The Trump administration is prepared to step up its efforts to change how science and climate benefits are calculated in rulemaking if the president is reelected.
The EPA has proposed rules that would make these changes, which critics fear could undermine the ability of future administrations to take regulatory action.
Another major piece of Trump's agenda that hasn't yet been finalized and could fall to a second term is a plan for offshore drilling.
Environmentalists argue that in light of this, the environmental stakes for Tuesday's election are huge.
In a speech outlining his vision for a second term in September, EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Former EPA chief to chair pro-Trump think tank's environmental center Lobbying world MORE highlighted the two proposed rules.
One rule would limit how the agency weighs the benefits of fighting climate change and reducing nontarget pollutants in clean air rulemaking, which it argues would provide consistency and prevent inflating benefits.
Critics argue that it would prevent future administrations from updating a variety of rules and make it harder to issue rules to protect the environment.
He also highlighted a rule that would limit the consideration of studies that don’t make their underlying data public, which the Trump administration has touted as a transparency measure.
“Those who oppose it want regulatory decisions to be made behind closed doors,” Wheeler said during his speech. “I want to bring our environmental decision-making process out of the proverbial smoke-filled back room.”
Critics say this could lead to the exclusion of important findings and that some studies don’t make their data public because of privacy concerns.
John Coequyt, the Sierra Club's global climate policy director, said that while the administration “quickly attacked” environmental rules in its first term, it could “more completely undermine the entire process by which public health standards are set” with a second term.
Another area where the Trump administration has yet to finalize its plans is offshore drilling.
The Interior Department proposed expanding drilling on almost all of the country’s outer continental shelf in 2018 but halted its plans last year after a court ruling prevented drilling in the ocean off the coast of Alaska.
Since then, the president has moved to exclude drilling off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas until 2032, but any plans to expand offshore drilling have not been finalized.
Many states have pushed back on attempts to drill off their coasts because of concerns over the potential for ocean-harming spills; however, the oil and gas industry has touted offshore drilling as another way to tap into the country’s resources and promote energy independence.
Asked what would be on Interior’s agenda for the next several years, spokesperson Conner Swanson said that the department “will continue to implement President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE’s agenda to create more American jobs, protect the safety of American workers, support domestic energy production and conserve our environment” but declined to provide specifics.
The administration recently finalized decisions allowing drilling across stretches of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the National Petroleum Reserve.
With four more years, the administration could see the drilling actually carried out, as one company’s attempt to test for oil at ANWR has already been proposed for December 2020 and January 2021.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE has expressed opposition to drilling at ANWR and has said that he would end new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.
Heading into the election, polling shows Biden ahead both nationally and in key swing states.