Written by: Joseph Medyckyj-Scott
In his 4-year term Trump and his Administration made the economy the focus for all environmental decisions. They commenced the roll-back of over 100 environmental regulations by the EPA, saw a 30-year low in criminal prosecution by the EPA, and sought to radically change the US narrative on climate change, its causes and importance.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the USA government’s executive branch tasked to deal with environmental matters. It was through this agency; Trump sought the majority of impact. He installed EPA administrators who were involved in fossil fuel lobbying and questioned climate change.
Probably Trump’s greatest impact was his executive order to remove the US from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement; an agreement between 197 countries that aimed to avoid global temperatures going more than 1.5-2 °C above pre-industrial levels by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” was repealed in 2017 by Trump’s EPA. The plan, aimed to reduce CO2 emission by reducing pollutants causing soot and smog by 25%. Their attempted replacement, the “Affordable Clean Energy Rule”, would lead to an insignificant reduction in GHG emissions compared to no regulation at all. (Keyes, et al. 2019)
Almost immediately when Trump became President, he vowed to repeal Obama’s “Water of the United States” regulation, which prohibited discharge of pollutants into any navigable waters. The EPA’s replacement; “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” not only removed protection from over 50% of wetlands and 20% of streams but greatly reduced the need for landowners to seek permits to discharge.
Between 2018 and 2020 Trump’s EPA removed or decreased protection for wildlife by amending a number of different protections that were in place. The “Endangered Species Act” was changed to give more focus on economic considerations; including conducting economic assessments when deciding whether a species needed protection or not. Trump also changed how the “Migratory Bird Treaty Act” was interpreted. This meant for the first time ever companies who accidently killed birds through wind turbines and oil spills etc, would not face any fines or penalties (Miller 2019).
While Biden may be able to repeal the legislation, reversing the effect of Trump’s anti-climate change narrative held by his administration, may be more of a challenge.
Environmental Protection Agency. n.d. FACT SHEET: Clean Power Plan. https://archive.epa.gov/epa/cleanpowerplan/fact-sheet-clean-power-plan.html.
Keyes, Amelia T, Kathleen F Lambert, Dallas Burtraw, Jonathan J Buonocore, Joathan I Levy, and Charles T Driscoll. 2019. “The Affordable Clean Energy rule and the impact of emissions rebound on carbon dioxide and criteria air pollutant emissions.” Environmental Research Letters 14: 7-9.
Miller, Carol J. 2019. “Migratory Birds: Greater Vulnerability under Trump Administration’s Policies on Incidental Take and Habitat.” Animal Law.
NPR. 2020. Trump Administration Cuts Back Federal Protections For Streams And Wetlands. January. https://www.npr.org/2020/01/23/798809951/trump-administration-is-rolling-back-obama-era-protections-for-smaller-waterways.
Ozymy, Joshua, Bryan Menard, and Melissa L Jarral. 2020. “Persistence or Partisanship: Exploring the Relationship between Presidential Administrations and Criminal Enforcement by the US environmental Protection Agency, 1983-2019.” Public Administration Review.
Sullivan, Mazeika P, Mark C Rains, and Amanda D Rodewald. 2019. “he proposed change to the definition of “waters of the United States” flouts sound science.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 1-4.
The New York Times`. 2021. The Trump Administration Rolled Back More Than 100 Environmental Rules. Jan. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks-list.html.
Tollefson, Jeff. 2017. Trump pulls United States out of Paris Climate Agreement. June. https://www.nature.com/news/trump-pulls-united-states-out-of-paris-climate-agreement-1.22096.
Wolff, Eric. 2018. Environmentalists: Pruitt’s replacement ‘should scare anyone who breathes’. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/05/scott-pruitt-epa-andrew-wheeler-570641.
 The New York Times, “The Trump Administration Rolled Back More Than 100 Environmental Rules”.
 Ozymy, Menard, and Jarrel, “Persistence or Partisanship: Exploring the Relationship between Presidential Administrations and Criminal Enforcement by the US environmental Protection Agency, 1983-2019”
 Wolff, “Environmentalists: Pruitt’s replacement ‘should scare anyone who breathes’ ”
 Tollefson, “Trump pulls United States out of Paris Climate Agreement”.
 Environmental Protection Agency, “Fact Sheet: Clean Power Plan”.
 Keyes et al., “The Affordable Clean Energy rule and the impact of emissions rebound on carbon dioxide and criteria air pollutant emissions”, 7-9.
 Sullivan, Rains, and Rodewald, “The proposed change to the definition of “waters of the United States” flouts sound science,” 11558.
 Miller, “Migratory Birds: Greater Vulnerability under Trump Administration’s Policies on Incidental Take and Habitat”.