I wrote here after Election Day of the Catastrophe that Trump’s election meant for the world, particularly the part of the world where I spend most of my time: the environmental movement. That sense of foreboding has been more than justified in the selection of the extraordinarily perverse group of troglodytes earmarked for top leadership at the EPA (Scott Pruitt), Department of Energy (Rick Perry), Department of the Interior (Ryan Zinke) and, as strange as it could get, the Department of State (Rex Tillerson).
The indispensable Jane Mayer, author of the Koch-busting Dark Money,* saw the handwriting on the wall in November when she wrote this piece, The Dark-Money Cabinet, for the New Yorker, outlining the shape of the relevant transition working groups for energy, natural resources, and the environment. One of her interviewees sums things up nicely: “It looks like the lobbyists and special interests are already taking over.”
Well the poster above identifies the gang of four named for the key agencies and they couldn’t be more representative of the special interests, and diametrically opposed to the public interest.
I braved the cold this afternoon along with two hundred or so other folks at a rally organized by 350NYC outside the offices of the new Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, and his partner in the Senate for New York, Kirsten Gillibrand. (I had the pleasure of speaking at a rally a few years ago organized by 350NYC in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.) Today’s event was part of a nationwide series of events, The Day Against Denial. Today was also part of a month of actions organized by the Mother Ship, 350.org. I said to someone today that it felt like we were going to be spending a lot of time in the streets over the next four years. (Sigh.)
Who are these four bizarre picks?
Let the venerable League of Conservation Voters voice their opinion of Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior, responsible for the lion’s share of America’s public lands: “By nominating Rep. Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior, Trump is sending yet another message to Big Polluters that their profits will come first on our public lands.” His lifetime LCV score? 3%!
Jane Mayer wrote a profile of the climate-denying, EPA-suing Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, the pick for EPA Administrator. He is, for all intents and purposes, a hired gun for the Oil and Gas industry. His mission at EPA? To gut it. We can all look forward to a thousand more Flint water crises and the like.
The Sierra Club, in which I was once an activist, had this take on Rick Perry for DOE: “His ideological obsession with promoting dirty fossil fuels and ignoring the climate crisis means he is just as unfit for this position as the other climate deniers Trump is promoting for key posts.” No mincing of words there.
The usually more restrained Environmental Defense Fund, as willing to work with business as against it in the interests of the best possible environmental outcome, was not sanguine about the prospects of Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State. (It’s a position, by the way, fourth in line to the Presidency.) Fred Krupp, longtime head of EDF, said: “…, climate change is a defining foreign policy challenge of our time. Addressing it effectively in concert with countries around the globe will be a central responsibility of the next Secretary of State. If that job goes to the chief executive of the world’s largest shareholder-owned oil-and-gas company, he will need to demonstrate substantially different priorities than those he followed as CEO.” Krupp is quite plain here: “President-elect Trump’s nomination of ExxonMobil’s CEO for Secretary of State is another sign that he is putting the interests of the oil and gas industry ahead of the interests of the American people.” Oh, by the way, might he also be putting the best interests of Russia ahead of America? Just sayin’.
As a further kick in the head for us still clinging to the vestiges of reason, NOAA tells us that 2016 was 2nd warmest year on record for U.S. This vital agency, undoubtedly headed for evisceration under the Trump/McConnell/Ryan/Koch regime under which we will, in fewer than two weeks, be forced to live, also notes “Last year, the U.S. experienced 15 weather and climate disasters, each with losses exceeding $1 billion for a total of $46 billion.” Where did most of these serious disasters occur? In red-state America. So, all my brothers and sisters who voted for Trump, I’m here to say you can count on a lot more disasters to come: natural, civic, financial, and environmental.
* One review of Dark Money notes “As Mayer convincingly details, ‘weaponized’ conservative philanthropy is at the heart of our secretive, democratically unaccountable, plutocratic politics in an era of burgeoning economic inequalities.”