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Apocalypse Now? Not Much Has Changed in the Last Six Months

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by Raymond S. Heyman

It has almost been six months since the Trump administration came into power. At that time, energy and environmental stakeholders were either celebrating the advent of a period of progressive reform or lamenting the end of conscientious conservation and stewardship.

A review of the impact of what the Trump administration has actually done, however, reveals that while there have been plenty of headlines, there has been little change. In an article published in the New York Times by Nadja Popovich and Tatiana Schlossberg, “23 Environmental Rules Rolled Back in Trump’s First 100 Days” (May 2, 2017), 23 environmental rules, regulations and policies were identified as having been the target of the Trump administration. 9 were overturned, 7 were under review and 7 were scrutinized and “in limbo.” Some were highly publicized such as the approval of the Dakota Access pipeline and Keystone XL pipeline. Others were less known such as overturning the ban on hunting wolves and grizzly bears on wildlife refuges and the review of all the national monuments created since 1996.

To date, the energy industry as a whole does not appear to have received an economic windfall from these actions nor have their opponents been noticeably impacted. The checks and balances that were in place remain in place.  Each stakeholder experiences success in promoting its interests and each has its setbacks.

I had two experiences that I believe help explain why not much has changed in the last six months. A number of years ago I was discussing an upcoming gubernatorial election with the CEO of an energy company. I asked him from his company’s standpoint which candidate he hoped would win. His response was, “It doesn’t matter.” Another time I was with executives of a global corporation when a similar question was asked about the United States Presidential election. Their collective response was, “we have a plan A and we have a plan B”.

Prudent stakeholders, whether they be energy and/or environmentally oriented, may not link their success to the policies of a particular administration. Rather their vision and goals might be fixed on principles that withstand the test of time and shifting ideologies.