And yet to some of the strongest opponents of Obama’s environmental policy, particularly those who deny the existence of global warming, Trump is not going far enough. Despite having called climate change a “hoax” before his election, these critics think Trump has been ducking bigger fights like withdrawing from the international Paris Agreement on climate change and undoing the scientific underpinning for the EPA’s climate change rules.
While the choice of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state upset environmental groups, Tillerson has emerged as a comparatively moderate voice in the administration, including advocating for the U.S. to remain in the landmark Paris Agreement. At the Heartland Conference, that stance has erased any residual goodwill from his stint running a multi-national oil company.
“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson think it’s really nice to be able to go to international meetings and pal around with his fellow foreign ministers,” Ebell said. “Rex Tillerson may be from Texas and he may have been CEO of Exxon, but he’s part of the swamp.”
As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times and he has personally questioned the science behind climate change. Yet, his methodical approach to dismantling many EPA regulations and functions has come in for criticism. While Lehr called Pruitt a “good choice,” he accused him of moving too slowly.
Still, those who deny the science behind climate change are in a position to influence U.S. policy for years to come. Trump does not have a science advisor and his administration has turned to skeptics for guidance on energy and environmental policy issues. Lehr, who says the greenhouse effect plays a negligible role in the climate, delivered a presentation to administration officials designed to help Trump defend his claim that climate change is hoax.
“Every administration is a mixed bag,” Ebell tells TIME. “I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. I would say I am anxious.”