Trump to tout environmental stewardship in speech

President Trump, in a speech Monday afternoon, plans to tout his administration’s environmental stewardship. It’s a topic the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates bring up almost daily, but not one Mr. Trump often addresses. 

The speech will largely consist of the administration’s environmental “accomplishments,” according to a White House aide familiar with the planning of the speech. The president has been wanting to talk about this issue, the aide said. 

Axios reported that the president’s daughter and top adviser, Ivanka Trump, urged him to make the speech. The aide said that Brooke Rollins, a White House staff member who has teamed up with Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, on other projects, has also been working on the speech. 

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Mr. Trump, over the course of his presidency, has undone much of President Obama’s environmental achievements, withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and rolling back regulations like the Clean Power Plan. The president has also expressed skepticism about government research that shows a warming planet and potentially catastrophic consequences if the trend continues. 

The president, who campaigned alongside coal miners and oil and gas barons, believes the economic toll of converting energy production from fossil fuels to renewable sources is too great. And he has consistently argued that doing so would put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.

“We are reaching our environmental goals in a manner that also encourages economic growth,” said a White House fact sheet that was provided to CBS News. The fact sheet does not contain any new environmental initiatives.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler insisted on a conference call with reporters that the air and water are cleaner under the Trump administration. He also insisted the administration cares about climate change. 

“We are addressing climate change,” Wheeler told reporters.

According to the document, Mr. Trump will be highlighting some of the following accomplishments of his administration:

  • Signing the Save Our Seas Act in 2018, bipartisan legislation which aims to reduce garbage in the ocean
  • Removal by EPA of all or part of 22 Superfund sites from the National Priorities List in fiscal year 2018, the most since the 2005 fiscal year. The Associated Press noted in January 2018 that the cleanup work had been completed on seven of these sites before President Trump took office. The AP also pointed out that the rate of Superfund delisting by the Trump administration lagged both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.
  • Funding of environmental projects in the Florida Everglades and Great Lakes
  • Continued decline of air pollutant emissions for “criteria pollutants” and the U.S. top-10 ranking in 2018 for air quality — the only country with a population over 50 million in the top ten.
  • While it’s true that the U.S. ranked 10th on the Environmental Performance Index list for air quality in 2018, the air in the U.S. air is not the cleanest it has ever been, a claim often made by Mr. Trump. Last month, the Associated Press analyzed Environmental Protection Agency data and found that “[t]here were noticeably more polluted air days each year in the president’s first two years in office than any of the four years before.”
  • Designation of 1.3 million acres as protected public land. In 2017, Mr. Trump cut the size of two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, that Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had designated.

The fact sheet provided to CBS News does not reference climate change or global warming. 

But not all conservatives are keen on how the Trump administration is addressing the environment. 

Benji Backer, president and founder of the American Conservation Coalition, which is participating in Monday’s White House event, said the White House hasn’t really been on board with environmental reforms, “so we’re trying to help change that and show that conservatives are also on board with environmental reform.”

The best thing the administration can do, Backer said, is first acknowledge that man-made climate change is a problem, which would “help set the tone on policy” because “so many Republicans toe the Trump line.”

“We would love to see that. I don’t know how realistic that is, but obviously we’d love to see that,” Becker added.

— CBS News’ Kathryn Watson contributed to this report. 

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