A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment

The Trump administration has promised vast changes to U.S. science and environmental policy—and we’re tracking them here as they happen.

The Trump administration’s tumultuous first months have brought a flurry of changes—both realised and anticipated—to U.S. environmental policy. Many of the actions roll back Obama-era policies that aimed to curb climate change and limit environmental pollution, while others threaten to limit federal funding for science and the environment.

The stakes are enormous. The Trump administration takes power amid the first days of meaningful international action against climate change, an issue on which political polarisation still runs deep. And for the first time in years, Republicans have control of the White House and both houses of Congress—giving them an opportunity to remake the nation’s environmental laws in their image.

It’s a lot to keep track of, so National Geographic will be maintaining an abbreviated timeline of the Trump administration’s environmental actions and policy changes, as well as reactions to them. We will update this article periodically as news develops.

TRUMP REVOKES FLOOD STANDARDS ACCOUNTING FOR SEA-LEVEL RISE - August 15, 2017

President Trump has signed an executive order revoking federal flood-risk standards that incorporated rising sea levels predicted by climate science.

Trump’s new executive order claims to improve federal infrastructure decisions by quickening and streamlining the environmental review process. A single sentence takes the additional step of revoking Executive Order 13690, signed by President Barack Obama on January 30, 2015.

That executive order required that federally funded projects hew to a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, to reduce the risk of future flood damage. Specifically, the order required that floodplains had to be based on the “best-available, actionable hydrologic and hydraulic data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on climate science.”

From 1993 to 2016, global average sea level has increased by about 3.25 inches and is projected to rise one to four feet by the end of the century. Higher sea-level rise cannot be ruled out, due to incomplete data on Antarctic ice-shelf stability. Since the 1960s, tidal flooding has increased at least fivefold in several U.S. cities.

U.S. cities are predicted to see more floods in the coming years. A recent Union of Concerned Scientists report found that chronic flooding—a flood roughly every two weeks—will come to affect more than 170 U.S. coastal communities in less than 20 years and some 670 communities by 2100.

REPORT: EPA ENFORCEMENT LAGS UNDER TRUMP - August 10, 2017

A newly published report asserts that in its first six months, the EPA under the Trump administration is off to a slow start enforcing environmental laws.

The report, published by the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, examined lawsuits filed by the EPA from January 20 to July 31, 2017, roughly the Trump administration’s first six months in power. Over that time, the EPA has filed fewer lawsuits against companies for breaking pollution control laws than the agency had during the opening months of the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama administrations.

The Trump EPA also lags by other key metrics, the report finds. So far, its actions against violators have avoided 22 estimated premature deaths, and it has collected $12 million of civil penalties. In comparison, the Obama administration had avoided some 229 premature deaths and collected $36 million in penalties—and in its first six months, the EPA under George W. Bush had avoided some 618 premature deaths and had collected $30 million in penalties.

“This is the weakest start any of us has seen in at least 24 years,” says Eric Schaeffer, the executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and the EPA’s former director of civil enforcement.

In a press call, Schaeffer and the report’s other coauthors expressed concern that the Trump EPA will not make enforcement a priority—a fear they say is only reinforced by proposed budget cuts. The Trump administration has called for a 23-percent cut to the agency’s enforcement budget and an agency-wide budget cut of 31 percent.

In a statement, EPA deputy assistant administrator Patrick Traylor emphasised that the report’s short time window can’t account for the months to years it can take to police possible violators.

“This ‘snapshot’ assertions (sic) say much more about enforcement actions commenced in the later years of the Obama administration than it does about actions taken in the beginning of the Trump administration,” he adds. “Despite this unfair report, EPA is committed to enforcing environmental laws to correct noncompliance and promote cleanup of contaminated sites.”

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT RELAXES ASPECTS OF SAGE GROUSE PROTECTION - August 7, 2017

The Department of the Interior has released the results of a 60-day review of the Obama administration’s conservation plan to protect the greater sage grouse. The review, ordered in June by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, was intended to determine if that plan interferes with Trump administration efforts to increase energy production on federal lands.

