In his address to Congress and the nation on Tuesday, President Trump made sparse mention of a leading focus of his first six weeks in office — his unmitigated assault on the nation’s environment and public health.
True, Trump boasted of having worked with congressional Republicans to set mining companies free to pollute mountain streams and destroy forests, by killing the Stream Protection Rule, leaving hard hit coal communities to pay the price.
He celebrated his order to revive the Keystone XL dirty tar sands pipeline bragging that he had “cleared the way” for some of the dirtiest oil on the planet to be shipped through the breadbasket of America to be refined on our Gulf coast and shipped, mostly, overseas.
And he took pride in noting his order to sweep aside the voices of the Standing Rock Sioux and force the Dakota Access pipeline across their water sources and sacred lands.
Not great, any of that.
Trump made a fleeting plea “to promote clean air and clear water," but he never mentioned the order he signed, just hours before, to “eliminate” the Clean Water Rule that provides needed protections for wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for 117 million Americans.
He steered clear of reports that he plans crippling budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency and to open more public land to the ravages of coal mining.
And he said nothing about his pledge to eviscerate the Clean Power Plan the single most important measure the government has taken to fight rising seas, widening deserts, blistering heat, raging fires, withering drought and other hallmarks of climate change.
And who could blame him?
Nobody voted in November for dirty water or to put our children’s future at needless risk. Why would Trump tout an extremist agenda for which there’s little public support?
A solid 61 percent of the country wants to strengthen the EPA’s ability to protect our environment or maintain the agency at existing levels. Just 19 percent want it weakened or eliminated, a recent Reuters poll reports.
Sixty-two percent want to reduce coal mining and oil drilling on federal lands or keep it at current levels, while just 22 percent support an increase of such use.
And polls consistently show seven Americans in ten expect real government action to protect future generation from the growing dangers of climate change.
None of that has stopped Trump from attacking environmental safeguards and trying to weaken the government’s ability to stand up to industrial polluters — though it appears to have stopped him from talking about it.
Trump did speak Tuesday night of renewing the American spirit. One way to do that is to advance the innovation and enterprise that is helping us shift to cleaner, smarter ways to power our country, not to squander our future on the dirty fuels of the past.
He talked of opening “a new chapter of American greatness.” He can start by building on the climate leadership that promises to do right by our children, at home and abroad, not turn away from the gains we’ve made.
And he spoke of the need to find common ground among the disparate voices of this country. We can all rally around our common need for clean water, healthy forests, wildlife and lands.
Amid his statements of policy proposals and intent, Trump posed, in his speech, an important question.
“What kind of a country,” he asked, “will we leave our children?”
The answer to that, Mr. President, depends largely on you, and on what we, the people, demand of our leaders. It’s time we all stood up to this radical and reckless assault on our environment and health. It’s time we stood up for the kind of world our children deserve.
Rhea Suh is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group with more than 2.4 million supporters nationwide.
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