Peter Dykstra: Baker's dozen

Lest the nonstop Trump headlines distract you, environmental misdeeds continue to fly under the radar. Here's a field guide.

For the first time in its 243-year history, America has learned how to achieve headspinning and facepalming at the same time.


This week's theatrical hearing featuring former Trump attorney and future Federal inmate Michael Cohen was merely the cherry on a foul-tasting Trump Sundae: Charlottesville. Stormy Daniels. Putin. "In love" with North Korea's dictator, though that bromance seems to have cooled . The press as "the enemy of the people." The childish nicknames, from "Crooked Hillary" to "Little Rocket Man." And many more.

Chances are that you, our astute readers, have followed most or all of these developments as they top front pages and ad infinitum cable news panel gabfests featuring Washington pundits who take no interest in heady topics like climate change.

It may be almost understandable that this Administration's environmental headspins and facepalms sink into our national quicksand. But it's not acceptable that we forget them, so here's a handy reference manual of what we've seen in the first two years of the Trump Administration – a baker's dozen of environmental abuse, ignorance, and contempt for both science and proper government regulation.

Paris: Climate activists largely viewed the Paris Climate Agreement as too little, too late to stave off many of the worst climate impacts, but it was still a major step forward for the 195 nations who signed on. Only Syria and Nicaragua sat it out. The U.S. joined them on June 1, 2017. Then Nicaragua and Syria signed up, leaving the U.S. conspicuously alone. Even former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, then Trump's Secretary of State, urged continued U.S. involvement. Trump also announced that he'd stiff the United Nations Green Climate Fund for good measure.

Pruitt: Trump's first EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, lasted a year and a half, leaving a trail of sometimes-comic scandals behind him before resigning in July, 2018. Adventures like the $43,000 super-secure office phone booth masked a thorough disembowelment of EPA's mission. Six months after his July 2018 resignation, Pruitt was reportedly skirting ethics laws restricting lobbying activity by recent government employees, signing on as a "consultant" to Kentucky coal baron Joseph Craft. Craft's climate-denying wife, Kelly Craft, is currently under consideration to be U.N. Ambassador

Regional Ruckus: During the Obama Administration, the job of Southeast Regional EPA Administrator went vacant for over a year because no one applied for the job. Pruitt filled the slot quickly with a man cast in his own image, Alabama state environmental boss Trey Glenn. In the private sector, Glenn had also consulted for a company seeking to avoid EPA cleanup and penalties. He was indicted in November, 2018 on multiple ethics and bribery charges.

Wheeler: As Scott Pruitt careened toward forced retirement, Andrew Wheeler secured Senate confirmation as his top deputy. While Pruitt waited till his post-EPA days to work for Big Coal, Wheeler's coal service helped him to his EPA post. He was promoted to Acting Administrator in April after Pruitt left, and was narrowly confirmed as permanent EPA head on Thursday. He's continued Pruitt's assault on Obama-era initiatives like the Clean Power Plan and improved vehicle fuel efficiency standards, but he's done so without Pruitt's flamboyantly questionable technique.

Enforcement down: The non-government Environmental Integrity Project crunched the numbers on EPA's enforcement efforts, finding that the numbers of site inspections and prosecutions had plummeted in the Trump Era.

Exception to the rule: One EPA office took enforcement seriously. Security guards at a press-invited EPA event on chemicals in drinking water turned into bouncers, barring three news organizations from entering and physically shoving AP reporter Ellen Knickmeyer out the door on May 22 of last year.

Zinke: Former Eagle Scout and Trump's first Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke was the Administration's ethical Frick and Fracking. By one count, Zinke had racked up as many as eighteen separate ethics investigations, including one for a shady land deal in his home town of Whitefish, Montana. Despite his December departure, House Democrats have vowed to follow up on some of his alleged misdeeds. Zinke also blamed California's savage wildfires on "environmental terrorist groups."



Bernhardt: Former oil industry lobbyist David Bernhardt succeeded Zinke as Acting Interior Secretary Shocker: Bernhardt moved to expand oil and gas drilling on public lands.

Blue ribbon climate denial panel: The White House is reportedly assembling a panel to address the growing political concern over climate change. Or maybe to refute it. A candidate to chair the panel is retired Princeton physicist William Happer, a go-to source for climate deniers.

Cold Weather Tweets: When a Polar Vortex-driven cold spell hit the eastern half of the country in February, Trump continued his traditional of conflating a localized cold snap into a refutation of all climate science, or, in Trump's spelling-impaired reality, "Global Waming."

Beautiful clean coal: Trump continues to shill for the dying domestic coal industry, including an unsuccessful effort to persuade the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep two coal-burning power plants open keep two coal-burning power plants opened for years to come.

Nukes: Likewise, Trump is pitching for the nuclear power industry, both stateside and overseas. Particularly odious is a $350,000 payment to Presidential adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner's firm by the Saudis, who are seeking U.S. nuclear power technology.

The children: Pre-election, Don Junior and Eric raised some eyebrows with their fondness for trophy hunting; since then, the administration has wavered on easing restrictions on importing elephants and other trophies. Daughter Ivanka seemed poised to champion climate change, brokering a pre-inauguration meeting between her Dad and Al Gore on December 5, 2016. But since the U.S. bailed on Paris, she's been AWOL.

What's next? As I wrote two weeks ago, Trump's supporters have already begun to paint the Green New Deal as the Trojan horse for a socialist takeover. Stay tuned as this becomes a 2020 campaign theme, complete with Democratic leaders throwing shade on the GND.

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More than 4 million acres of California went up in flames in 2020 – about 4 percent of the state's land area and more than double its previous wildfire record.

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