How The Trump Administration Fought The Environment — And Failed Big — In 2017

It’s easy to spin any politician as a villain, especially if you’re focused on one topic. And Donald Trump, a climate change denier who thought Obama had made clean coal illegal, is a particularly easy target. In 2017, Trump seemed more interested in reversing regulations, regardless of their effect, than targeting any one topic.

Still, when it came to the environment, Trump made big promises, and spent much of his year hoping nobody would notice he couldn’t deliver. A few of his failures:

  • Trump handed the oil industry a string of pyrrhic victories: Trump reversed Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would seem to be good news for Keystone. Except it ran into even more legal problems and analysts are increasingly skeptical the pipeline can ever get built. While the GOP tax bill opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, that’s the opening curtain to a long, messy fight that may last just long enough for a new President to come along and shut it all down. The Dakota Access Pipeline is also facing legal problems. And if that weren’t enough bad news for oil companies, ExxonMobil’s board, which has denied climate change for decades, was forced to acknowledge it as a financial risk thanks to a shareholder rebellion.
  • Trump’s attempts to remove protections on America’s waters led to a flood of lawsuits: The Trump administration controversially rescinded the definition of the Waters of the United States. Except that since his administration is dragging its feet over coming up with a new rule, in part because the Waters of the United States is one of the most complicated environmental laws on the books, the courts have to stick by Obama’s definition. Oops.
  • Trump even got denied by his own party over environmental policy: Trump has spent most of 2017 trying to reverse an Obama-era regulation that requires fracking teams to find and plug methane leaks. So he tried to get Congress to throw the rule out… annnnnnnnd got denied.

Don’t get us wrong, there are some pretty severe environmental mistakes being made by the Trump administration, including being on the wrong side of an ongoing war over a pesticide that may cause brain damage in children and more minor stuff, like allowing plastic bottles back into national parks. But looking back at 2017, it’s pretty clear that while the Trump administration may not care about the environment, almost everybody else does.