Trump takes on 50 years of environmental regulations, one by one

Christian Science Monitor – Politics

Trump takes on 50 years of environmental regulations, one by one

Amanda Paulson, CSM       January 16, 2020

It was 1970. Congress was wrestling with whether to give the right-of-way necessary to build a huge, 800-mile oil pipeline across Alaska, when a district judge blocked the project, using a brand new law requiring federal agencies to consider the environmental impact of projects.

“The Interior Department was stunned,” recalls William Reilly, a staff member in the Nixon administration at the time and later Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. The law’s environmental impact statements, common today, were completely novel at the time. Even the authors of the statute, he says, “never anticipated it would have that effect.”

Exactly 50 years later, that law – the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – is under attack. The Trump administration last week announced proposed reforms to the act that would significantly reduce its scope. It’s the latest move in an unprecedented effort to roll back not only recent Obama-era environmental regulations but also some of the bedrock laws that have shaped federal environment policy since the 1970’s.

“It’s not unique in being a pushback against regulation, or even in favoring the energy industry, but it’s unique in just how relentless it has been, and how many regulations they’ve tried to undo,” says Daniel Farber, a law professor at the University of California in Berkeley. There have been at least 50 significant environmental regulations President Trump has targeted, Professor Farber notes. “They’re leaving no stone unturned.”

For Mr. Trump, who as a developer has had his own battles with environmental reviews, it’s a pendulum swing that is long overdue.

“The United States will not be able to compete and prosper in the 21st century if we continue to allow a broken and outdated bureaucratic system hold us back from building what we need: the roads, the airports, the schools, everything,” he said last week in announcing proposed changes to NEPA.

Environmental consideration versus delay

Critics of the act, who often complain about lengthy environmental reviews and the impact statements required for major projects, welcomed his proposal, which would not only impose new deadlines on such studies but would also narrow the range of what could be considered.

“This is not about anti-regulation,” says Marty Durbin, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute. “It’s about having a smart process in place and a certain process in place, so that we can get decisions that will unlock the investment necessary to get these projects built as critical infrastructure.” If there’s no certainty about when a project will be approved, it’s harder to attract investors, he adds.

But others note that NEPA has played a critical role simply by ensuring that the environment gets consideration.

“It’s something that says: ‘Consider, reflect. Is this something you want to do? Is this the best way to do it? Are there any other ways you could do it?’” says Mr. Reilly, the former EPA administrator.

In the case of the trans-Alaska pipeline, it took more than four years of wrangling, an Arab oil embargo, and a special act of Congress before the permits were approved.

But Mr. Reilly recalls the chairman of the oil company in charge telling him that the final project was more robust and sound as a result of the environmental-review process. “In the eyes of the person most closely concerned about it, it was a very constructive intervention,” he says.

A 2016 Congressional Research Service report says critics overstate the permitting process’ effect on project delays. Insufficient data, lack of funds, and state and local issues are far more likely to increase project length than environmental reviews.

Some projects languish in permit purgatory for up to a decade, but the vast majority do not. The average length of time for a full environmental impact statement takes 4.5 years, according to the Council on Environmental Quality. Furthermore, only 1% of projects within the NEPA umbrella complete an EIS, according to a 2014 Governmental Accountability Office report.

Many people want a speedier process, acknowledge Mr. Reilly and others. And if that were the administration’s sole objective, the proposed changes would be less controversial. But by narrowing the range of projects that require environmental review and no longer requiring consideration of a project’s “cumulative” effects – which, under President Barack Obama, were expanded to include long-term climate change impacts – the administration is targeting the backbone of U.S. environmental policy for 50 years.

Beyond Obama-era regulations

Early deregulation efforts from the Trump Administration targeted Obama-era rules: the “Clean Water Rule” that defined what waters are subject to federal water protection; the Clean Power Plan, designed to regulate carbon dioxide pollution; and methane rules, regulating the release of a potent greenhouse gas. One of Trump’s most controversial actions, the legality of which is still being tested in the courts, has been an attempted reduction of two National Monument designations in Utah. And there is evidence of a significant shift toward less enforcement of regulations and policies that remain on the books.

Whittling away the government’s regulatory structures has always been part of Mr. Trump’s agenda, but his dismantling of the EPA is unique, says Caitlin McCoy, a fellow in the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School who tracks such changes. Changing NEPA is the latest sign that the administration wants to undermine the statutory foundations of the EPA.

“They’re trying to take away the very things that the agency relies upon to do its job and to really severely damage its legal authority to function,” she says. “With other agencies, it’s similar, like, yes, we’re relaxing some of these tax rates, but it’s not like we’re trying to keep the IRS from doing audits.”

It’s not clear how successful the administration will be.

“For at least some of these regulations, the appeals will not hold up in court,” says Professor Farber. It’s not clear in the case of NEPA, for instance, whether Trump has the power to drastically reinterpret a major law enacted by Congress.

