Friday, November 11, 2016

Analysis: No, An Asteroid Named Trump Didn’t Just Destroy The Planet, Yet

First, let’s stipulate the 2016 Presidential election did not give voters the opportunity to choose between candidates of the same caliber as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and the campaign was the most nasty and fact-free of any ever held, at least in the United States.
Now that Donald Trump has been elected, and as Hillary Clinton and Gov. Wolf said this week, we need to give him the chance to govern.
Some Pennsylvania environmental groups aren’t doing that.  One group called this a “dark place” for those who care about the environment.  Another said there’s a “new specter of anti-environmentalism arriving in January.”
Yes, Donald Trump has said--
-- Climate change is a hoax and probably a plot by the Chinese to make the U.S. non-competitive, and that he would unplug EPA’s Clean Power Plan and back out of the Paris Climate Agreement;
-- He said wants to eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
-- He also said he would end what he called the “Obama Administration’s war on coal;”
-- He wants to lift restrictions on energy production on federal lands and everywhere else;
-- He supports the Keystone XL pipeline and other major pipeline development;
-- Going forward, he wants to arbitrarily get rid of 2 regulations when a new one is proposed.
Many of these things seem a little out there to lots of people.  
Getting rid of the EPA, for example, would be complicated because you would have to repeal almost every major federal environmental law ever enacted.  Would Congress do that, probably not.
Just eliminating 2 regulations for each new one adopted without a more thoughtful and publicly transparent analysis of how you could reduce compliance costs without compromising effectiveness or some measure of portionality would be thoughtless.
Life and thoughtful and effective management of government programs, like in business, is a little more complicated than rhetoric in a campaign speech.
On the other hand on climate, carbon emissions have been reduced drastically over the last 5 years, not because of any action by EPA or the government, but because of the marketplace. Natural gas has become cheap and has displaced coal as Pennsylvania's fuel of choice for generating electricity.
Consider this-- the active permits now with DEP for natural gas-fueled power plants could replace all baseload coal-fired plants in Pennsylvania.
My advice for the moment is to pull out your copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy and look at the cover.  It says simply, “Don’t Panic!”
Many times, most times, words said in the heat of a campaign (in this case blast furnace) do not become reality or they get changed significantly along the way.
One of the realities is most of the things President-elect Trump wants to do have to go through Congress, including cabinet appointments, which is subject to all sorts of pressures.  Huge federal bureaucracies will fight significant changes with leaks and covert actions.  Court actions will be flying around Washington D.C. like flocking crows.
The appointment of a new justice and more in the future to the U.S. Supreme Court can certainly impact the Court’s decisions, for example, on issues like EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
The biggest threat to state environmental programs is from something no group has mentioned-- a radical change in federal policy implemented through the unglamorous vehicle of the federal budget.  De-funding state environmental programs, for example, would bring them to a halt.
In Pennsylvania’s case, our General Assembly is way ahead of Trump.  In the last 13 years, our own Senate and House members and Governors have cut 40 percent of the General Fund support for DEP and over 20 percent of its staff.
On October 18 the Senate voted 27 to 21 to pass Senate Resolution 385 (Brooks-R- Crawford) that would identify all the state’s environmental laws and regulations more stringent than federal requirements without any analysis of whether there is a reason for being more stringent.  The sponsors even said it was a prelude to rolling back our own state-adopted environmental protections.
Gov. Rendell (D) leased 137,000 of state forest land for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling to help balance the state budget, and only after, signed a moratorium on further drilling a few weeks before the gubernatorial election.
These threats are in our backyard.  Where were the groups complaining about Trump going to Washington when all this was happening in Harrisburg?
When words turn into concrete actions, THEN it’s time to weigh in, because this is a democracy after all.
Republican President Ronald Reagan had a good approach for times like these-- trust, but verify-- and then call them out for a negative action and make your feelings known to decision makers.
The other practically is you can’t keep people riled up about something for an extended period of time, especially after a long, bitter, divisive campaign.  People, frankly, are political and physically exhausted.
There may be a target-rich environment in our future, but not yet.
In the meantime, reduce your stress by going for a hike and enjoy Pennsylvania’s great outdoors and watch this video about a new product: Nature Rx.
Maybe worry….. a little.
Here’s What President Trump Plans To Do In First 100 Days

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