Climate Change, Labor, and Transportation Under a Trump Administration

Nina Sparling

The current picks for cabinet members of the incoming Trump administration are likely to have a substantial influence on policy across the board, with notable change afoot for food, agriculture, and the environment. President-elect Donald Trump announced Andrew Puzder as his choice for Secretary of Labor. A veteran of the fast food industry, Puzder is the current CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., whose holdings include fast-food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Trump said of Puzder, “[he] has created and boosted the careers of thousands of Americans, and his extensive record fighting for workers makes him the ideal candidate to lead the Department.”

Puzder opposes increasing the federal minimum wage and has spoken out against the Affordable Care Act—in 2015 he suggested that Obamacare has cost millions of people reliable full-time employment (a claim some question). With Puzder as Secretary of Labor, the future of recent developments like the Obama administration’s move to extend overtime pay to many workers nationwide alongside the on-the-ground work of organizations and campaigns that have risen to the fore, like Fight for $15 and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, remain unclear.

The nomination of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests a similar departure from the priorities of the current administration. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt has shown support for fossil fuels and resistance to federal industry regulation. In the National Review, he wrote, “Global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time…Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” During his campaign for the presidency, Trump suggested he would work to dismantle the EPA as a regulatory body, and consider a withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreements of 2015, citing concerns about it being “bad for business.”

President-elect Trump has selected Elaine L. Chao as Transportation Secretary and Congressman Tom Price to Health and Human Services Secretary, who oversees all programs and agencies related to public health—including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Chao served as Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush; as Transportation Secretary, Chao will be directly involved with on President-elect Trump’s campaign promises for the improvement and expansion of infrastructure nationwide—an issue closely related to climate change across the nation. A 2014 National Climate Change Assessment predicts increased vulnerability for transportation systems and existing infrastructure ranging from citywide subway systems to coastal highways to power plants. The report suggests that policies that encourage reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be key concerns for the future of transit and infrastructure in the U.S.

President-elect Trump has yet to announce his nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, who oversees the farming industries, food quality, and food assistance. The New York Times suggests nominees may include Sam Brownback, Governor of Kansas; Chuck Conner, CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; Sid Miller, Commissioner of Agriculture for Texas; and Sonny Perdue, the former governor or Georgia, while POLITICO points to democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. The President-elect’s picks for Cabinet positions require Senate confirmation and will be accepted or rejected in January 2017.

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