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Tracking the Environmental Policies of the Trump Administration >>

Don’t Expect Trump’s Top Cop Go After Law-Breaking Polluters

Saturday, November 19, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is one of the most outspoken critics of environmental science and biggest climate change skeptics in Washington.

The top three Sessions benefactors are energy giant Southern Company ($174,765); Balch & Bingham, a Birmingham law firm that represents big fossil fuel and nuclear interests ($140,375), and coal giant Drummond Company ($87,950).

His views on the emissions driving global warming don’t stray from his funders’ interests.

“Carbon pollution is CO2 [carbon dioxide], and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases,” Sessions said in a 2015 hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

His climate change ignorance and hostility toward science wouldn’t be so worrisome if Trump had picked him to serve as ambassador to Liechtenstein. But since he’s likely – pending Senate approval – to become head of the Justice Department and its Environment and Natural Resources Division, we smell trouble.

According to the division’s website, roughly half of its attorneys “bring cases against those who violate the nation's civil and criminal pollution-control laws,” such as violations of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Other attorneys in the division “defend environmental challenges to government programs and activities and represent the United States in matters concerning the stewardship of the nation's natural resources and public lands.” The division also handles cases on Indian rights and wildlife protections.

Some of the division’s recent work includes getting a major coal company to take immediate action to reduce water pollution from its mining operations in Appalachia. It secured a $14.7 billion settlement from Volkswagen after it cheated on U.S. emissions tests and deceived customers. It forced agro-chemical giant Bayer CropScience to increase safeguards at its chemical facilities after an explosion killed two workers in 2008.

What would an attorney general so hostile to the environment and so cozy with big polluters mean for the important work of the Environment and Natural Resources Division? We may be about to find out.


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