Environmental groups said Wednesday they don’t view Donald Trump’s election to the presidency as a referendum on his views on climate change, and vowed to pressure him on environmental issues when he takes office.
“We’re going to keep in his face,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, at a news conference on Wednesday.
Trump will enter office as the first president to argue against the science behind anthropocentric climate change, having called it a “hoax” invented by the Chinese. Karpinski said he doesn’t believe Trump’s election indicates the public agrees with him on that particular stance. (The Pew Research Center has found that American adults are evenly divided on the question of climate change, with a clear partisan split.)
Karpinski pointed to some of the groups’ successes in the 2016 elections, including Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto’s victory in the race for retiring Sen. Harry Reid’s seat in Nevada. He also noted the failure of a controversial Florida ballot measure on solar power that clean-energy advocates opposed.
Karpinski and others vowed not to solely play defense under a Republican White House, Senate and House. Trump has vowed to repeal the Clean Power Plan and renege on the U.S.’s promises under the Paris climate agreement.
That leaves environmental groups to fight on a grassroots level rather than through the executive branch, said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. He said his group defeated 184 proposed new coal-fired power plants under President George W. Bush, and that its top priority going forward will be to train activists.
Brune said that some of the progress toward clean energy sources spurred by the Obama administration will be “irreversible,” regardless of whether the Clean Power Plan survives.
Brune said his group would reach out to the next administration and congressional leaders to talk about potential areas of compromise. But the green groups also plan to push for late actions by the Obama administration. Anna Aurilio, D.C. director for Environment America, said the group would push for the expansion of public lands, and for the southeast Atlantic Ocean to stay out of the final 2017-2022 offshore drilling plan.
Trump made big promises to workers in the coal industry on the campaign trail, at one point saying he will “save the coal industry” within his first 100 days as president. On Wednesday, Brune called those “empty promises,” and said, “Coal is not coming back.”