Trump ‘climate denial’ cabinet galvanizes environmental groups, sparks rallies

Two Pennsylvania environmental organizations are announcing an alliance over what they say are mounting fears of a "climate-denial cabinet" in the Trump administration, and local groups are staging rallies next week.

Advocates are billing Monday as a National Day Against Denial.  Locally, members of a dozen or so groups say they will march at noon to the Philadelphia office of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) on Market Street, then to the office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.  A similar rally is planned for 6 p.m. Monday in Newtown, Bucks County.

As the rallies were being planned, PennFuture and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania separately announced a "strategic alliance" to leverage the combined groups’ expertise in legislation, voter mobilization, and data.

The various groups say they are motivated by President-elect Donald Trump’s picks of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as energy secretary, and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Pruitt wrote last year in National Review that human activity as the cause of global warming is "far from settled."  His coauthor on the piece wrote later that Pruitt’s comments were blown out of proportion and that the goal was not to deny climate change, but to call out the EPA as having overreaching regulations.

Perry advocated abolishing the Energy Department in 2012, but wind and solar power expanded under his governorship. And ExxonMobil under Tillerson supported the Paris climate agreement – though some are skeptical about the energy giant’s legacy.

In 2012, Trump tweeted he thought climate change was a hoax - a tweet often cited by his opponents during the presidential campaign.

But Trump suggested late last year that there was likely "some connectivity" between human activity and global warming. 

Regardless, the environmental groups believe the Trump administration will be hostile to addressing climate change.

“We need cabinet officials who recognize those realities and who will work for a just and rapid transition to renewable energy, rather than denying the threats that we face and advancing the interests of the fossil-fuel industry,” Mitch Chanin of 350 Philadelphia wrote in a news release. Chanin’s group embraces a push away from gas, oil, and coal.

Meanwhile, Josh McNeil, executive director at Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, said his group’s alliance with PennFuture aims to “bring to the table some of the state’s toughest environmental lawyers, our best advocates, our most-connected organizers, and our largest pool of environmental PAC money.”

PennFuture President Larry Schweiger said the alliance will create "a new, more powerful force for environmental protection."