Trump Transition Leaves Chaos in Wake

Storm with lightning

Former EPA staffers said Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.Update:

The AP has news that the EPA must submit all studies and data to review by political appointees.

Former EPA staffers said Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.

Earlier:

It’s not been a week and already the Trump transition team has left chaos in its wake.

It has issued a series of gag orders, which in themselves, aren’t unusual for a transition. As the New York Times notes:

Longtime employees at three of the agencies — including some career environmental regulators who conceded that they remained worried about what President Trump might do on policy matters — said such orders were not much different from those delivered by the Obama administration as it shifted policies from the departing White House of George W. Bush. They called reactions to the agency memos overblown.

However, the orders went beyond the typical “don’t make statements to the press for the department until the department head is in place”  normal for a Presidential transition. They included orders freezing the publication of scientific reports and data, as well as information that is normally given to the public as part of the organization’s functions.  That they did so is probably due to the team’s inexperience, rather than an attempt to block citizen access to the data. The end result, though, is the same: concern and confusion.

Continue reading “Trump Transition Leaves Chaos in Wake”

Trump Signs Executive Orders Reversing Dakota and Keystone Pipeline Decisions

Dakota pipeline protest

Trump has signed executive orders reversing President Obama’s administration’s decisions on both the Keystone and the Dakota pipelines.

The Dakota pipeline is currently under review by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on the route and alternatives. Trump can’t just upend this effort with an executive order—not without Earth Justice or other environmental organization easily being able to get an injunction against the order in court. I expect a court challenge against this exeutive order within a day

Unfortunately, Obama’s Keystone Pipeline decision could be more easily undone. The original State Department review of the Pipeline didn’t find it to be an environmental risk. Later, State found that the Pipeline would run counter to the US efforts to combat climate challenge, but this finding was based on cheap oil. Once the price of oil rises, to $65.00 a barrel or more, than this decision would no longer be considered viable. We could challenge a Keystone decision in court, but have less chance of success.

The claims about jobs associated with the pipeline are exaggerated. Yes, there will be construction jobs to build the pipelines, but, ironically enough, many of those jobs will most likely be filled by undocumented workers from Mexico. Construction is the second largest employer of undocumented workers in the US.

Once the pipelines are built, though, the number of jobs provided is tiny, measuring in the 100s, if that.

US energy costs won’t decrease, either, especially with the Keystone pipeline. Much of the refined gas, diesel, and jet fuel is likely to be exported out of the country.

What we will see are increased environmental costs. Companies are responsible for oil spills, but it’s uncanny how all too often, we taxpayers end up footing the bill for oil clean up. In addition, both pipelines are a major risk to drinking water, as well as vital aquifers for agricultural irrigation. Today, the Canadian government noted that one pipeline spilled 200,000 liters of oil in aboriginal land, following another major spill that shut off the supply of water to two major cities.

We’ll absorb the environmental damage, including the impact of the refining, yet only the oil companies will truly benefit.

Photo courtesy Fibonacci Blue CC BY 2.0

The Whitehouse.gov web site changes and the Transition Plan

snapshot of archived site

Several people have tweeted about how the climate change page is no longer posted to the whitehouse.gov web site. What they’re not aware of is that this change was planned starting last October.

First of all, whitehouse.gov reflects whoever is the occupant of the White House. Unlike the EPA or Department of Labor web sites, we shouldn’t be surprised to see sweeping changes during this transition.

The National Archives and Record Administration has archived the Obama’s web pages, as well as Barack and Michelle Obama’s official POTUS and FLOTUS twitter accounts. So the pages aren’t gone. What you see now is what Trump’s team has put together during the transition. The pages specific to the tenant are going to be different.

In addition, the non-profit Archive.org has preserved the Obama whitehouse.gov web pages, in addition to all government web pages. Yes, including the climate change page.

(If you’re feeling generous, Archive.org could use a donation to help with expenses.)

This web site change is part of the transition, and not unexpected. When we should be concerned is when we see pages disappear from sites like the EPA and the Department of Labor once Trump’s cabinet members have taken over the departments.

 

“You know, I’m, like, a smart person”

Trump at rally

Among all of the discussion about the Russian involvement in getting Trump elected, one item hasn’t yet received much play in the press.

In an interview with Fox on Sunday, and excerpted in a New York Times story:

He also indicated that, as president, he would not take the daily intelligence briefing that President Obama and his predecessors have received. Mr. Trump, who has received the briefing sparingly as president-elect, said that it was often repetitive and that he would take it “when I need it.” He said his vice president, Mike Pence, would receive the daily briefing.

“You know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” he said. He added that he had instructed the officials who give the briefing: “‘If something should change from this point, immediately call me. I’m available on a one-minute’s notice.’”

Continue reading ““You know, I’m, like, a smart person””

What kind of damage can a Trump Cabinet do?

Jeff Sessions

If we were to search for the absolute best leaders for the different cabinet positions in the White House, we’d find Trump’s picks directly opposite them. A cabinet leader should support the mission of his or her cabinet, and seek to ensure it operates to the best of its ability. Trump’s picks have been, almost universally and vehemently, opposed to both the work and the premise of the organizations they’ve been picked to lead.

I shudder at who Trump will pick for Department of Interior and the EPA, and suspect that they’ll be very similar to Ronald Reagan’s picks of James G. Watt and Anne Gorsuch, respectively. Both individuals loathed the federal government. Watt spent his short tenure as Department of Interior trying to give away public land resource rights to every polluting industry in the United States, and Anne Gorsuch packed the EPA with industry cronies, starved it of money, and did everything in her power to stop it from enforcing laws it was tasked with enforcing.

The only saving grace is they were so controversial, so inept, and so fanatical that both were forced to resign within their first terms. Even then, their efforts damaged and demoralized the departments they led.

Continue reading “What kind of damage can a Trump Cabinet do?”