Trump claims environmental progress, but he's weakened rules

Friday, September 4, 2020, Vol. 44, No. 36

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is out to claim the mantle of environmental steward on Tuesday as he highlights conservation and restoration projects in Florida. But his administration has overturned or weakened numerous regulations meant to protect air and water quality and lands essential for imperiled species.

Trump was set to speak beside the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse before holding a campaign rally in North Carolina, another must-win state for his reelection. The trip comes as Trump steps up his travel to battleground states eight weeks out from Election Day.

The White House said Trump would use the Florida event to discuss his "numerous environmental policy accomplishments," including signing the Great American Outdoors Act, "protecting America's pristine natural environments, and funding of countless environmental restoration projects."

Trump will also discuss his call for additional funding for Everglades revitalization and addressing algae-causing run-off from Lake Okeechobee that has forced beach closures in the tourism-reliant state. Trump was also expected to soon extend a ban on new offshore drilling sites — a significant political concern in coastal states like Florida.

Trump, though, has rolled back a host of regulations meant to protect the environment, including on power plant emissions, auto fuel standards and clean water. He withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, a global agreement meant to address the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

The Trump administration has made the environment a primary target of his deregulatory push, eliminating or weakening dozens of rules that protect the nation's air and water quality and lands essential for imperiled species while reversing Obama-era initiatives to fight climate change.

Trump replaced Obama's Clean Power Plan aimed at slashing greenhouse gas pollution from electric plants and eased automobile fuel economy standards. Under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency stripped federal protection from millions of acres of streams and wetlands. He lifted restrictions on oil and gas exploration in sensitive areas and shortened environmental reviews of construction projects such as highways and pipelines.

Environmental groups and former EPA chiefs from both parties have criticized Trump's environmental record. Current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, defended it last week in a speech commemorating the agency's 50th anniversary. He contended Trump had reined in an agency that had lost sight of its core mission. A second term would bring more cleanups of Superfund toxic waste dumps and restoration of polluted industrial sites, which drew renewed emphasis during Trump's first term, Wheeler said.


Associated Press writer John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, contributed to this report.