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Michael Hiltzik: Trump gives Cabinet aide’s ex-clients all they wanted

Let us give credit score in which credit rating is owing: President Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt put in a complete day’s operate Wednesday.

Of program, the work they were undertaking served only a smaller cadre of rich farmers, not you and me. Presumably it is only a coincidence that some of individuals farm pursuits are previous lobbying clients of Bernhardt’s, and that he and Trump gave them just what they’d been making an attempt to get from the federal government for decades.

The concern is h2o, a topic on which Trump has demonstrated spectacular ignorance in the past and in which Bernhardt has wallowed up to his armpits.

These new guidelines sacrifice the Bay-Delta and its most endangered species for the fiscal interests of the President’s political backers and Secretary Bernhardt’s former clientele.&#13

Kate Poole, Purely natural Methods Protection Council

As my colleague Bettina Boxall reviews, Trump signed a memo, throughout a campaign overall look Wednesday in Bakersfield, enjoyable rules underneath the Endangered Species Act that have limited the circulation of drinking water to irrigate big farms in the Central Valley.

At the ceremony in one particular of the handful of remaining components of California that vote crimson, Trump was accompanied by Bernhardt, Dwelling Minority Chief Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), GOP Reps. Devin Nunes and Tom McClintock, and former GOP Rep. David Valadao.

Trump promised to send out “a magnificent amount” of h2o to Central Valley farms. In a information launch that may possibly have made George Orwell bow down in admiration for its audacious twisting of the truth, the Interior Section asserted that Trump’s action “optimizes water shipping and delivery and boosts species protection” in the Central Valley. In reality, the motion throws drinking water flows through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta out of whack and does so by lowering species security.

Let’s just take a glimpse at the context of Trump’s motion.

First, it is going through main legal pushback. Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra and the condition Organic Sources Agency and Environmental Protection Agency filed fit Thursday in San Francisco federal courtroom to block Trump from executing his buy. The lawsuit suggests the get is dependent on “fatally defective” federal scientific do the job.

There may perhaps also be lawsuits from environmental groups such as the Natural Methods Protection Council. The NRDC’s h2o director, Kate Poole, mentioned Wednesday that “these new procedures sacrifice the Bay-Delta and its most endangered species for the economic pursuits of the President’s political backers and Secretary Bernhardt’s former shoppers.” She’s suitable.

Next, it reflects an idee-fixe Trump has labored under since his presidential campaign — that California has loads of water but lets it stream uselessly out to the sea rather of diverting it to wealthy farmers. This is a idea that was pumped into Trump’s head by people today like Rep. McClintock and the Westlands H2o District, one particular of Bernhardt’s previous clients and the beneficiary of guidelines that have emerged from the Interior Section all through his tenure.

For the duration of the top of the final drought in 2016, for illustration, Trump parroted their spiel. He denied that there was a drought at all and blamed “the environmentalists.” He reported, “They’re getting the water and shoving it out to sea….The environmentalists really don’t know why. They’re striving to protect a particular form of a few-inch fish.”

That sounded common. At a congressional hearing in January 2010, McClintock blamed apportionments that experienced deprived growers of some accessibility to drinking water on “the environmental left’s pet project, the delta smelt.”

The delta smelt is near to extinction, and that is alarming.

(Los Angeles Instances)

He cited “the nihilistic vision of the environmental still left: ever more severe federal government-induced shortages … and a completely declining top quality of existence for our little ones, who will be demanded to extend and ration just about every drop of h2o and every single watt of energy in their bleak and dimly lit properties.”

The delta smelt, as I’ve noted, is simply a appropriate-wing demon. The most important function of the tiny freshwater fish is as a bellwether for the overall health and fitness of the estuarine ecosystem, and it is close to-extinction is a red alert. The collapse of that ecosystem will be high-priced for all the state’s residents—farmers, fishermen, metropolis dwellers and wildlife.

The extremely thought that preserving the ecosystem elevates mere fish around farms is ignorantly slim-minded. The bay-delta program serves not only the Westlands Drinking water District, but also the salmon fishery together the coast and urban water users in Southern California. Balancing their interests is essential, because that’s the only way to provide all their interests.

Trump looks to imagine that drinking water deliveries can be improved for Significant Agriculture without the need of sacrifices by the other stakeholders, but he’s completely wrong. Water supply in California is a zero-sum video game, and the sum is only heading to get lesser with weather alter.

That delivers us to the particulars of Trump’s memo. Its aim of rolling again endangered species protections has had a bodyguard of lies and deception all through this administration.

Boxall claimed past yr that the administration had suppressed a scientific report, identified as a “biological view,” warning that strategies to produce extra h2o to Central Valley farms would hurt endangered and threatened species including Sacramento River wintertime-run Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, sturgeon and killer whales. The administration in no way launched the doc and changed the crew that produced it.

As a lobbyist for Westlands and subsequently as a best Interior Division formal, Bernhardt has had the knives out for the Endangered Species Act. When representing Westlands, he sued Interior about the law’s application.

In August 2018, whilst serving as the No. 2 formal at Inside and almost accurately when his one particular-calendar year recusal from issues affecting his ex-customers expired, he revealed an op-ed in the Washington Publish contacting for a rollback of the act — or somewhat, as he place it, “bringing our government’s implementation of the Endangered Species Act into the 21st century.” (Bernhardt’s spokesperson at the company insisted that he experienced complied with all his ethics commitments.)

This claim that the administration is seeking only to “modernize” federal law and polices is a frequent claim. It reappears in the memo Trump signed Wednesday. It ought to always be dealt with with suspicion. The Endangered Species Act has functioned properly perfectly, when it’s enforced, in the nearly 50 percent-century since its enactment in 1973, other than that modernizing it for today’s environment would correctly indicate increasing it, not undermining it.

Water and the natural environment are inherently political difficulties, but government regulation in the previous has been informed by major science. Trump has changed that with self-fascinated fantasy.

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