In light of the newly published review, Secretary Zinke recommends reprioritising oil development within the broader 2015 plan, among other changes. Environmental groups have rebuked the overhaul, arguing that changes to the 2015 plan could dilute protections for the species.

“Today, the administration’s review opens the door to significant changes to the sage-grouse plans, which could undercut the sound science used to develop those plans and jeopardise what we know the bird needs to live and thrive,” said Eric Holst, the associate vice president of working lands for the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement. “By reopening the federal plans, we risk undermining and undoing one of the greatest collaborative conservation efforts in our nation’s history.”

The Obama plan was drawn up as an alternative to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to list the sage grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The approach, which involved a five-year negotiation between 1,100 ranchers, environmental groups, and state and federal agencies, was hailed as an unprecedented collaboration that had reduced the threat to sage grouse habitat while avoiding a more stringent regulatory intervention that might hinder economic development. Fish and Wildlife declined to list the sage grouse after the collaborative conservation plan was unveiled in 2015.

The sage grouse habitat spans 173 million acres in 11 western states, including the Dakotas, and three Canadian provinces. Before the West was settled, the sage grouse once roamed over 290 million acres. In launching the 60-day review, Zinke said: “While the federal government has a responsibility under the Endangered Species Act to responsibly manage wildlife, destroying local communities and levying onerous regulations on the public lands that they rely on is no way to be a good neighbour.” Rewriting the Obama plan could extend beyond President Trump’s term, when public comment periods, new proposals and legal challenges are taken into account.

EPA DROPS DELAY OF OBAMA-ERA OZONE STANDARDS - August 2, 2017

In an about-face spurred by a 16-state lawsuit, the Trump administration EPA has dropped its decision to delay Obama-era regulations on ozone. The potent lung irritant forms when strong sunlight irradiates emissions from vehicles, power plants, and other sources.

In October 2015, the Obama administration tightened the ozone national standard from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion, citing ozone’s toll on public health. The Obama administration estimated that the reduction would yield $2.9 to $5.9 billion worth of health benefits in 2025, outweighing its estimated annual cost of $1.4 billion.

Few were entirely thrilled with the 2015 regulations. Environmental and public-health groups criticised the regulation as not stringent enough, citing evidence that ozone still poses a public health threat at 70 parts per billion, the upper end of the ozone standards recommended by scientists advising the EPA. Meanwhile, industry groups and their allies in Congress criticised the rule for the costs it would inflict.

In June, the EPA announced its intent to delay the implementation of the rule from October 1, 2017, to October 1, 2018, citing lingering questions and the regulation’s complexities. In response, 16 Democratic state attorneys general and the District of Columbia petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the one-year delay.

In its reversal the next day, the EPA cited its “commitment to working with the states.”

NOAA CANCELS RULE TO PROTECT WHALES FROM FISHING NETS - June 13, 2017

The Trump Administration this week cancelled a rule that would have helped prevent endangered whales and sea turtles from becoming entangled in fishing nets off the U.S. West Coast. Proposed in 2015, the rule would have closed the swordfish gill net fishery for up to two years if any two individual endangered whales or sea turtles were killed or seriously hurt within a two-year period. The same penalties would have applied if any combination of four bottlenose dolphins or short-finned pilot whales were injured or killed within a two-year period.

This week, however, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division announced that the rule is no longer necessary because other protections have reduced the number of marine mammals entangled in gill nets. “What changed is that our more detailed analysis demonstrated to us that the hard caps would likely impose significant additional cost on the fleet without much additional conservation benefit,” says Michael Milstein, a NOAA fisheries spokesman.

Entanglements were common in the 1990s. But only two gray whales have been killed or seriously injured since 2012, according to NOAA. The short-beaked dolphin is the most frequently entangled marine mammal, and the number of annual entanglements of this species has declined from 200 killed in the early 1990s to fewer than 10 injured or killed in 2015.

New net design has helped reduce casualties, NOAA says. But environmentalists say that a more likely explanation for the reduced entanglements is the significant drop in the number of fishermen working the waters. The swordfish fleet has declined by almost 90 percent since the 1990s—from 141 boats in 1990 to just 20 boats in 2016. Leatherback turtles, humpback whales, and sperm whales are still being killed in gill nets, a spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity told the Los Angeles Times.

