President Donald Trump continues to undo environmental protections, predominantly from the Obama era, to fulfill his deregulatory, pro-business agenda. In the process, his administration has fully embraced, and acted upon, the lobbying efforts of the oil and gas industry's "wishlist."
The American Petroleum Institute, the nation's top lobbying group for U.S. oil and gas companies, presented the Environmental Protection Agency with a "wishlist" in May. The list "highlighted eight key changes it wanted to ease the regulation of air and water pollution," according to The Guardian.
"There’s no question that energy lobbyists are calling the shots in this administration, which has been all too willing to roll back public health protections," said Jeremy Symons, vice-president of Environmental Defense Fund, The Guardian reported. "Anyone who doubts that can just look at their record."
While the oil and gas industry has long had its grip on U.S. policy, it's perhaps in a stronger position than ever before.Out of the eight demands on the API list, the Trump administration has already delivered on six of them. The list is 25 pages long and EPA head Scott Pruitt, who previously sued the agency 14 times, has promised he would scale back the EPA's "out of control, anti-energy agenda."
Howard Feldman, the senior director of regulatory affairs at API, wrote a letter earlier this year to EPA associate administrator Samantha Davis, who held a senior position at the Republican Attorneys General Association and served as an adviser for Freedom Partners, a nonprofit associated with the Koch brothers, The Guardian reported. The letter went alongside the "wishlist" and Feldman wrote that fossil fuel companies were flourishing "despite the unprecedented level of federal regulatory actions targeting our industry," The Guardian reported.
Feldman added that he wanted regulations changed so that they would promote "access to domestic oil and natural gas resources, streamlined permitting and cost-effective regulations."
Pruitt met with API executives at the Trump International Hotel on March 22 and less than a month later he wrote a letter to Feldman along with three other oil and gas industry representatives "to tell them he was temporarily suspending regulations that curb leaks from drilling operations while the EPA reconsiders the rule," according to The Guardian.
"Pruitt and his team have no shame," Liz Purchia Gannon, former head of communications at the EPA under the Obama administration, told The Guardian. "They have made it clear from the start that oil, gas and coal industries trump science, the American people and public health and environmental organizations."
She added, "What we can see from his schedule is an alarming pattern of meeting with special interest groups before making policy decisions favoring their bottom line at the expense of Americans’ health and the environment."
Decades of the oil and gas industry's stronghold on Washington D.C. has helped pave the way for Trump's extremist anti-environment agenda to succeed with little questions being raised.
Both Trump and Pruitt have downplayed or outright denied that climate change is occurring and poses a serious risk to the planet. Pruitt has already taken drastic measures within the EPA, including stacking the agency with fossil fuel insiders, to steadfastly fulfill this agenda, and has largely slipped under the radar, away from the front-page scandals that have dominated all the headlines.