That the Interior Department has now blessed oil and gas drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge comes as no surprise. It was a foregone conclusion once Lisa Murkowski, in 2017, persuaded her Senate colleagues to authorize drilling in the refuge as part of a tax bill, ending protections that have been in place since the Eisenhower administration.
Still, given the refuge’s obvious importance to the abundant wildlife there, its talismanic significance to the environmental community and the climate-wrecking potential of the oil that lies underneath it, the announcement came as one more disheartening blow from the Trump administration. The administration’s contempt for public lands is equaled only by President Trump’s fealty to the country’s fossil fuel interests and by his determination to obliterate anything President Barack Obama did to preserve open space, ensure cleaner air and water and reduce global warming gases.
The courts have already intervened to limit some of the damage; a new president, with a favorable Congress, can do much more. This will take patience and discipline. Mr. Trump has left the country’s environmental policies in wreckage. Most of that destruction has been in service of a misbegotten strategy of “energy dominance” that emphasized the production of more and more fossil fuels at a time when mainstream science — and the fires, floods, hurricanes and other evidence before our eyes — insisted that what we need is less of them.
The biggest casualties were the three programs that formed the basis of Mr. Obama’s promise at the 2015 Paris climate meeting to substantially reduce America’s greenhouse gases: rules reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, those reducing emissions of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations; and those mandating dramatic improvements in automobile fuel efficiency.