a report on sea level rise in Galveston Bay was released, Rick Perry appointed environmental officials who censored all references to climate change, foreshadowing White House action soon after the president’s inauguration.
Perry has continued to nurse deep ties to the oil industry by serving on numerous oil company and industry boards. He has also opposed EPA regulations aimed at reducing harmful gas emissions, has even sued EPA, an experience he shares with the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
In a time of great threat from climate change, the world should move ASAP away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy technology. The scenario for an improved environment is bleak with the designation of climate change deniers and fossil fuel supporters to develop our energy policy.
Fourth, Ryan Zinke, Mr. 3%, is the secretary of the Department of the Interior. To quote him, “I’m a conservationist, but when there’s a volcano in the Philippines that erupts and produces more CO2 than humans have produced in 200 years – is CO2 really the problem?” Incidentally, Zinke earned his nickname of Mr. 3% from the League of Conservation Voters who gave him a 3% rating on conservation issues.
His role will be the management and conservation of our national resources. His experience in this area: he was a Montana congressman.
If you’ve ever visited one of America’s natural treasures, then you know the Secretary of the Interior is charged with the primary task of conserving them. However, it’s questionable whether Ryan Zinke will take care of all of them since he is no fan of the environment and no rightful keeper of our natural assets.
Here’s the reason for my doubts about him. As Rep. Zinke of Montana, he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry. He has also advocated for expansion of coal exports while accepting tens of thousands of dollars from the coal industry. He is a co-sponsor of a bill supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline. He also has a history of battling Native Americans over sovereignty and land use. Is he the interior secretary we need?
In the next four years America will be confronting pressure to sell off public lands or allow expanded fossil fuel production there. To his credit, Zinke has indicated his support for strong federal protection in the past. But in the Trump Administration he will undergo heavy pressure to change his position and to implement the Trump agenda. In the final analysis, it will come down to his ability or his commitment to resist the pressure to have a massive sell-off of America’s cherished natural resources.
Meantime all of us will need to monitor these four and their government policies that will ensure no negative consequences of climate changes. It will be a serious challenge with this bunch of environmental protectors.
Hopefully, many citizens are beginning to see the reality of this president’s choices for an administration entrusted with the well-being of all Americans, whether Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, religious or not, gay or straight, whites or people of color. Definitely a diverse country, we offer many talents, skills and ideas as one of the planet’s most creative forces, thus ensuring America’s continued greatness and being the symbol for human potential.
The initial efforts require consciously tapping conservation practices. Remember the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra? Next, we substitute for fossil fuels safer and more efficient renewables, e.g. wind or solar power or geothermal energy.
An achievable goal must be enunciated and then reached in order to forestall the devastation of melting ice, rising sea levels and floods capable of destroying coastal living, drought that brings about disastrous wildfires and extreme storms.
Let us all be aware and act according to the tenets of basic ecology. Ecology simply defined refers to the relationship between all living organisms [plant and animal life forms] and their relationship to the environment. Without one another we cannot survive the threat of global warming/climate change.
– Oologah, OK resident Bob D. Rounsavell is president of the Carrie Dickerson Foundation