By GREGORY ZELLER //
If you thought the campaign was a battle, just wait until the presidency – and that’s just on the environmental front.
With the world coming to grips with the stunning results of Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election, at least one New York-based environmental watchdog is already preparing for a showdown with President-Elect Donald Trump.
New York City-based Environment New York – a citizen-powered environmental advocacy organization and the public face of the Environment New York Research & Policy Center, a registered 501(C)3 – issued a strongly worded statement Wednesday, just hours after Trump’s upset win over Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton forever rewrote U.S. political and policy textbooks.
Certainly, individuals and organizations bigger, brasher and better funded than Environment New York have pontificated on Trump before and after the senses-shattering election, often in pointed fashion. But if the statement from ENY Director Heather Leibowitz is any indication, the president-elect – no champion of global warming or alternative-energy issues – faces tenacious resistance in the ecological trenches.
Acknowledging that this “isn’t the outcome we had hoped for,” Leibowitz promised her organization would adhere to Clinton’s concession-speech call to approach the Trump presidency with an “open mind” – but would waste little time gearing up against the 45th president if he continues the anti-environmental rhetoric that marked his bruising campaign.
“At a time when sea levels are rising, temperature records are being smashed and extreme weather events threaten Americans across the country, we need to rapidly shift to 100 percent renewable energy and away from dirty fossil fuels,” Leibowitz said Wednesday. “At a time when children are being poisoned by lead in their drinking water and sewage and manure pollute our rivers, we need to strengthen our clean-water protections and invest in clean-water infrastructure.”
But those are not mainstays of the president-elect’s environmental policy. Trump has made an increased reliance on fossil fuels a cornerstone of both his energy and economic strategies, vowing to roll back years of alternative-energy policies championed by President Barack Obama’s administration.
Trump has famously called global warming a “hoax” and said he would “cancel” the United Nations’ Paris Agreement on climate change, which is scheduled to take full effect on Friday. He’s also promised to “save” the U.S. coal industry by rescinding Obama’s moratorium on new coal-mining leases on federal land, scrapping rules designed to protect streams from coal mining and canceling other bylaws introduced to spare waterways and wetlands from industry in general.
In response to the Republican candidate’s incredible victory, which became official in the wee hours Wednesday morning, investors flocked to fossil-fuel companies in trading Wednesday, while top alternative-energy firms tumbled.
None of this could be expected to sit well with organizations like Environment New York, which is part of the growing Environment America federation, which now boasts operations in 29 states. But the Empire State chapter – which has often expressed opinions regarding Long Island environmental issues, including strong support for New York’s pursuit of an ocean-based wind farm off the Island’s southern shores – is still willing to give the president-elect the benefit of the doubt, according to its director.
“We were dismayed to hear President-Elect Trump deny climate science, vow to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency during the campaign,” Leibowitz said. “These moves would be devastating for a cleaner, healthier future for all Americans.
“Despite President-Elect Trump’s campaign rhetoric, we stand ready to work with him to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the future of our planet,” she added. “We are confident that the public stands behind us for strong environmental protections.”
As evidence, the director noted local referendum results around the country, including support for upholding California’s bag ban, a rejection of a harmful industry-sponsored solar measure in Florida and the passage of huge mass-transit measures in Los Angeles and Seattle.
“Our country has made some real and meaningful progress reducing pollution and improving the quality of our environment,” Leibowitz noted. “We have no choice but to maintain and accelerate this progress.”
But should Trump “decide to attack our country’s fundamental environmental protections,” she added, the new president can expect groups like Environment New York to lead the counter-charge.
“We will work to mobilize our members and allies to vigorously defend [environmental protections],” Leibowitz said. “The American people did not vote for dirty air, dirty water or the destruction of our precious lands and wildlife, and we will work hard to stop any rollbacks.”
Environment New York was hardly the only organization voicing such concerns Wednesday. Mary Boeve, executive director of global climate-change activist organization 350.org, said many people inside and out of her group are “shaken to the core about what a Trump presidency will mean for the country,” while the International Business Times referenced a global consortium of environmental scientists predicting an “environmental disaster” under the Trump Administration.