Opinion: Project 2025, and plans for the environment

By JEAN LEWANDOWSKI

Published: 08-23-2023 6:00 AM

Jean Lewandowski is a retired special needs teacher. She lives in Nashua.

As extreme weather events escalate, there is no longer serious debate about the reality of climate change. Other than confirmed conspiracy theorists, the only deniers are profiteers, and they’ll spin those conspiracies until they’ve wrung every dollar out of fossil fuels.

America has the technology, talent, and resources to mitigate some climate-driven damage and create clean energy systems, and many projects are underway. The oil barons aren’t happy about this, but they have a plan.

The Heritage Foundation recently published “Project 2025: Presidential Transition Project.” The Heritage Foundation receives much funding from the Koch brothers, who made their fortune in the fossil fuel industry. It calls itself a “conservative think tank,” but Project 2025 is radical. Its 30 chapters were written by wealthy investors in fossil fuels, international trade, and banking. Their goal is to install a like-minded president (Donald Trump is mentioned several times as their model) and consolidate power.

Chapter two lays out the strategy: “The great challenge confronting a conservative President is the existential need for aggressive use of the vast powers of the executive branch to return power…to the American people. Success in meeting that challenge will require… boldness to bend or break the bureaucracy to the presidential will…. [This] depends on the fundamental premise that it is the President’s agenda that should matter to the departments and agencies that operate under his constitutional authority.”

In sum: elect a “conservative” president; install loyalists in all executive agencies; use those agencies to serve the president and his cronies.

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New Hampshire knows how this works. The governor appointed an anti-public education commissioner to head the Department of Education. Millions of tax dollars are blatantly diverted to those who had already been paying for private and religious education. This doesn’t “return power to the people,” it’s government of, by, and for the privileged elite.

Project 2025 aims to do the same for national climate policy. Chapter 12 describes how a Department of Energy bent to the president’s will would “…support repeal of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which established new programs and are providing hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to renewable energy developers, their investors, and special interests, and support the rescinding of all funds not already spent by these programs.”

The “special interests” would be everyone benefiting from energy-saving upgrades; working on renewable energy projects; producing their own renewable energy; using transportation and communication infrastructure; needing clean food, water, and air — the people.

It was especially shocking to find buried in this chapter (p. 366) the goal of developing new nuclear weapons. For what purpose? Under whose authority? Is “mutual assured destruction” by climate change too slow for them? This alone is enough to reject any political candidate supported by the Heritage Foundation.

Chapter 13, on the Environmental Protection Agency, recommends “Returning the enforcement and compliance function to the media offices (air, water, land, and emergency management, etc.) and eliminating the stand-alone Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance.” The EPA would be powerless to advocate for the public good. The plan would also eliminate the Office of Public Engagement and Environmental Education. Shutting down public engagement isn’t “returning power to the people.”

Chapter 16 on the Department of the Interior states, “[N]o other initiative is as important for the DOI…than the restoration of the department’s historic role managing the nation’s vast storehouse of hydrocarbons, much of which is yet to be discovered.”

But there is no historical or current obligation to develop fossil fuel resources. As with all governmental institutions, the DOI was created to serve the common good. Of course, it hasn’t been immune from misuse. It has often used its power to invade Native American lands and extract resources, and in 1921, the secretary of the interior was imprisoned for bribery involving oil leases. Putting modern robber barons in charge again is guaranteed to have similar results.

Finally, it says, “Government…should not be picking winners and losers in dealing with energy resources or commercial technology.” In truth, the winners were chosen decades ago and have enjoyed their tax breaks and deregulation, while taxpayers foot the bill for oil spills and the mounting costs of environmental, health, and social disruptions from pollution and climate disasters.

Democracy looks nothing like Project 2025. It looks like the Keep New Hampshire Green Environmental Summit held recently in Laconia. People from around the state gathered to discuss their priorities and ask the important questions: “What are the problems, what are the solutions? What do we need to do?”

They discovered one another’s strengths and their common goals. They learned about the importance of electing leaders who represent us and our values. They returned to their communities with plans of their own. That’s people power.

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