Trump hasn’t even taken office yet, but his picks for high-level cabinet positions are beginning to show an increasingly clear picture, dominated by climate change deniers who have an interest in the oil and gas industries.
Environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters are calling Donald Trump’s incoming administration the “most anti-environmental cabinet in our nation’s history.” The Sierra Club calls it “the fossil fuel industry’s dream come true.”
Here’s a quick primer on the nominees you need to know – and why their appointments could be a disaster for the environment and the planet as a whole:
The Secretary of State is Literally a Fossil Fuel Executive
It’s difficult to understand just how intensely problematic Rex Tillerson would be if confirmed as Secretary of State. He’s been getting some well-deserved press lately for his cozy ties with Russia, but there’s another reason progressives should be wary: he’s currently the standing CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world. Talk about a conflict of interest!
Tillerson has spent decades trying to suppress the truth about climate change, but now that it’s become an undeniable reality, he’s changed his tune. Basically, he’s trying to reassure people it’s really no big deal. If confirmed, he’ll be in charge of approving dangerous oil pipelines like Keystone XL or the Dakota Access Pipeline. He’ll also be in a position to choose whether or not the US sticks to the Paris climate agreement.
Terrified yet? Well, read on. Trump’s cabinet picks only get worse from here.
The EPA Could be Handed to One of its Biggest Critics
Let’s talk about Scott Pruitt. He’s currently the attorney general of Oklahoma, and he’s filed multiple lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency. Why? Apparently, it’s inconvenient for fossil fuel companies to minimize the amount of pollution they emit. Not only does Pruitt not care about greenhouse gasses and the looming specter of climate change, he also doesn’t consider clean air and water to be a basic human right.
Oh, and he’s also received more than $340,000 from energy and natural resource companies since first running for office. He’s so cozy with the oil and gas industry that he’s actually allowed its lawyers to draft letters to regulators on his behalf.
The Leading Department of Energy Pick Wants to Dismantle the Agency
While nothing’s been made official yet, word is that Trump is probably going to nominate former Texas governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. You know, the same Rick Perry who pledged to eliminate the agency (the name of which he had trouble even remembering) during his 2011 presidential campaign. Presumably he’s opposed to the agency’s mission to fund renewable energy research, but when you realize this is the department charged with disposing of nuclear waste and safeguarding our nuclear security, the pick is downright disturbing.
In his tenure as Texas Governor, Perry scrubbed government reports of all mentions of climate change when discussing rising sea levels. He believes climate change is an “unproven theory” despite year after year of record-breaking high temperatures, and rather than setting aside money to aid residents during natural disasters like severe drought, he’d rather institute a few days of prayer to address the issue. (Yes, really.)
The Attorney General Nominee Believes Climate Change is a Conspiracy
Even Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has a solid record of climate change denial. One of his duties would involve enforcement of federal environmental regulations and defending challenges to those rules – and this strange statement he delivered in 2015 calling climate change a conspiracy against the world’s poor shouldn’t leave any room for doubt on how he’s likely to approach the issue.
Trump’s Interior Department Picks Support Drilling in Public Lands
Last week, it was widely reported that Washington legislator Cathy McMorris Rodgers was the likely favorite for Secretary of the Interior – an outspoken supporter of offshore drilling and selling off national parks to the highest bidder.
It seems now that position is being offered to Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana instead, and while he’s called the sale of public lands a “non-starter,” that doesn’t make him any less worrisome. Like the rest of Trump’s cabinet, he seems to have a shaky grasp of climate science, and Politico speculates his agenda could include striking down limits on offshore drilling and abandoning federal fracking regulations. While he seems to be less of a disaster than everyone else on this list, it’s hard to imagine our national park system thriving under his leadership.
It’s Now More Crucial Than Ever to Push Back Against Trump
It’s important to keep in mind that these are only cabinet nominations so far. They still need to be confirmed by the Congress before they can take office. If these nominees concern you (and they should!), the best thing you can do right now is write to your Representatives and Senators and ask them to reject Trump’s anti-environment cabinet picks. If you’re not sure how to do that or what to say, here’s a great guide to get you started.
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