Donald Trump Accused of Greenwashing As He Touts False and Misleading Environmental Accomplishments

President Donald Trump wants you to know how much his administration has done for the environment.

"Everyday of my presidency we will fight for a cleaner environment," said the president during a short press conference about his environmental policy and record Monday afternoon.

Trump also said from the stage that his team had likely worked harder on "the environment" than any prior administration. In fact, the energy-first president who once called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese gave the speech to "recognize his administration's environmental leadership and America's role in leading the world."

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a press call Monday afternoon that the president intended to discuss major improvements that have been made in air quality and water quality since the 1970s. When asked why the comparisons are being made over a 49-year time range instead of starting the president took office and began implementing his own regulatory policies, Wheeler said that, "if people listen to the news every night they'll think the air has gotten worse over the last 49 years, but we have seen a decrease across the board of air pollutants."

Still, the air has gotten noticeably more polluted since the president took office, according to his own administration. Over the past two years, the U.S. has had more polluted air days than in previous five, according to an AP analysis of EPA data. There were 15 percent more unhealthy air dates in 2018 and 2017 than there were between 2013 and 2016.

Yet the president has continued to insist that the U.S. has the "cleanest air and water" in the world. He added, on a recent trip to Ireland that "it's gotten better since I'm president."

Trump White House Lawn
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Rose Garden at the White House July 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The U.S. ranked 10th on the Environmental Performance Index list for air quality in 2018, not first as the president often says.

Wheeler said that the president would also tout his accomplishments around superfund sites, or areas designated to be so environmentally toxic that they receive special federal funds for clean-up efforts. The Trump administration removed 22 superfund sites from their priority list last year, the most since 2005. But, Wheeler failed to mention that seven of those projects had been completed before the president took office.

The Trump administration has set a number of rules into motion to make it easier for energy companies to pollute the nation's air and waterways. The administration most recently altered the way it studies the health impacts of carbon emissions, a change that could bring about an additional 1,400 premature deaths per year.

The president's team has also worked to end restrictions for methane pollution, rolled back current safeguards on coal ash pollution and ended the National Environmental Policy Act which prevents fossil fuel projects and infrastructure plans from polluting waterways and the air in the future. Additionally, the president limited public lands by ending protections for parts of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments.

"Donald Trump is resorting to greenhouse gaslighting the public to try and cover-up the fact that he is the worst president in history for the environment, climate and public health," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in a statement. "Trump's relentless attacks on our clean air, clean water, climate and public lands threaten the health and safety of millions of Americans and no speech he gives can ever change the reality of his actions."

Wheeler said Monday that the Sierra Club was "ignoring all the environmental process we've made" since the 1970s.