By Rhea Suh, Natural Resources Defense Council
NRDC has challenged this administration’s reckless attacks on the environment and the American people nearly 60 times in court—and we haven’t lost yet.
If you’re as appalled as I am by President Trump and his reckless assault on the commonsense safeguards we all depend on to protect our environment and health, I’ve got good news: He’s not winning―you are.
Trump is sending a damaging message, to be sure, and he may yet do real harm. For the most part, though, he’s learning that the measures he’s trying to roll back or repeal aren’t simply going away. He’s finding out they’ve been carefully and durably crafted to be grounded in sound science, the public interest, and the rule of law. He’s finding out in court, where we’re standing up to his attacks on our environment and health.
Since Trump came into office vowing to take us back to the dirty old days when industry was free to pollute with impunity, NRDC has engaged in roughly 60 legal challenges to his administration. Our goal is simple: to ensure that our laws are enforced, for the good of our people and the good of the country.
Most of these cases are ongoing, awaiting action or their day in court. Nine, though, are already resolved. So far, we’re 9 and 0. Here’s a look at what that means for you.
- On the day he was inaugurated, Trump tried to cancel a rule that stopped dental offices from dumping mercury and other toxic metals down the drain. We sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In response, the agency moved forward to enact the rule, preventing five tons of mercury and five tons more of other toxic metals from making their way each year into wastewater that our localities are required to clean up.
- Trump suspended a Federal Highway Administration rule that requires states to track and curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks on our interstate highways. We sued, and the agency relented and put the rule into effect, creating a powerful tool for helping to reduce the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving climate change and threatening our children’s future.
- Similarly, the administration suspended increased penalties for automakers that violate standards that help us squeeze more mileage from a gallon of gasoline. We sued. The U.S. Court of Appeals found the suspension was illegal and ordered the greater penalties to be implemented, putting teeth into federal guidelines that mean cleaner tailpipes on the cars we drive and cash savings for our families at the pump.
- The administration tried to delay important EPA rules that set limits on the amount of methane released from new oil and gas wells and other facilities nationwide. It also sought to delay a Bureau of Land Management rule that set limits on methane releases from new and existing oil and gas facilities on public lands. We launched separate legal challenges to those delays and won in two federal courts. The rules were ordered to go forward, protecting the public from unrestricted emissions of powerful climate-disrupting pollution.
- After the administration put the brakes on energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans, walk-in coolers, freezers, and other consumer appliances and industrial equipment, we sued the U.S. Department of Energy, challenging the delays. In the face of the suits, the department moved forward with some standards, and then a federal court ordered it to put the rest in place. The result: strengthened standards that will save consumers money on their utility bills, improve the reliability of our electricity grid, and help us to do more with less waste in our workplaces and homes.
These are real victories for the American people. In each case, our courts found the administration to be acting at odds with the public will, as enshrined in laws duly passed by Congress. That’s exactly how the nation’s founders intended our government to work, as set forth in the Constitution. Congress passes the laws, the executive branch enforces them, and our courts ensure the will of the people is carried out in good faith.
When that doesn’t happen the way it should, we citizens can use our laws and courts to hold our government to account. That’s what government by the consent of the governed is all about. That’s the heart and soul of American democracy.
Our fight continues to bring the administration’s abuses of power to heel. We’re in court fighting to protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah; to protect ranchers, farmers, and American waterways from the dangers of the Keystone XL dirty tar sands pipeline; and to protect the waters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, the largest salmon fishery in the world, from the threat of toxic pollution from the planned Pebble Mine gold and copper operations.
We’re standing up for sound science, fighting in court against unlawful orders by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to substitute industry views for those of scientists in the crafting of environmental and public health safeguards.
We’re in court to protect the Clean Power Plan, aimed at cleaning up the dirty power plants that account for nearly 40 percent of our carbon footprint, as well as the Clean Water Rule, which protects wetlands and the streams that feed drinking water sources for one out of every three Americans. Trump is trying to delay or weaken both.
And we’re poised to challenge policies that would put whales and other marine mammals at risk of life-threatening damage from seismic blasting along the Eastern Seaboard, which the administration has proposed opening to oil and gas drilling. You can bet we’ll be fighting that too.
Nearly 18 months into the Trump presidency, the administration has shown its cards. It’s waging the worst assault in history against our environment and health. We’re fighting back―tooth, nail, and hair―and we’re not about to turn back now.
So far we’re batting a thousand. Where we’ll end up, I can’t yet say. This much, though, I’m sure of: We’re playing for the right team―the American people. This game has just begun.