INTERIOR SUGGESTS SHRINKING BEARS EARS - June 12, 2017

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah’s red rock country be shrunk by President Trump. Zinke declined to say at a press conference how much Bears Ears’ boundaries should be downsized. But he suggested the rich cache of ancient tribal artefacts inside the monument—one of the largest collections in the nation—could be protected in a much smaller area surrounding the Bears Ears twin butte formation and another section to the north of what is now a 1.3-million-acre expanse.

The boundary details will be forwarded to Trump later this summer, Zinke said, along with his review of 26 other national monuments. Zinke says legislation will also be proposed so that Congress determines how areas inside national monuments are managed. Bears Ears, for example, also contains wilderness areas inside its boundaries.

The president had asked Zinke in April to review large monuments as part of an effort to increase development on federal lands. Bears Ears is one of two controversial Utah national monuments that drew the ire of Utah lawmakers, who asked Trump to consider rescinding or shrinking them. Bears Ears, created by President Barack Obama last December after several years of negotiations with state and tribal leaders, was singled out by Trump as a “massive federal land grab.” The other is Grand Staircase Escalante, created by President Clinton in 1996, with little public involvement.

Zinke said the Utah delegation and state lawmakers, including Gov. Gary Herbert, support his recommendations. But supporters of Bears Ears existing boundaries expressed disappointment as well as doubts that Trump’s efforts to shrink Bears Ears would survive a court challenge. Randi Spivak, spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group based in Tucson, Arizona, said the recommendation to downsize Bears Ears contradicts the intentions of the Antiquities Act, which enables presidents to set aside federal land for protection and signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. “It’s time for Zinke to stop pretending he’s a Teddy Roosevelt kind of guy,” Spivak said.

INTERIOR TO REVIEW GREATER SAGE GROUSE PROTECTION - June 8, 2017

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Wednesday ordered a review of an Obama administration conservation plan to protect the greater sage grouse to determine if that plan interferes with Trump administration efforts to increase energy production on federal lands. The Obama plan was drawn up as an alternative to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to list the sage grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The approach, which involved a five-year negotiation between 1,100 ranchers, environmental groups, and state and federal agencies, was hailed as an unprecedented collaboration that had reduced the threat to sage grouse habitat while avoiding a more stringent regulatory intervention that might hinder economic development. Fish and Wildlife declined to list the sage grouse after the collaborative conservation plan was unveiled in 2015.

The sage grouse habitat spans 173 million acres in 11 western states, including the Dakotas, and three Canadian provinces. Before the West was settled, the sage grouse once roamed over 290 million acres. In launching the 60-day review, Zinke said: “While the federal government has a responsibility under the Endangered Species Act to responsibly manage wildlife, destroying local communities and levying onerous regulations on the public lands that they rely on is no way to be a good neighbour.” Rewriting the Obama plan could extend beyond President Trump’s term, when public comment periods, new proposals and legal challenges are taken into account.

U.S. PULLS OUT OF PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT - June 1, 2017

President Trump said that he will pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, steering away from a group of 194 other countries that have promised to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. The news came just days after he attended the G7 Summit in Italy, where the six other member countries—Germany, Italy, Canada, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom—reaffirmed their commitment to the 2015 climate pact.

As part of the accord, the U.S. had agreed to cut its emissions between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In abandoning that promise, the U.S. effectively cedes leadership on the issue to other countries, including the world’s top emitter, China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has stood by the agreement in the face of a wavering U.S., calling it a “hard-won achievement” that should be honoured. Still, plummeting prices for wind and solar energy and corporations’ support of clean energy are among the reasons why climate progress will likely continue.

