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Dismantling US environment laws

Dave KeatingJuly 19, 2016

The final Republican platform, released Monday, would pull the United States out of the international climate accord, open national forests for logging and declare coal a "clean energy resource."

USA Cleveland Parteitag der Republikaner Donald Trump
Image: Reuters/C. Allegri

Republicans would implement drastic changes in American environment and climate policy if elected to power in November, according to the party platform adopted on Monday (18.07.2016) at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Erich Pica, the president of Friends of the Earth US, says it is "one of the most anti-environmental platforms we have ever seen."

The platform, which would be implemented both by presidential nominee Donald Trump and by Republican lawmakers in the United States Congress, would end limits to CO2 emissions, pull the US out of the United Nations climate process, open protected forests to logging and end all subsidies to renewable energy.

The document makes the argument that climate change is not proven science - and that in any event, "climate change is far from this nation's most pressing national security issue."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), set up by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970, would be dismantled and transformed into an "independent bipartisan commission similar to the nuclear regulatory commission."

The platform accuses the Democratic administration of outgoing president Barack Obama of having a "radical anti-coal agenda."

"The Democratic Party does not understand that coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource," it states.

Coal plant spewing pollution in Arizona
Republicans would reclassify coal as a "clean energy resource"Image: Imago/All Canada Photos

"The environmental establishment has become a self-serving elite, stuck in the mindset of the 1970s," the platform states. "Their approach is based on shoddy science, scare tactics, and centralized command-and-control regulation."

Pulling out of Paris Agreement

In a wide-ranging chapter on agriculture, energy and the environment, the party pledges to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord, signed by Barack Obama in December of last year.

The paper calls for an "immediate halt to US funding" for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which organizes the yearly climate summits and monitors countries' progress.

The platform proposes to ban scientific studies coming from the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change from being used as a basis for US lawmaking.

"We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris agreement," the document states.

Pica says having the US quit the UN climate process would "fundamentally cripple the Paris Agreement" and derail global efforts to tackle climate change.

"You can't have the world's biggest historical emitter withdraw from the agreement and withdraw from all the international negotiating spaces," he says.

End to clean energy

A Republican administration would repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan, the main instrument for controlling carbon emissions from power plants.

VW Skandal Environmental Protection Agency USA. «Dieselgate»: USA setzen VW mit Milliarden-Klage unter Druck" vom 05.01.2016) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++ picture-alliance/dpa/J. Schmitt-Tegge
The Environmental Protection agency, in charge of most US environmental law, would be scrapped by RepublicansImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Schmitt-Tegge

It would strip the EPA of any power to limit carbon emissions.

It does not envision replacing these regulatory instruments with any new limits on emissions such as market-based mechanisms, stating merely "we oppose any carbon tax."

A Republican administration would take a technology-neutral approach, forbidding subsidies to any renewable energy technologies, which should only receive private funding.

"We support the development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power and hydropower," the document states.

Dismantling nature protection

"Unelected bureaucrats must be stopped from furthering the Democratic Party's agenda," the Republicans argue. To that end, nature protection rules administered by the EPA, an executive agency, should be either ended or transferred to the authority of individual states.

Additionally, the reach of the Endangered Species Act should be significantly curtailed, Republicans argue, so that species cannot be listed as endangered in one location if they exist in healthy numbers in another location.

The act has "stunted economic development, halted the construction of projects and burdened landowners," the platform states.

The 200 million acres of land protected by the federal government should be "used to the best economic potential for the nation," particularly with regard to logging timber, the Republicans argue.

Public lands should be opened to oil and gas exploration, including land in America's outer continental shelf. Permission for such exploration, and for mineral extraction, should be expedited.

Donald Trump introduces his wife Melania Trump on the first night of the Republican National Convention. Copyright: picture-alliance/abaca
A President Trump would pull the US out of the Paris climate accordImage: picture-alliance/abaca

Power to states through executive action

Federally protected lands should be transferred to the administration of state governments. "The residents of state and local communities know best how to protect the land where they work and live," the platform states.

Pica says most of the actions envisioned by the platform could be enacted by a President Trump through executive authority with the stroke of a pen, even if the Republicans do not control the US Congress.

The Republican National Convention will continue over the next three days, with a speech by Trump on Thursday.