Donald Trump on Tuesday used a visit to battleground state Florida to extend a ban on offshore drilling there and claim he is the most environmentally friendly president since Theodore Roosevelt – despite a slew of protections he has nixed since taking office.
The president said he pressed his aides that he could publicly claim he is the most green president in American history, but they managed to talk him out of making that claim. But “one more” executive action like the one he signed in Jupiter after his remarks should get him all the way toward that claim, he said with a chuckle.
“I am,” he said of the post-Roosevelt claim. “I believe strongly in it.”
Mr Trump declared himself "the great environmentalist" and warned if former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee wins in November, “the environment will be badly hurt.”
Declaring the longtime Delaware senator and other Democrats “all talk” on environmental issues, he warned the environment would be “permanently injured” under a Biden administration.
But his own record appears to water down his claims.
Mr Trump has taken 74 actions during his term that weaken federal environmental safeguards, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Brookings Institution.
“The Trump administration has been particularly focused on rolling back actions intended to deal with climate change. On June 1, 2017, President Trump promised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an agreement among 195 nations to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The United States stands alone among major emitters in the world in its efforts to repudiate the agreement and cannot officially withdraw until the day after the 2020 election in November,” according to that Brookings analysis.
The think tank also notes the Trump administration “replaced the Clean Power Plan with a weaker regulation and is in the process of eliminating other regulations that limit [greenhouse gas] emissions. Its replacement lowered the amount of pollutants that could be emitted by power plants and new models of automobiles."
The president also has taken actions designed to fulfill a major 2016 campaign promise: revive the country’s coal industry. To do so, he has made it easier for companies to emit pollutants into the air – despite his repeated claim that America’s air is the cleanest it has ever been.
“In addition to deregulatory actions that support the fossil fuel industry, our nation’s core environmental laws that ensure clean air and water and protect sensitive lands are also a focus of the administration’s regulatory rollbacks,” according to Brookings. "Some of these decisions have important consequences for human health, among them the refusal to strengthen National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter and ozone. NAAQS are a cornerstone of US policy to reduce air pollution and must be reviewed by an independent science advisory committee every five years.
The president has contradicted his Tuesday attack line on Biden, previously saying Mr Biden would seek to implement the “Green New Deal” pushed by his party’s most progressive flank. Mr Biden has proposed a more modest package, but progressive leader Senator Bernie Sanders has said, if elected, the former VP would be the most progressive chief executive in American history – opening the door for attacks from Mr Trump and his surrogates.
To be sure, Mr Biden’s environmental plan leans far to the left than anything Mr Trump has signalled about his potential second term.
“Biden proposes a different course for environmental protection, with addressing climate change as a central part of his platform,” according to Brookings. “He has established an ambitious goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Achieving this goal would require reversing the current course of rolling back regulation, along with new legislation.”
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