WASHINGTON – A leading environmental group said it is gearing up to counter-attack an expected onslaught of legislative efforts by President-elect Donald Trump and the new Republican-controlled Congress to dismantle several environmental laws and regulations.
National Resource Defense Council President Rhea Suh characterized the impending attacks as “the worst executive and legislative assault in our history against our environment and our health.” She made the remarks during a news conference Wednesday at the New York-based nonprofit’s Washington, D.C. office.
Trump has said he wants to refocus environmental efforts on clean air and clean water.
Suh said the president-elect could undermine years of progress that has been made on environmental issues.
Suh said the organization will oppose Trump’s surprising nomination of Scott Pruitt for director of the Environmental Protection Agency. She said Pruitt “has made an entire career out of blocking the EPA.”
Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general since 2011, is a self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” He has sued the agency and other government entities several times over environmental regulations. Since his nomination, Pruitt has expressed optimism about “a regulatory rollback” when it comes to environmental issues.
Suh said the NRDC also will fight Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO and Chairman Rex Tillerson. She called him “a walking conflict of interest” because of his ties to Russia and his business interests. Tillerson was a longtime director of ExxonMobil’s Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas, based in the tax haven of the Bahamas.
“We will oppose Tillerson’s nomination,” Suh said.
Paraphrasing Suh, Kit Kennedy, director of NRDC’s energy and transportation program, added: “We are suited up and we are ready to go.”
Kennedy said the nation has made “amazing and unprecedented progress on clean energy.” Windpower has tripled under the Obama administration and costs have “plummeted by more than 60 percent,” she said.
Trump has inaccurately claimed that solar and wind power are “very, very expensive,” Kennedy said.
Undermining these programs will “cost us jobs,” Kennedy said.
“More than 2.5 million Americans are working in the Clean Energy sector,” she said, noting that Trump has erroneously claimed that 400,000 Americans work in solar and wind energy.
“We will be working to get Republican votes,” David Goldston, NDRC’s director of governmental affairs, said of the organization’s efforts to thwart the confirmation of Pruitt and Tillerson. He noted that “there are plenty” of Republican members of Congress who acknowledge climate science.
“We want the Senate and the public to be vigilant about how much damage these people can do. These are not your average nominees.”
They are ”fundamentally at odds with the mission of the agencies they have been asked to head up,” Goldston said.
Suh said that it is clear that the incoming Trump administration has “no interest in continuing to support or implement the Clean Power Plan.” Last August, Obama unveiled the final version of the historic plan aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants. But if Trump wants to undo the plan, Suh said, “He will not be able to do it with a snap of his fingers.”
Suh is no stranger to confirmation hearings, having gone through them herself. In 2013 President Barack Obama nominated her to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the National Park Service – both under the Department of the Interior, where she was working as assistant interior secretary for policy, management and budget. But after the hearings her nomination languished for more than a year in the Senate – where many Republicans vowed to oppose her confirmation – before she accepted the top job at NRDC in September 2014.