But for Trump, the payoff politically, showing his determination to undo environmental regulations that many view as overly burdensome, may be enough.

“Trump is doing overreach, and getting his comeuppance in the courts,” says Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University. “But it looks good [to his supporters] in 2020.”

Will the Public End up Paying to Clean up the Fracking Boom?

Will the Public End up Paying to Clean up the Fracking Boom?

By Justin Mikulka         October 18, 2019

Pumpjacks

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

It’s starting to become out of control, and we want to rein this in,” Bruce Hicks, Assistant Director of the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division, said in August about companies abandoning oil and gas wells. If North Dakota’s regulators, some of the most industry – friendly in the country, are sounding the alarm, then that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the nation.

In fact, officials in North Dakota are using Pennsylvania as an example of what they want to avoid when it comes to abandoned wells, and with good reason.

The first oil well drilled in America was in Pennsylvania in 1859, and the oil and gas industry has been drilling — and abandoning — wells there ever since. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says that while it only has documentation of 8,000 orphaned and abandoned wells, it estimates the state actually has over a half million.

We anticipate as many as 560,000 are in existence that we just don’t know of yet,” DEP spokesperson Laura Fraley told StateImpact Pennsylvania.  “There’s no responsible party and so it’s on state government to pay to have those potential environmental and public health hazards remediated.”

According to StateImpact, “The state considers any well that doesn’t produce oil and gas for a calendar year to be an abandoned well.”

That first oil well drilled in Pennsylvania was 70 feet deep. Modern fracked wells, however, can be well over 10,000 feet in total length (most new fracked wells are drilled vertically to a depth where they turn horizontal to fracture the shale that contains the oil and gas). Because the longer the total length of the well, the more it costs to clean up, the funding required to properly clean up and cap wells has grown as drillers have continued to use new technologies to greatly extend well lengths.  Evidence from the federal government points to the potential for these costs being shifted to the tax-paying public.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this September about the risks from insufficient bonds to reclaim wells on public lands. It said, “the bonds operators provide as insurance are often not enough to cover the costs of this cleanup.” The report cited a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) official’s estimate of $10 a foot for well cleanup costs.

StateImpact Pennsylvania noted that costs to reclaim a well could add up to $20,000, and DEP spokesperson Fraley said they could be “much, much higher.” The GAO report noted that “low-cost wells typically cost about $20,000 to reclaim, and high-cost wells typically cost about $145,000 to reclaim.”

In North Dakota, where state regulators have raised concerns about this growing problem, one of the top industry regulators, State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms, estimated that wells there cost $150,000 to plug and reclaim.

And this problem isn’t just in the U.S. Canada is facing a similar cleanup crisis.

Financial Bonding Requirements for well cleanup.

Legally, oil and gas companies are required to set aside money to pay for well cleanup costs, a process known as bonding. These requirements vary by state and for public lands, but in all cases, the amounts required are so small as to be practically irrelevant.

The GAO report reviewed the bonds held by the Bureau of Land Management for wells on public lands and found that the average bond per well in 2018 was worth $2,122.

The Western Organization of Resource Councils summarized bonding requirements by state, and none of them came even close to being adequate to cover estimated costs to deal with old wells. In North Dakota, a $50,000 bond is required for a well. But a $100,000 bond can cover up to 6 wells, which comes out to $16,667 per well — or approximately one tenth of the estimated cost to reclaim a well in that state.

North Dakota has a history of bending to oil and gas industry pressure when it comes to regulations. While North Dakota’s bonding rules fall far short of what’s needed to actually cover full cleanup costs, the reality on the ground is much worse. Regulators allow companies to “temporarily abandon” wells, which requires no action from companies for at least seven years. Wells can hold this “temporary status” for decades. And another practice in the state allows a company to sell old, under-performing wells to another company, passing along the liability but not the bonding funds.

By any measure, the amount of private money currently allocated in the U.S. to plug and reclaim oil and gas wells is a small fraction of the real costs. That means oil and gas wells — and the U.S. had one million active wells in 2017, and even more abandoned — will either be left to fail and potentially contaminate the surrounding water, air, and soil, or the public will have to pick up the tab. This represents just one of the many ways the public subsidizes the oil and gas industry.

A South Dakota Case Study.

 

South Dakota allows companies to post a $30,000 bond for as many wells as the company chooses to drill. Spyglass Cedar Creek is a Texas-based company that was operating in South Dakota and recently abandoned 40 wells, which the state has estimated will have a cleanup cost of $1.2 million.

However, there is a twist to this story. That $30,000 bond doesn’t really exist. The owners of the company had put $20,000 of it into a Certificate of Deposit. But when the state went looking for that money, the owners said they had cashed it in 2015 because, as reported by the Rapid City Journal,  “company officials did not remember what the money was for.”

