JUPITER, Fla. – President Donald Trump sought to claim the mantle of environmental steward on Tuesday as he announced an expansion of a ban on offshore drilling and highlighted conservation projects in Florida. But his administration has overturned or weakened numerous regulations meant to protect air and water quality and lands essential for imperiled species.
Trump spoke beside the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, lambasting Democrat Joe Biden’s agenda at the taxpayer-funded event, ahead of a campaign rally in North Carolina, another must-win state for his reelection. The trip comes as Trump steps up his travel to battleground states eight weeks out from Election Day.
Trump announced he was extending and expanding a ban on new offshore drilling sites off the Florida coast as well as Georgia and South Carolina. The existing moratorium covers the Gulf of Mexico, and Trump said the new one would also cover the Atlantic coast — a significant political concern in coastal states like Florida.
“My administration’s proving everyday that we can improve our environment while creating millions of high-paying jobs,” Trump said. He claimed that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s environmental plans would "destroy America’s middle class while giving a free pass to the world’s worst foreign polluters.
“Trump is the great environmentalist,” he added.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wore a face mask to greet Trump, who did not wear a mask, after Air Force One landed at the West Palm Beach airport. Trump arrived in Jupiter by motorcade.
Trump discussed his call for additional funding for Everglades revitalization and addressing algae-causing run-off from Lake Okeechobee that has forced beach closures in the tourism-reliant state.
Trump, though, has rolled back a host of regulations meant to protect the environment, including on power plant emissions, auto fuel standards and clean water. He withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, a global agreement meant to address the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
The Trump administration has made the environment a primary target of his deregulatory push, eliminating or weakening dozens of rules that protect the nation’s air and water quality and lands essential for imperiled species while reversing Obama-era initiatives to fight climate change.
Trump replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan aimed at slashing greenhouse gas pollution from electric plants and eased automobile fuel economy standards. Under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency stripped federal protection from millions of acres of streams and wetlands. He lifted restrictions on oil and gas exploration in sensitive areas and shortened environmental reviews of construction projects such as highways and pipelines.
Environmental groups and former EPA chiefs from both parties have criticized Trump’s environmental record. Current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, defended it last week in a speech commemorating the agency’s 50th anniversary. He contended Trump had reined in an agency that had lost sight of its core mission. A second term would bring more cleanups of Superfund toxic waste dumps and restoration of polluted industrial sites, which drew renewed emphasis during Trump’s first term, Wheeler said.
News 6 political expert Dr. Jim Clark said that the president’s campaign wants to appeal to voters in the swing counties of Volusia and Pinnelis with the executive order.
“He is hoping this helps him in Volusia County,” said Clark. “For the time being, they have some protection that President Trump has promised to remove.”
Clark said that Trump has greenlit offshore drilling near Alaska, so his order to ban it in Florida appears to be purely political.
“He’s in the courts trying to get Obama’s environmental protections overturned. At the same time, he’s instituting new protections in Florida. He desperately needs to carry Florida.”
Laura Betts works as the program manager for The Cleo Institute, an environmental protection non-profit in Orlando. She said that wildlife is their major concern.
“It’s our wildlife. Our wildlife is al I’m ready in danger because of the climate crisis and what’s happening with the water being unusually hot,” said Betts. “Nobody wants to go to the beach and see a offshore rig.”