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GUEST COLUMN: Colorado's Environment under a Trump Presidency

By: Rebecca Twinney
April 2, 2017 Updated: April 2, 2017 at 4:05 am
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Environmentalists had fears about a possible Donald Trump presidency - and more than two months into Trump's term, those fears have been justified.

After appointing a known climate change skeptic and Colorado College graduate, Myron Ebell, to oversee the EPA's transition, Trump named an EPA critic, Scott Pruitt, to head the agency. How much of an agency Pruitt will have to lead is in question, as Trump's budget proposal would slash the EPA's budget by nearly a third.

Trump's pick for interior secretary raised alarm bells, too. Ryan Zinke promised to support lifting the 2016 federal coal-leasing moratorium put in place by Sally Jewel, the previous secretary of the interior. Zinke also backs the reduction of recent Bureau of Land Management laws aimed at protecting streams and preventing methane leaks.

Carlos Fernandez, Colorado state director of The Nature Conservancy, fears for the state's natural resources, efforts to curb global climate change and vital investments in science. "These are all imperative to our security, well-being and way of life as Coloradans and Americans," he says. "Protecting our land, water and air is not optional."

A 2016 Western States Survey reflects Coloradans' support for this sentiment. The survey found 77 percent of Colorado voters consider environmental issues an important factor in the election of a public official. Seventy-two percent of voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who aims to protect public land, and 76 percent favor candidates who promote renewable energy.

Conservation Colorado is the largest environmental group in Colorado. With 26,000 members, the grass-roots organization works to protect Colorado's environment by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers.

"We are facing perhaps the most anti-environmental president and Congress ever," said Jessica Goad, the organization's communications director. "Whereas President Barack Obama was focused on tackling climate change, cleaning up our air and protecting public lands, so far the only indications from the Trump administration have been plans to roll back these long-sought protections."

One compelling state issue is congressional efforts to weaken the Bureau of Land Management's regulations on air pollution from oil and gas wells.

"If this rule gets rolled back, we'll see more air pollution in Colorado, and taxpayers in rural communities in our state will lose money," Goad said.

Hillary Larson, communications coordinator for the Colorado Chapter of the Sierra Club, voiced similar concerns. "We know that clean energy is more affordable than fossil fuels," she said. "There's no reason we should be moving backwards."

The Sierra Club's Ready for 100 campaign fosters the transition to clean energy at the city level. Aspen and Boulder have committed to a full conversion to clean energy by 2035. Due to local rallies for more affordable electricity, Pueblo recently joined the campaign as well.

"This step is the right move for them economically," Larson said. She hopes Colorado Springs will be next.

"As American citizens and Colorado residents, we need to question Trump's negative agenda and policies," Larson said. "We need to be standing up for what's best for us and our families on a local level."

And with the help of statewide support, environmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy, Conservation Colorado and the Sierra Club are prepared to do just that.

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Rebecca Twinney is a student at Colorado College and a Gazette intern.

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