TRUMP BUDGET PROPOSES STEEP CUTS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT - May 23, 2017

President Trump’s 2018 budget, sent to Congress Tuesday, calls for massive cuts in scientific research and in a slew of environmental programs that protect air and water. The proposed budget, titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” slashes the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent – a steeper cut than any other agency. Those cuts could translate into a $2.7 billion spending reduction and the loss of 3,200 jobs, according to an analysis by the World Resources Institute. The proposed budget eliminates major programs to restore the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and Puget Sound. It ends the EPA’s lead-risk reduction and radon detection programs and cuts funding for the Superfund cleanup program.

The budget proposal does, however, retain funding for grants and financing to states and cities for drinking water and wastewater programs. S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, told the Washington Post that he “was amazed” that the final EPA budget is nearly identical to the preliminary budget released in March, despite strong opposition at the time from many members of Congress. In addition, the Interior Department would undergo a 12 percent funding cut, and the Energy Department a six percent cut.

OBAMA METHANE RULE REMAINS LAW OF LAND - May 10, 2017

In a surprise 51-49 defeat, the U.S. Senate rejects a measure that would have repealed Obama-era regulations on methane emissions. That regulation, which the House of Representatives voted to rescind on February 3, limits the venting and flaring of natural gas from oil and gas facilities on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands. The Obama administration had argued that the practices wasted tens of billions of cubic feet of natural gas annually—and also posed a climate threat. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with 25 times the warming capacity of carbon dioxide.

EPA DISMISSES SCIENCE ADVISORS - May 5, 2017

The EPA dismisses several members of the Board of Scientific Counselors, an 18-member advisory board that reviews the research of EPA scientists. Some of the dismissed scientists had been assured that their three-year terms on the board would be renewed. In a May 7 story by the New York Times, critics assailed the move, casting it as a gift to business interests at the expense of science. An EPA spokesperson said the decision allowed the agency to consider a more diverse pool of applicants, including industry representatives, for the board.

In addition, the Washington Post reported on May 8 that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has started reviewing more than 200 advisory boards and other entities associated with the Interior Department.

EPA SCRUBS CLIMATE CHANGE WEBSITE - April 28, 2017

The EPA announces that it is reviewing its web content related to climate change. An immediate casualty of the review: the agency’s longtime website devoted to explaining climate change. (The new page, which says it’s being updated “to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt,” prominently links to an archived version of the page.) On May 2, 2017, the EPA also purged the Spanish-language version of its climate change web page.

ORDER AIMS TO EXPAND OFFSHORE DRILLING - April 28, 2017

President Trump signs an executive order that orders a review of Obama-era bans on offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. The Obama policies under review include a five-year oil leasing roadmap that excluded Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and a December 2016 attempt to permanently ban drilling on wide swaths of Arctic and Atlantic waters. NPR reports that the order also halts the designation or expansion of National Marine Sanctuaries, unless the move includes an Interior Department estimate of the area’s “energy or mineral resource potential.” Conservation groups immediately announce their intent to defend Obama’s December 2016 effort in court.

TRUMP INNER CIRCLE DISCUSSES PARIS AGREEMENT - April 27, 2017

Key Trump advisers and Cabinet officials meet to discuss whether the U.S. should stay in the Paris Agreement, according to an April 27 Bloomberg Politics report. The global climate pact was absent from Trump’s March 28 executive order on climate, and debate over whether the U.S. should leave the agreement has divided the White House. Bloomberg Politics and Politico report that Trump is expected to make a final decision on the global climate pact by late May.

TRUMP ORDERS REVIEW OF NATIONAL MONUMENTS - April 26, 2017

In a sweeping executive order with few precedents, Trump instructs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review as many as 40 national monuments created since 1996 to determine if any of Trump’s three predecessors exceeded their authority when protecting large tracts of already-public land under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The review targets monuments that are at least 100,000 acres in size and reaches back to Utah’s 1.7-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which President Bill Clinton created in 1996 in the face of intense opposition. (Read more about the executive order’s potential repercussions.)

SCIENTISTS MARCH ON WASHINGTON - April 22, 2017

On a drizzly Earth Day, thousands of scientists and science enthusiasts march through Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Capitol, voicing support for science’s role in society. The sign-toting crowds—many wearing lab coats and crocheted hats resembling brains—also protest the Trump administration’s environmental and science policies. Satellite events of the March for Science held around the world, more than 600 in all, draw tens of thousands more attendees.

