Greens ready for Trump war

Greens ready for Trump war
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Environmental groups are ready for a fight with President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE.

Trump’s victory in November’s presidential election was a shock to the green movement, which is now consolidating opposition to a GOP-controlled government bent on undoing President Obama’s environmental agenda. 

If the initial reaction was depression and despair, environmental activists now sound energized to take on Trump.

“Our goal is to channel that sense of outrage into political pressure,” said Jamie Henn, the co-founder of climate group 350.org.

“We’re happy people are venting on Facebook, but we’d much rather they start marching in the streets.”       

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There are signs that opposition to Trump is helping environmental groups raise money and add members.

Henn’s group has gained 50,000 new members since the election, and a petition drop at Trump Tower this month — an event that might normally draw only several dozen people — attracted three times that amount, he said. 

The green movement is laying the groundwork for a multi-faceted campaign to stymie Trump's energy agenda and defend Obama's environmental legacy. 

Leaders say they will fight Trump on Capitol Hill, in the courts, and in the hearts and minds of voters around the country. That means kicking up rowdy confirmation fights over his Cabinet picks and holding the line against Trump attacks on Obama's work.

Trump’s choices of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Rick Perry to head the Energy Department and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of State built on his campaign promise to roll back environmental regulations as president.

Environmental groups have held rounds of meetings and conference calls since Election Day to plot a strategy against Trump, Henn said.

Their first order of business is tackling the Cabinet picks, especially Pruitt and Tillerson. 

Environmentalists view Pruitt as an existential threat to the EPA. He, like Trump, has publicly doubted the science behind climate change and, in his position as attorney general of Oklahoma, is among the country’s most aggressive litigants against EPA rules.

Lobbying efforts against Pruitt will start as soon as Congress returns. Groups will zero in on Republican senators with moderate streaks on climate change, such as Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (Maine), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Sasse: RNC help for Roy Moore 'doesn't make any sense' Sasse calls RNC decision to resume support for Moore 'bad' and 'sad' MORE (Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (S.C.). They hope to flip enough votes to block Pruitt on the Senate floor.

“We’re playing to win,” Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club's legislative director, said. 

“We want to defeat Pruitt’s nomination, and in order to do that we need 51 votes. … There is a focus, not only on making sure Democrats are fully aware of how extreme and what a threat [Pruitt] poses to the environment; there is also a focus of peeling off some Republicans from Trump.”

Outside groups are likely to act to support Democrats on the front lines on Capitol Hill. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (D-N.Y.) this month tweeted that he will “oppose” Pruitt’s nomination, the first time he definitively ruled out voting for a Trump nominee and an indication that the party is gearing up to fight him next month.

Greens’ objections to Tillerson at State might be more self-evident: The deep ties between the longtime CEO of Exxon Mobil and Russian President Vladimir Putin are well documented. Activists hope to turn his confirmation hearings into a probe of Exxon’s history on climate science, and Henn said 350.org will storm Capitol Hill offices when his nomination begins moving. 

The confirmation fights are only the first that environmentalists will wage. The movement is preparing for a wave of legislative and executive assaults on Obama rules, from executive actions signed by Trump to congressional resolutions undoing newly issued regulations.

Pierce predicted Republicans will begin moving Congressional Review Act (CRA) challenges to Obama's rules by mid-February. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) has already promised a CRA resolution against a new coal-mining rule in 2017, a vote that is likely to test greens’ influence with Republicans in Congress. 

They are also bracing for battles over GOP bills to curb federal rulemaking power. House Republicans have made a habit of passing these bills — such as the Regulations from Executives in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, legislation to give Congress a say over some rules — only to see them wither in the Senate or White House. 

The GOP has a long list of environmental rules it hopes to undo, from the coal-mining rule, to limits on methane emissions at oil and gas drilling sites, to major regulations on power plant carbon emissions and federal jurisdiction over waterways, both of which have been frozen by federal courts. 

Activists hope a confluence of factors — the legal framework that manages federal rulemaking procedures and the sheer volume of rules the GOP hopes to undo — will slow down Republican efforts to revert Obama’s climate legacy. 

They say they’re preparing legal action to preserve rules that Trump looks to quash early. 

“To undo something, you have to go through the same process it takes to write a rule — you don’t just get rid of them with the swipe of a pen,” said Marty Hayden, the vice president of policy and legislation at Earthjustice, an environmental law firm.

“If they don’t follow the law on that, then we’ll see them in court at the end of the day when they finalize something.”

Environmentalists have been through this before and are dusting off their playbook from the George W. Bush years, when the Republican looked to slow-play environmental regulation and undo the work of his Democratic predecessor. 

After taking office, President Bush stopped a Clinton-era rule on arsenic in drinking water, though the standard was reinstated after a regulatory review. He also undid a rule on mining clean-up and tried to overturn Clinton standards on forest protection, an effort rejected by the courts.

“The wanting-to-unravel-things isn’t new,” Hayden said. But he predicted that Trump will learn “it’s harder to turn the ship than you think.”

“[The federal government] isn’t a little motor boat; this is like the Queen Mary,” he said. 

Greens will be scouring the administration for signs of overreach that they can use against Trump in the court of public opinion. 

Polls show the environment is usually a second-tier issue for voters. But activists say the GOP will hit a nerve if it moves too quickly or goes too far on environmental policy. 

“Our job is to put this in the spotlight and keep it there so people say, ‘This may not be my top issue, but what Trump is doing is ridiculous,’ ” Henn said.

“It’s harder to say ‘be a little bit better’ with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE,” he said of efforts to push Clinton, who had a climate change plan, further left than she already was. 

“With Trump it’s easy. We can paint in broad brushstrokes now in a way that will be be helpful.”