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02.06.2017 Trump Issues Executive Orders; Environmental Groups Prepare to Oppose His Agenda By: Channing J. Martin

President Trump has wasted no time in acting on his environmental agenda.  On January 24, his second working day in office, the President signed two Executive Orders giving the green light to construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.  When he signed the orders, he said the pipelines “will create great construction jobs,” and that the contracts with the pipeline companies are “subject to re-negotiation of terms by us” as to the use of American steel and American workers.  Both of these projects have been the subject of a significant litigation and were opposed and delayed by the Obama Administration, tribes and numerous environmental groups.  President Trump also signed an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to streamline the environmental permitting process for American manufacturers and reduce regulatory burdens within the confines of the law.  Finally, he signed an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to expedite environmental reviews of infrastructure projects.

Environmentalists may be down at the moment, but they’re not out.  They’re planning a four-step approach to oppose what they see as President Trump’s roll-back of environmental policies and regulations.  Step one is to enlist the public.  Environmental groups will use social media and ads to convince the public that actions proposed by the Administration will be detrimental to human health and the environment.  Step two is to use that public support and sentiment to peel-off moderate Republicans to block any legislation that rolls-back environmental laws or regulations.  Step three is to push for stronger regulation and enforcement at the state level (particularly in states controlled by Democrats) as a way to counter weaker regulation by the federal government.  Step four is to sue the federal government, and to convince states to sue the federal government, alleging that it failed to comply with the law, it acted arbitrarily and capriciously, etc.  (This last step should sound familiar to Republicans since Republican Attorneys General used it regularly to challenge environmental regulations issued by the Obama Administration.) 

Environmental groups have seen increased donations and membership since President Trump was elected.  Thus, they’ve got the resources to mount a strong defense to the Trump agenda.  Executive Orders are easy; they require just the stroke of the President’s pen.   The hard part is getting legislation through Congress.  Stay tuned – the fireworks have just begun.