Environmentalists Gird For Battle With A Trump Administration : The Two-Way President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to rescind some environmental regulations. Environmentalists are planning ways to keep a new administration from rolling back eco-rules.
NPR logo

Environmentalists Gird For Battle With A Trump Administration

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/503742840/503766925" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Environmentalists Gird For Battle With A Trump Administration

Environmentalists Gird For Battle With A Trump Administration

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/503742840/503766925" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Donald Trump also pledged to roll back environmental regulations he says are stifling the economy. He also says he's considering pulling the U.S. out of the international climate agreement signed in Paris last year. It limits greenhouse gas emissions. As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, the environmental movement is preparing its defense.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: Environmental groups plan to meet the Trump administration in court. At the Natural Resources Defense Council, attorney John Walke says if Trump tries to roll back environmental rules, their strategy will be sue, baby, sue.

JOHN WALKE: We and other citizen groups will go to court, and the courts will overturn those actions.

JOYCE: Now, lawyers usually say they're going to win, but there is a won-lost record here. NRDC and former Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman examined court rulings on the Clean Air Act during the Bush and Obama administrations. Mostly, environmental groups sued to keep the Bush EPA from relaxing regulations. Industry groups mostly sued the Obama EPA to stop or delay regulations.

WALKE: The results were striking. Most Clean Air Act lawsuits brought against the Bush administration were successful. Most lawsuits brought by industry against the Obama administration were unsuccessful.

JOYCE: By NRDC's count, environmental lawyers challenging the Bush EPA won 27 times and lost 11. Industry's win-loss ratio against Obama's EPA was 5-to-15. Walke says one reason is the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. That's where almost all Clean Air lawsuits are litigated. Walke says it's a court that knows the Clean Air Act well and is committed to upholding it. Even before Trump could change a regulation, though, there's a lot of red tape to get through.

WALKE: They have to seek public comment. They have to make sure that their actions are consistent with science and the law, founded upon studies that just can't be made up by people who are climate deniers, for example.

JOYCE: So longstanding regulations are tough to overturn - but more recent ones, not so much. Congress can invoke something called the Congressional Review Act. It would give Congress the power to rescind regulations approved within 60 working days previous to Trump's inauguration. Several new rules, such as limits on methane emissions from oil and gas operations, would be vulnerable to the new Republican Congress.

Trump's other target is the climate deal agreed to in Paris last year. Nearly 200 countries set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Trump first said he wants to drop out. Then he said he is open to it.

ANDREW LIGHT: We do not know what the Trump administration's going to do on these issues. We just don't know.

JOYCE: Andrew Light helped negotiate the Paris deal for the State Department. He's now with the World Resources Institute and George Mason University. Trump has several options that would effectively pull the U.S. out of the Paris deal. If he does, Light's worried that the other big greenhouse gas emitter, China, could pull out, too.

LIGHT: If the United States is not on board and if China is not on board, then we're not going to actually be able to achieve these goals.

JOYCE: Even if China stays with the Paris deal, its government could decide to downsize its emissions targets. If the U.S. and China pull back, others might follow. Take India. Light notes that some 300 million Indians lack electricity, and there's tremendous pressure there to use a lot more coal.

LIGHT: Which will have a tremendous impact on the climate balance sheet for the entire planet.

JOYCE: The Paris deal is voluntary. There's no court for environmentalists to appeal to if Trump pulls out. But Light says there may be a diplomatic strategy - urge foreign governments to walk away from any deal with the U.S. - trade, security, whatever - unless climate action is on the table. Christopher Joyce, NPR News.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.