Cheap Seats 2018
Swamp Things - 07/11
By Rich Trzupek
One of the more interesting reactions to the election of Donald Trump, from a personal point of view, was the number of friends and colleagues who expressed condolences based on the assumption that the Donald’s shocking upset would have a negative effect on my personal livelihood. Trump promised to cut-back and reform the USEPA, ergo – if he was true to his word – many concluded that a job like mine, one that largely involves helping industry deal with environmental regulations and requirements, would be in less and less demand.
I respectfully disagreed with that assessment, for a couple of reasons: 1) Whatever the USEPA does or does not do, their actions have little practical effect on a consulting business like mine, and 2) Any slight decrease in USEPA activity would have little to no impact on state/local agencies that are responsible for the vast majority of environmental approvals and enforcement.
From my perspective, a Trump administration might lead to some minor relaxation in over-zealous environmental regulations and policy, but I could not envision Trump making a massive course change.
If, however, it turned out that Trump’s economic policies kicked the economy into high gear, then it would follow that people who do what I do would benefit. A booming economy means more industrial development. More industrial development requires more environmental permitting and environmental compliance services. So, from my perspective, a Trump presidency should mean happy days in my profession.
That is precisely how things have worked out. We’re working on an unprecedented number of new projects, both “greenfield” development (completely new projects) and expansion of existing plants.
This growth has occurred largely because of Trump’s economic policies. Sorry libs, but that’s reality. Sensible changes to USEPA rules and policies have played a role as well and for that, I, for one, salute departing EPA Director Scott Pruitt.
I do not know and largely do not care whether Pruitt abused the power of his office to his personal benefit. In D.C. I pretty much start with the assumption that everybody is working the system to their own personal advantage, although one is presently surprised once in a while.
What matters to me is not the person, but their policies, and in this arena Pruitt performed brilliantly. The measure of his performance is how much the big, rich and powerful environmental NGOs like the Sierra Club and NRDC hated the man and how large a target Pruitt consequently had on his back. The amazing thing to me is not that Pruitt didn’t make it through Trump’s first term, it’s that he made it this far.
As I pointed out in my epic masterpiece Regulators Gone Wild back in 2011, my problem with the EPA is not that it protects the environment. That’s a good thing. My problem with the EPA is all of the bureaucratic nonsense that has nothing to do with protecting the environment and only serves to retard economic growth and reduce job creation.
The Trump administration gets that and Pruitt made a number of common-sense decisions that will do nothing to endanger the environment – despite the Sierra Club’s wailing and gnashing of teeth – but are doing much to keep the economy rolling. I’ll give you two examples.
Dumping Obama’s so-called “Clean Power Plan.” It was an idiotic initiative for two reasons: 1) Most of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions it called for were going to happen anyway thanks to state-level programs and continuing retirements in the nation’s coal fleet, and 2) Any reductions we make (and we’ve been making reductions since 2008) don’t mean diddly when one factors in China and India.
Getting rid of EPAs “once in/always in” policy. This policy, which pre-dated Obama, de-incentives pollution reduction. If your emissions were sufficiently large to force you to comply with the requirements of an especially draconian rule, that was it. All of those requirements would apply ad infinitum, even if you reduced emissions to the point that a less draconian rule would have applied, if you were building a plant from scratch.
In making these, and many other fine decisions, Pruitt served his country well. Any EPA director Trump appoints is going to suffer the wrath of Big Green and their mainstream media allies. There’s no getting around it. A tip of the hat to Pruitt for putting up with as much as he did for as long as he did, and for injecting some common sense into the EPA while he served.