Much of President Obama’s legacy on the environment could soon be upended. A fourth U.S. presidency could dismantle EPA regulations and force other countries to cut down their carbon emissions — while providing a breathing room for fossil fuel producers to find a new market. And if Donald Trump ends up in the White House, it will be the highest level of office for a political party that has never supported climate action.
The prospect of turmoil at the state and federal level in favor of the oil and gas industries is highlighted by the recent expiration of the short-lived moratorium on fracking.
The biggest environmental battles are sure to be waged by Mr. Trump, or, more likely, by Republican governors such as Rick Perry of Texas. Some states may also look to push back on EPA rules.
But the question remains: What impact will the administration of Hillary Clinton have on the environment?
“There’s a lot of overreaching by presidential administrations, but I don’t think that happened in this case because of her campaign,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. She was referring to Mr. Trump, and the allies on the right who said that electing Mr. Trump would serve the cause of human rights.
“We are going to be looking at another eight years of the Obama Administration, and I don’t think anybody in the environmental community would want to change course too quickly,” Ms. Hauter said.
The EPA has already made cuts to climate-related programs in recent years. Next year the Obama administration will lose major transportation goals from the greenhouse gas law in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act, and Ms. Clinton has criticized some of the cuts.
It is unlikely, however, that Ms. Clinton would radically reverse course. A candidate who wants to embrace big-picture environmental causes would want to highlight the work of the EPA in areas like cross-state air pollution, water quality, and the role of toxic chemicals in toxic groundwater and drinking water supplies.
Ms. Clinton supported signing Mr. Obama’s Paris Climate agreement this summer. That deal will probably be ratified later this year, even if the United States still has its EPA regulation in place.