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT SCRUBS CLIMATE CHANGE WEBSITE - April 29, 2017

An Interior Department official updates the department’s climate change website, deleting much of its content in the process, Motherboard reports. The page now carries a sole mention of “climate change”—and does not explain what the phenomenon is, how it affects the U.S., and what the department is doing about it. (The Interior Department has eight regional Climate Science Centers, which work under the direction of the U.S. Geological Survey “to help resource managers cope with a changing climate,” according to the archived web page.)

PRUITT CALLS FOR EXITING PARIS AGREEMENT - April 14, 2017

In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt says that he’s personally opposed to the Paris Agreement, the international pact to fight climate change negotiated in 2015. While Pruitt calls the pact “a bad deal for America,” the Trump administration has remained noncommittal on withdrawing from the agreement, reports the Washington Post.

EPA ANNOUNCES “BACK-TO-BASICS” AGENDA - April 13, 2017

With Pennsylvania’s Harvey coal mine as his backdrop, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announces a “back-to-basics” agenda for the environmental agency, which he describes as “protecting the environment by engaging with state, local, and tribal partners to create sensible regulations that enhance economic growth.” The agenda includes reviews of the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule, two key Obama-era environmental regulations, as well as promises to clear the backlog of new chemicals awaiting EPA approval. (Read the whole agenda here.)

CLIMATE CHANGE STAFFERS REASSIGNED - April 7, 2017

News outlets report that several staff members at EPA’s headquarters who specialised in climate change adaptation have been reassigned. However, an EPA official interviewed by The Hill emphasises that the agency’s regional offices “have always taken the lead on adaptation and will continue to do so.” An EPA official interviewed by National Geographic says that the staff—four employees in all—will continue at the agency’s Office of Policy, bringing their knowledge to a broader set of issues.

TRUMP DONATES TO NATIONAL PARKS - April 3, 2017

The White House announces that President Trump has donated the first quarter of his salary ($78,333.32) to the National Park Service. The gift will reportedly chip away at the $100 to $230 million in deferred maintenance backlogs that the nation’s battlefields currently bear. (The National Park Service’s total deferred maintenance backlog is valued at $12 billion.) Trump’s 2018 budget blueprint calls for a $1.5-billion cut to the U.S. Department of the Interior, to which the National Park Service and its $3.4-billion budget belong. Among other things, the 12-percent cut would eliminate funding for unspecified National Heritage Areas—lived-in, cohesive landscapes deemed by Congress to be nationally important. Several National Heritage Areas contain preserved battlefields.

SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY OFFICE REVIEWING PRUITT - March 31, 2017

In response to inquiries from the Sierra Club, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General refers Scott Pruitt’s March 9 CNBC interview to the agency’s scientific integrity office for review. In that interview, Pruitt had downplayed carbon emissions’ central role in driving Earth’s changing climate—a position at odds with scientific consensus. EPA spokespeople defend Pruitt, claiming that the administrator is within his right to have a differing opinion. As of April 6, 2017, the Office of Inspector General said that the review had no specified timeframe.

EPA SCIENTIST RETIRES WITH A BANG - March 31, 2017

Environmental scientist Michael Cox retires from the EPA after more than 25 years with the agency, penning a scorching farewell letter to agency administrator Scott Pruitt. The letter, which garners significant media coverage, lambasts the Trump administration for “working to dismantle EPA and its staff as quickly as possible.”

PESTICIDE AVOIDS TOTAL BAN - March 29, 2017

Against the advice of the EPA’s chemical safety experts, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt rejects a decade-old petition asking that the EPA ban all use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. In 2000, the EPA banned its use in most household settings, but the pesticide is still used on some 40,000 farms, which EPA scientists recommended stop. Research suggests that chlorpyrifos may be associated with brain damage in children and farm workers, even at low exposures—though Dow Chemical, chlorpyrifos’ manufacturer, argues that it is safe when properly used. The U.S. Department of Agriculture welcomes Pruitt’s decision as helpful for U.S. farmers.