Spyglass Cedar Creek does not have the money set aside that was required to clean up these wells, the state does not have recourse to get that money, and some of the wells are reportedly leaking. So, what can be done?

According to Doyle Karpen, member of the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment, the answer is for the taxpayers of that state to cover the cost.

I think the only way we can correct this is go to the Legislature and ask for money,” Karpen said earlier this year.

Following the Coal Industry Business Model.

What is starting to unfold with the oil and gas industry is very similar to what has already been playing out with the U.S. coal industry.

According to a Center for Public Integrity investigation,  more than 150 coal mines (and dozens of uranium mines) have been allowed to idle indefinitely, enabling their owners to avoid paying for the costs of cleanup.

In April, the Stanford Law Review published the paper, “Bankruptcy as Bailout: Coal Company Insolvency and the Erosion of Federal Law,” which notes that almost half the coal mined in the U.S. is done so by companies that have recently declared bankruptcy.

The paper notes how the bankruptcy process is used by coal companies to rid themselves of environmental cleanup liabilities and pension costs “in a manner that has eviscerated the regulatory schemes that gave rise to those obligations.”

Yet coal company executives often receive healthy bonuses, even as they are driving companies into bankruptcy.

This summer, Blackjewel famously failed to pay its coal miners, and even pulled funds out of their bank accounts, after the company suddenly declared bankruptcy in July. That prompted workers to sit on train tracks in Kentucky, blocking a $1 million shipment of coal, in a two-month protest.  And Blackjewel is poised to leave behind thousands of acres of mined land in Appalachia without adequate reclamation.

Privatize the Profits, Socialize the Losses. 

The mineral extraction business model in the U.S. is set up to maximize profits for executives, even as they lose investor money and bankrupt their companies. That is true of the coal industry and that is true of the shale oil and gas industry.

At the same time, the regulatory capture by these industries at both state and federal levels allows private companies to pass on environmental cleanup costs to the public, and the inadequate bonding system for oil and gas well reclamation represents just one more example.

The so-called fracking revolution in America has resulted in many new records: record amounts of U.S. oil and gas exported (to the detriment of a livable climate), new levels of human health impacts on surrounding communities, record numbers of industry-induced earthquakes, record amounts of flaring natural gas in oil and gas fields, and record-breaking depths and lengths of wells.

And the cleanup costs for the fracking boom are also poised to be staggering.

Republicans Have No Leg to Stand On and They Know It

Esquire

Republicans Have No Leg to Stand On and They Know It

Trump has no real argument for why Gordon Sondland can’t testify before Congress, and neither do congressional Republicans.

US-POLITICS-IMPEACHMENT-CONGRESS-VOLKERMANDEL NGANGETTY IMAGES

“Well, Johnny Olson, it’s Tuesday. What’s our impeachable offense today?”

“For today’s winner, we have a lovely obstruction of Congress.” From The New York Times: 

The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees is certain to provoke an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment…

…But in making the decision, hours before he was scheduled to sit for a deposition in the basement of the Capitol, the Trump administration appears to be calculating that it is better off risking the House’s ire than letting Mr. Sondland show up and set a precedent for cooperation with an inquiry they have strenuously argued is illegitimate.

Reaction from the obstructed Congress in question was swift and predictable: the Democrats threatened to add another count to the indictment, and the Republicans pretended they were born last Saturday. From Rep. Adam Schiff via CNN:

“The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress.

Here with a contrary view is Rep. Jim Jordan.

“You think about what the Democrats are trying to do: Impeach the President of the United States 13 months prior to an election, based on an anonymous whistleblower with no firsthand knowledge who has a bias against the President.”

The Republicans have no leg to stand on and they know it. There’s no privilege they can invoke. Sondland is obviously a key witness directly involved with the events that the House is tasked with investigating. The way you know that is that the president*’s account on the electric Twitter machine admits that’s the case.

I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see. Importantly, Ambassador Sondland’s tweet, which few report, stated, “I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” That says it ALL!

Can’t argue with him there.

West Virginia poverty gets worse under Trump economy

CBS News – Moneywatch

West Virginia poverty gets worse under Trump economy, not better

By Aimee Picchi, Orig. Pub. September 28, 2018

West Virginia has a growing poverty problem, and experts there who study the issue say Americans in every state should pay attention.
The Appalachian state is, along with Delaware, just one of two states where poverty rose last year, bucking the national trend of growing incomes and declining hardship, according to U.S. Census data released earlier this month. West Virginia’s poverty rate climbed to 19.1 percent last year from 17.9 percent, making it just one of four states with a poverty rate above 18 percent.

