SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Scholars and environmentalists argue that President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to relax environmental protections could undo years of progress, but that constituents and legislators will have opportunities to block him.
For his first 100 days, Trump has pledged to lift restrictions on drilling for oil and gas operations on federal lands, loosen environmental regulations so that oil pipelines can be built without further hindrance and to break the U.S. away from the international community fighting climate change.READ MORE: 16-Year-Old Girl Dead, Woman Wounded in Friday-Evening Shooting in San Francisco
Critics say Trump’s plans would likely increase dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate global warming, but probably won’t lead to a coal renaissance or the undoing of key environmental laws which are overwhelmingly supported by the American people.
The idea of loosening environmental regulations designed to protect natural resources, curb carbon emissions and bolster renewable energy, has many scholars and environmentalists weighing in on the post-election discussion.
Dr. Leah Stokes, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara said Thursday, “Federal environmental policy is likely to be brutal for the next two years. We can expect budget cuts for the EPA, potential weakening of the Clean Air Act and very likely undoing the related Clean Power Plan.”
Stokes said that while the Dakota Access and Keytone XL pipelines will likely be allowed to move forward with construction under Trump, she says the low cost of natural gas makes a coal renaissance highly unlikely.
The Sierra Club agreed, stating, “The people and the market are moving this nation beyond coal to clean energy, and Donald Trump can’t reverse that tide.”
Stokes said that environmentalists can be optimistic about continued renewable energy progress, due to the 2015 extension of federal tax credits for investment and production of renewable energy until 2020.
She said with renewable energy now cost competitive, and often benefiting rural areas, wind and solar projects remain in demand.
Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen said following the election, “We are gravely concerned about the statements of President-elect Trump on environmental issues, which demonstrate that he might be the most anti-environment president in history.”
Van Noppen said Earthjustice will be working overtime in the courts to “protect Americans’ right to a clean and healthy environment.”READ MORE: Belmont Police Search for Missing Woman and Her 3-Year-Old Son
Dr. Sarah Anderson, an associate professor of environmental politics, also at UC Santa Barbara, said “…our basic environmental quality protections are likely safe simply because Americans, Donald Trump’s constituency, worry about air and water quality.”
She said that Trump will likely be able to open more public lands to energy production but that she doesn’t expect that he will be able to roll back pollution regulations like the Clean Water Act. She said U.S. Senate filibusters and his constituency will be a major hurdle.
“81 percent of Americans in a March 2016 Gallup poll said they either worried a great deal or a fair amount about pollution of waterways. And this has remained above three-quarters of Americans since at least 1989. 70 percent or more of Americans say the same about air pollution,” Anderson said, adding that immigration, health care, and jobs appear to be Trump’s top priorities.
Trump’s win was a big victory for the American Energy Alliance, an organization that advocates for decreased regulations for the energy sector. AEA and its director Tom Pyle were among the first to endorse Trump’s run for president and quickly congratulated him following the election.
Dr. Vanessa Tyson, an assistant professor of politics at Scripps College weighed in on the future of the pipeline projects, saying, “I suspect that the incoming Trump administration will show little concern or respect for indigenous sovereignty, and that will manifest through advancement of DAPL and Keystone pipeline.”
Tyson said, “By continuing to defund the EPA, they effectively squelch the potential enforcement of any and all policies currently in place, which spells disaster for marginalized groups who have suffered decades of environmental injustice.”
Scholars and environmentalists are waiting to see what the President-elect, with no legislative history for them to analyze, will try to change once in office.
May Boeve, the executive director of environmental group 350.org, said following the election, “The fossil fuel industry is in a fight for its life. When we expose their lies, stop their pipelines, divest from their stocks and take away their social license — they fight back. Their investment in this election was no secret, and they’re going to double-down in its aftermath.”MORE NEWS: Grass Fire That Burned 15 Acres on Altamont Pass Slows Traffic for Hours
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.