Environment to pay for Trump’s economic plans

Cutting environmental regulations so Detroit can produce more cars, approving oil pipelines that had been halted under the previous administration, removing references to climate change on government websites and gagging environmental officials were among a flurry of President Donald Trump’s orders on Tuesday. John Dyer reports from Boston.

US president Donald Trump wants to revive controversial oil pipelines that had been halted under Obama. (Image credit: Shannon Ramos, flickr/Creative Commons)

US president Donald Trump has been signing what are known as “executive orders” every day this week, many of which are meant to reverse the policies of his predecessor.

On his second full working day, Tuesday, environmental protection was in the crosshairs. Trump used a meeting with executives from the American automobile industry to announce his new direction.

“Out of control”

“Our friends that want to build in the United States, they go many, many years and then they can’t get the environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before,” said Trump during a White House meeting with automaker executives.

“And it’s absolutely crazy. I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist. I believe in it. But it’s out of control.”

Attending the meeting were General Motors chief executive Mary Barra, Ford boss Mark Fields, Fiat Chrysler’s Sergio Marchionne of Fiat Chrysler and other executives.

Trump pledged to reduce their corporate taxes and determine whether stricter fuel economy standards and other regulations adopted under former President Barack Obama were preventing the companies from hiring more Americans – a key promise Trump made on the campaign trail.

Trump has previously criticised Ford, GM, Toyota and other companies for moving jobs to Mexico, and has threatened car companies with a 35 per cent tax if they move operations to another country and then try to sell vehicles from those operations in the US.

Injecting politics into business

Barra embraced the president’s goals.

“There is a huge opportunity working together as an industry with government that we can improve the environment, improve safety, and improve jobs creation and the competitiveness of manufacturing,” she said.

Experts were critical, saying Trump was unnecessarily injecting politics into business decisions. Mexico will remain a cheaper place to build cars, said Center for Automotive Research analyst Kristin Dziczek.

“This industry has been around for 100 years, and plants last for 40 or 50 years or more,” she said. “They can’t be swerving left and right every time there is a political change.”

Pipelines back on the table

It wasn’t clear which regulations Trump would cut exactly.

But in other moves he made clear that he wanted to revive the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

The president signed a series of executive orders that would expedite the construction of the pipelines.

Obama had rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, after strenuous environmentalists’ lobbying against it. The company building the 1,900-kilometre pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, must now reapply to build the project.

“It’s something that’s subject to a renegotiation of terms by us,” said Trump. “We’ll see if we can get the pipeline built. A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs.”

Only US-made steel

Last summer, Trump admitted to owning Energy Transfer Partners stock but said he had sold it. He has yet to file a financial disclosure form detailing the sale, however.

Trump also signed an order saying the pipeline had to use steel forged in the US.

“I am very insistent that if we’re going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipe should be made in the United States,” he said.

Environmentalists still blasted the move.

“President Trump will live to regret his actions this morning,” said Sierra Club President Michael Brune.

Silencing environmental authorities

In the past week, Trump also erased references to global warming and climate change from the websites of the White House and Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.

He also instructed the EPA and other federal agencies not to release documents to the public or “providing updates on social media or to reporters.”

Not everyone followed his order.

The Badlands National Park in South Dakota’s Twitter account started tweeting about the climate change after Trump issued his directions.

“Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years,” the park’s feed said.

The tweets went viral. But by the late afternoon they had been deleted from the park’s account.

 

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