President Donald Trump plans to visit West Virginia on Saturday, when he’s expected to tout his economic accomplishments. The president has said he’s “very proud” of the state and claimed that he “turned West Virginia around.” His administration has focused on reviving jobs in the coal industry, which has added about 2,000 jobs across the U.S. since Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

Mr. Trump has boasted about the state’s GDP growth, but its economy grew by 1.3 percent in the first quarter, or 37th in the nation and lagging the national rate of 1.8 percent, according to government data. It had fared better in 2017: up 2.6 percent for the year, tenth among the 50 states, compared with 2.1 percent for the nation.

Coal “is a potent message,” but it overlooks the reality of West Virginia’s economy, said Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a nonpartisan think tank. “The growth we’ve had is in low-wage industries. Folks who find jobs haven’t found jobs that keep them out of poverty.”

Donald Trump
President Trump acknowledges the crowd at a Make America Great Again rally in Charleston, West Virginia, on Aug. 21, 2018.REUTERS

 

Jobs in low-wage industries have grown 14.5 percent since 2001 in West Virginia, compared with a decline of 2.8 percent in jobs that pay higher wages during the same time, according to the WVCBP’s figures. The state has about 22,000 people employed in mining and logging, compared with 131,000 education and health care workers and 155,000 government workers, two of the biggest industries in the state, according to government data.

West Virginia’s dismal trends point to an economic issue that’s impacting states across the country: Workers at the bottom of the pay scale aren’t benefiting from the growing economy. Their issues range from low pay to unstable and scanty work hours, which makes it difficult to earn a living wage. Almost one in four West Virginians is employed in a low-wage job, the WVCBP found.

“It’s cashiers, retail sales people, service employees — those are our fastest growing jobs, but those jobs don’t pay very well,” O’Leary notes.

At the Manna Meals soup kitchen, more people are coming in for nourishment, said its executive director, Tara Martinez. The Charleston soup kitchen served almost 10,800 meals in August, compared with about 9,700 in January.

wva-industries.png

“There’s a direct correlation between the hopelessness and the lack of jobs,” she said. “The jobs that are available are minimum wage and part time — they don’t have benefits. When you have that, coupled with the hopelessness of, ‘How do I get out of this cycle?’ and having to go to a soup pantry, it’s like a hamster wheel.”

And West Virginia plays directly into the issues highlighted by Deaton and Case. The state, whose population is 95 percent white, is frequently listed as one of the least educated states in the country.

About 21 percent of West Virginians between ages 25 to 64 has a college degree, according to the National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis. At the national level, about one-third of American workers have a college degree.

The post-recession economy has favored Americans with college degrees, providing them with both growing incomes and professional opportunities. But many who lack that credential have been left out of the recovery, as evidenced in West Virginia.

“People who don’t have jobs or don’t have any way out of this cycle, there’s a hopelessness that overtakes them,” Martinez said.

To be sure, West Virginia is coping with other hurdles in its battle against poverty, such as an aging population, higher rates of disability, and a small workforce compared with bigger states, such as New York or California. The state’s small size — just 1.8 million people last year, down 50,000 from 2010 — means it’s harder to lure employers to the state, O’Leary noted.

West Virginia had a net job loss of 26,000 from early 2012 to late 2016, according to a study from West Virginia University. And the state has the lowest labor force participation rate of all 50 states, at 53 percent.

Employment is growing slowly at a projected 0.7 percent per year through 2022, or below the national growth rate of 0.9 percent. At that rate, local employment isn’t expected to reach its 2012 peak until 2021, the study found.

wva.png

West Virginia’s poor residents will face another burden beginning in October, when work requirements for food stamps go into effect across the state. Martinez said she believes the measure, which requires able-bodied adults without dependents to work, volunteer or receive job training for at least 20 hours a week to receive food stamps, will push more into poverty and ramp up demand for her soup kitchen’s services.

“It’s frightening and I’m worried and I’m doing everything I can to make sure our doors are still open,” she said, noting that she expects demand for meals to rise by 30 percent. “It’s going to be a lot of fundraising and pleading.”

She added, “You have huge companies, corporations that do really well and make a substantial profit and paying their employees as little as possible — and their employees are on food stamps or other benefits.”

Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism

In Other Words

Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism

Conservatives want you to believe that not having to choose between paying for rent or medicine is Soviet-style tyranny.
By Chuck Collins      March 12, 2019
Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

 

“Narcissist In Chief”

Bill Maher

September 22, 2018

Everyone knows that Trump is a narcissist – but we have to stop treating that like it’s an unfortunate personality tic and start treating it like what it is: a serious and dangerous mental illness.

Narcissist in Chief

Everyone knows that Trump is a narcissist – but we have to stop treating that like it’s an unfortunate personality tic and start treating it like what it is: a serious and dangerous mental illness.

Posted by Bill Maher on Friday, September 21, 2018

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

New York Times – Opinion

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.        September 5, 2018

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.

 

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

The writer is a senior official in the Trump administration.