There are any number of titles one could rightfully bestow on Donald Trump, but “environmentalist” isn’t one that comes to mind. Ever. Indeed, one of the Trump administration’s most consistent policy choices has been to favor polluters whenever and wherever possible, whether it meant withdrawing from an international climate change agreement to downsizing national monuments like Bears Ears in Utah or rolling back federal rules governing vehicle fuel efficiency or power plant emissions. So it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of unimaginable to think the day could possibly come when President Trump would dare to boast about his environmental accomplishments.
As it happens, that day came on Monday.
That’s right, the man who called climate change a Chinese hoax and thinks burning more coal is just a dandy idea and has, generally speaking, sought to weaken clean air and clear water regulations at every turn, called a news conference to brag about his environmental stewardship. “From day one, my administration has made it a top priority to ensure that America has among the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet,” Mr. Trump told reporters, somehow surviving the moment without a direct lightning strike from the heavens. “We want the cleanest air, we want crystal clean water, and that’s what we’re doing and what we’re working on so hard.”
Of course, not a word of that was true. Not. One. Word. Even self-delusion has its limits. That’s why actual environmentalists could only posit the theory that it was “Opposite Day” at the White House or perhaps the president was auditioning for a community theater production of “1984” where up is down, right is wrong, and all that. What, was Jeffrey Epstein unavailable to lecture on protecting children? Kim Jong-un on nuclear non-proliferation? Westboro Baptist Church on LGBTQ rights? Even by alternative fact standards, Mr. Trump was pushing the envelope.
How did he do it? Mostly by claiming actual environmental progress — stuff like reduced particulate matter in the air — that predates his time in office was somehow connected to him, and by ignoring areas where the country is doing badly. Naturally, he had little to say about climate change, easily the most pressing environmental threat, other than to scold Democrats for supporting the Green New Deal by reiterating the canard that it would cost $100 trillion. Overstating the cost of anti-pollution regulations being the well-worn practice of those seeking to spew noxious chemicals and other poisons into the world without accountability.
Naturally, Mr. Trump failed to bring up the matter of how he’s rolled back the Clean Power Plan rules that reduce harmful emissions from electrical generating facilities or sought to freeze fuel efficiency standards, making the nation more welcoming of gas-guzzlers on the road. His attacks on the Waters of the United States rule that protects vital streams and wetlands apparently slipped his mind. We suppose those brags are for when he’s talking to business leaders or Trump rally goers who don’t worry about bothersome stuff like cancer hot spots or lead poisoning. Quick, name a major new environmental initiative that has come out of the Trump EPA. That’s a stumper, isn’t it? Merely pitching in federal dollars for restoration of Florida Everglades or improving Great Lakes water quality doesn’t count. Nor does his signature on bipartisan legislation to throw less garbage in the oceans. And disbanding science advisory panels really, really doesn’t count. Sorry, but protecting public health is just not how an EPA run by Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, rolls.