It’s fitting, I guess, that yesterday’s evisceration of Barack Obama’s environmental and climate achievements came four days after the 28th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez’s 11-million-gallon crude-oil spill into Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay. Fitting, too, that Donald Trump signed his executive order at the Environmental Protection Agency, an office he intends to dismantle along with much of what it has tried to protect. And fitting that it came less than two months after he repealed the stream protection rule, which prohibited coal companies from dumping toxics into small streams. The rule effectively put an end to mountaintop removal mining, a contemptible practice that delivered corporate profits in exchange for workers’ health. And while industry apologists have only disdain for the small streams most immediately affected, those streams account for almost 90% of all stream, make up half of all river miles, and provide 70% of the nation’s water. So maybe they aren’t so insignificant after all.
But who cares about the details, let alone the facts? Who cares that Trump’s misnamed “Energy Independence” executive order will not revive the coal industry nor create new mining jobs? Nor – and let’s be honest here – should it. We need to move beyond coal – which for centuries has been killing those who mine it and those who breathe it – and provide alternatives for those whose work has depended on it. In fact, we already have. So Trump’s executive order is just one more false promise to his base and one more thumb in the nose of a 50-year bipartisan movement whose goal remains clean air, clean water and climate sanity.