On Monday, Donald Trump spent an hour reeling off information about his “stewardship” of the environment. And, as The New York Times notes, that hour was so riddled with lies, half-truths, and deliberately misleading statements that some who were listening felt as if they’d been plunged into the pages of 1984.
Trump allowed more dumping of mining wastes into streams and rivers; revoked the Clean Power Plan provisions against emissions of particulates; sent the EPA to court to fight against its own rules on heavy metals from power plants; overturned rules on the release of methane gas; and kept pesticides on the market known to cause breast cancer. And all that was in just his first six months. Under Trump, the EPA has become a cruel joke, as scientists have given way to fossil fuel and chemical industry lobbyists, and rules meant to protect the public have been replaced with gifts meant to boost his billionaire supporters.
Now, it seems, the public has finally noticed. The fact that Trump is literally killing them has turned into a downer in the polls. Enough of a downer that Trump determined that he had to do something about the facts that he has allowed poisons to be poured into streams, blasted into the air, and pumped across the ground. That something is to lie. Well … lie even more. So Trump came out on Monday, accompanied by the collection of industry lobbyists he’s put at the head of the nation’s agencies, to explain how superenvironmental he really is.
Trump didn’t claim he was addressing climate change, because even the least astute observer would have to notice that Mr. “Chinese Hoax” was admitting to a massive mistake. Instead, Trump leaned heavily on two of the catch phrases he’s spouted since taking office, claiming that he has promoted the “cleanest air” and “crystal clean” water. As the Times reported in an extremely Times way, “Experts watching the speech said many of the president’s claims were not based in fact.”
Instead, what Trump spewed was a mixture of laying claim to accomplishments that had been achieved under Obama and dismissing the very real environmental degradation caused by his own policies. And as Trump was speaking, the American Lung Association was filing a lawsuit over his destruction of public health.
In his typically rambling address to the cameras, Trump declared he was a “protector of public land” even as he has opened those lands to unprecedented levels of drilling, mining, logging, and development—including simply giving away millions of acres. Trump has opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development, destroyed most of two national monuments, and given permission for coal mines on public lands. That’s his idea of protection.
His claims to “crystal clear water” come not only after he has allowed more mining wastes to be dumped directly into streams and rivers, including those used for drinking water in many communities, but also after he’s crushed regulations concerning toxic coal ash impoundments. And just as the biggest rollback of clean water regulations since the Clean Water Act is going into effect—including moves to roll back regulations that kept factory farms from dumping massive amounts of untreated animal waste directly into public waterways. Trump’s “clear waters” also don’t appear to extend to the oceans, where Trump has moved to allow drilling along the coasts.
On the air pollution front, Trump didn’t just lie about his own pro-pollution efforts; he also lied about the effects, claiming American leadership on greenhouse gases that doesn’t exist. When Trump claims that the air has gotten better, he’s right … and wrong. Air pollution has been reduced drastically since the Clean Air Act was implemented, specifically because of tough federal regulations. The costs that power companies warned about when those rules were passed turned out to be trivial, especially compared to the savings. But that was then. Trump is deliberately making things worse, turning back the dials in a way that would take pollution levels back at least two decades.
But even as Trump was lying about his cleanest soot and crystal clear sludge, he was completely avoiding the issue that’s really moving the dial in the polls: the climate crisis. Record fires, record floods, record storms, and rising seas are showing residents of many states just how dangerous Trump’s lies about the climate really are. In particular, Florida has been subject to Category 5 hurricanes blasting into its coasts, red tides destroying its tourist seasons, and the streets of Miami literally playing host to swimming fish. People have noticed.
But Trump is moving ahead on plans both to roll back regulations on power plants and automobiles, and to promote more drilling and fracking. He’s not about to take any action designed to address the climate crisis, because that would first require that he admit there is a climate crisis. Instead, he’ll just keep talking about “clean” this and “crystal” that. Because if you’re going to tell a lie, it might as well be a big one.