CLIMATE ACTIONS UNDONE - March 28, 2017

President Trump signs an executive order that seeks to dismantle much of the work on climate change enacted by the Obama administration. The order takes steps to downplay the future costs of carbon emissions, walks back tracking of the federal government’s carbon emissions, rescinds a 2016 moratorium on coal leases on federal lands, and strikes down Obama-era executive orders and memoranda aimed at helping the country prepare for climate change's worst impacts, including threats to national security.

Most notably, the executive order begins the process of rescinding the EPA's Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants. (Read more about the order—and how China may take up global leadership on climate change.)

DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE PREPARED FOR USE - March 27, 2017

Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, notifies a federal court that it has pumped oil into the pipeline laid underneath North Dakota’s Lake Oahe. The pipeline, which aims to connect North Dakota’s shale oil fields with pipeline networks in Illinois, runs near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and through land promised under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie but later taken away. The pipeline sparked protests over its potential to contaminate water and damage a sacred tribal site—a movement that grew into the largest Native American protest in recent history. 

KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE APPROVED - March 24, 2017

The Trump administration’s State Department grants a permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The 1,200-mile pipeline would connect Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in Texas. President Obama had rejected the project in late 2015, amid concerns that the pipeline’s economic benefits were hype—and fears that the pipeline would exacerbate future carbon emissions. In 2014, the U.S. State Department found that the project would increase emissions but no more than other transport methods.

U.S. BUMBLEBEE OFFICIALLY LISTED AS ENDANGERED - March 21, 2017

The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) officially becomes listed as an endangered species, the first bumblebee and eighth U.S. bee species to receive federal protection. Originally, its listing was to be finalised on February 10—but a January 20 executive order delayed it by over a month, as the Trump administration reviewed Obama-era regulations that hadn’t yet taken effect. (Read more about the bumblebee listing.)

FLINT FUNDING CONTINUED - March 17, 2017

The EPA issues a news release saying that the agency has awarded $100 million to Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. The money—provided in a law signed by President Obama in December 2016—will fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades in Flint, Michigan, where drinking water remains contaminated with lead. 

FUEL EFFICIENCY STANDARDS RECONSIDERED - March 15, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announce that the EPA will reconsider the Obama-era emissions requirements for vehicles with model years between 2022 and 2025. The move may presage a rollback of Obama’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, regulations that aim to improve cars’ fuel economy. On January 12, 2017, the Obama EPA attempted to lock in its CAFE standards, which require light-duty vehicles to have average fuel efficiencies of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Trump administration and automakers have argued that this goal is unachievable.

SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT BUDGET THREATENED - March 13, 2017

The White House releases its first preliminary budget under President Trump. Confirming weeks of speculation, the budget outlines deep cuts to U.S. science and environmental agencies—notably EPA and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—and a vast array of social programs, in an effort to increase defence spending by $54 billion. Congressional and public opposition to the budget crystallises almost immediately. (Read more about the budget cuts’ potential effects on the environment.)

EPA CHIEF DOWNPLAYS CLIMATE - March 9, 2017

In a sharp break with scientific consensus, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt says in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that carbon dioxide’s role in the Earth’s changing climate remains unclear. U.S. and international scientists have repeatedly connected rising carbon emissions to the Earth’s changing climate. A 2014 review by the National Academy of Sciences, the United States’ preeminent scientific advisory body, observed that the Earth’s warming since the 1970s “is mainly a result of the increased concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.”

‘SCIENCE’ SCRUBBED - March 7, 2017

The New Republic reports that the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology removed the word “science” from its mission statement, based on information provided by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. The updated language, which instead emphasises "economically and technologically achievable performance standards," marks the latest change to the EPA’s website under Trump, as website updates downplay the Obama administration’s previous climate initiatives.

EMISSIONS INFO REQUEST NIXED - March 2, 2017

The EPA withdraws an Obama EPA request for more detailed information on oil and natural-gas facilities. That request, finalised by the Obama administration on November 10, 2016, had aimed to better track the industry’s methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. (Oil and gas facilities are the country’s largest industrial emitters of methane.) The Trump EPA had criticised the rule for its estimated $42-million cost on oil and gas industries.

