Groups Brace for Second "Bad Year for Environment" Under Trump

HAILEY, Idaho - Environmental groups say they're bracing for another year of rollbacks of protections for public land, water and air in 2018, based on President Donald Trump's first year in office.

A new year-in-review report from the Western Watersheds Project notes that in 2017, the Trump administration rolled back regulations on clean water, pollution controls on coal-fired power plants, and rules to prevent air pollution from oil and gas wells.

Trump backed the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, and shrank two national monuments - with eight more under review.

Erik Molvar, executive director of the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project, says the federal government is now saying it will ease safety regulations put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

"Basically, the Trump administration wants what they're calling 'energy dominance,' which means maximizing drilling, and minimizing safety and environmental safeguards that might slow that down," Molvar points out.

Recently, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced he's ready to renegotiate greater sage-grouse conservation plans, which have been seen as a grand compromise among industry, states and environmental groups, a deal that was years in the making.

Molvar says one of his biggest worries is that the Bundy-inspired land seizure movement will take root in federal land management agencies, and risk turning over control of federal public lands to local authorities.

"A lot of states and county governments have no environmental ethic, and no interest in doing anything with public lands other than exploit them to the maximum extent possible - with logging, mining, grazing and drilling, so they can line their own local coffers at the expense of the long-term health of the land and the extinction of wildlife species," he states.

The Republican tax bill also included a provision to open up Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

And the federal government has signaled an interest in submitting a new five-year plan for offshore oil drilling that could open large swaths of previously protected waters off the West Coast, the East Coast and the Arctic to oil and gas drilling.

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