FEDERAL LANDS WON’T BE UNLEADED - March 2, 2017

After riding to work on a horse, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spends his first day on the job rescinding an Obama-era prohibition of lead ammunition on federal lands and waters. The Obama Administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service had issued the ban on January 19, 2017, the day before Trump’s inauguration. The National Rifle Association and hunting groups laud Zinke’s move as supportive of hunting’s economic contribution, while conservation groups decry it, noting that lead ammunition can poison wildlife. 

WATER PROTECTION MAY DRY UP - February 28, 2017

President Trump issues an executive order formally asking the EPA to review the “Waters of the United States” rule, an Obama-era rule meant to clarify which U.S. waters fall under federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The rule had extended federal protections to some headwaters of larger waterways, wetlands, and isolated lakes. (Read more about the controversy surrounding the rule.)

SCOTT PRUITT CONFIRMED AS EPA CHIEF - February 17, 2017

The U.S. Senate confirms Scott Pruitt as the head of the U.S. EPA. In his prior role as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt frequently sued the EPA over its regulations, notably leading a 27-state lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. Emails released days after Pruitt’s confirmation show that in his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt’s office maintained a cosy relationship with oil and gas companies.

STREAMS REOPENED TO MINING WASTE - February 16, 2017

President Trump signs a joint resolution passed by Congress revoking the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Stream Protection Rule.” That rule, finalised shortly before President Obama left office, placed stricter restrictions on dumping mining waste into surrounding waterways. Congressional Republicans characterised the rule as redundant and onerous. (Read “Why Trump Can’t Make Coal Great Again.”)

FOSSIL FUEL CEO BECOMES CHIEF DIPLOMAT - February 1, 2017

The U.S. Senate confirms ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Tillerson’s extensive ties to fossil fuels—and difficult-to-pin-down stance on climate science—sparked fierce opposition to his nomination among environmentalists. Questions linger over what Tillerson and the Trump administration will do about U.S. involvement in the Paris Agreement, the international climate pact negotiated under the Obama administration.

MARCH FOR SCIENCE MATERIALISES - January 25, 2017

After news that the Trump administration had removed all references to climate change from the White House’s website, online commenters begin calling for a “Scientists’ March on Washington,” styled after the record-breaking Women’s March on January 21. Momentum quickly builds, resulting in plans for the March for Science, scheduled for April 22.

PIPELINES GREENLIT - January 24, 2017

President Trump issues several memoranda aiming to hasten permitting for the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. Trump also calls for the U.S. Department of Commerce to come up with a plan ensuring that pipelines built across the United States are made with U.S. steel. However, later reports clarify that the memo does not apply to the Keystone XL pipeline.

PARK SERVICE #RESISTS - January 20, 2017

Trump is inaugurated president. Minutes later, the National Park Service posts a photo on Twitter comparing Trump’s crowds with the much larger crowds at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Trump’s subsequent criticism of the National Park Service triggers an unofficial “resistance” movement of social media accounts that claim to be run by U.S. government officials. (Read more about the “science rebellion” blossoming under Trump.)

SCRAMBLE TO SAVE SCIENCE DATA - December 10, 2016

Fearing that the incoming Trump administration may attempt to delete or bury U.S. climate databases, meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus asks on Twitter for suggestions of important databases to back up. His query sparks a movement across academia to back up key databases, resulting in “data refuges” and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.

TRUMP TAKES ALL - November 8, 2016

Real estate developer Donald Trump wins the 2016 U.S. presidential election. His upset victory comes after a months-long campaign that focused little on environmental issues, but did denounce the Obama administration’s climate policies and champion the U.S. fossil fuels industry.

Header Image: Mounds of unsold coal stand above ground at ERP Compliant Fuels' Federal No. 2 mine near Fairview, W.Va., April 11, 2016. With Donald Trump's win in the race for the White House, scores of regulations that have reshaped the contours of corporate America over the last eight years suddenly seemed vulnerable. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUKE SHARRETT, THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX

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