For the past few weeks, we’ve been tracking how the environmental movement is responding to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the U.S. presidential election. This week, we talked with Larry Schweiger, head of PennFuture, one of Pennsylvania’s leading environmental advocacy organizations. And he says he’s approaching the incoming Trump administration with a mix of apprehension and optimism.
In particular, action on climate change and a push for more renewable energy top PennFuture’s agenda, so they’re concerned about some of President-elect Trump’s promises, like reviving the coal industry. And while Schweiger says his group plans to stay the course with its statewide education programs and lobbying efforts in Harrisburg, there will be some shifts in strategy.
“I do believe that it’s important for us to be reaching out to the right,” Schweiger says. “As a former Republican committeeman, I know what the Republican Party used to look like, and I hope at some point, we can help draw them back to a place where we can meet in the middle. I believe very strongly that most Americans are concerned with the proper care of their air and water—and are concerned about their children’s future.”
Schweiger, who has worked in the environmental movement since the 1980s, says that’s not just wishful thinking. He can remember a time not that long ago when public pressure led to some surprise actions by Republicans on environmental issues.
“We saw that back in the Reagan administration, when James Watt was Secretary of Interior. He had a belief that public resources ought to be sold to the highest bidder. And the American people demanded change. President Reagan was able to respond to that by dealing with the ozone hole, and became the president that called for the elimination of lead in gasoline—something he was originally opposed to. So I’ve seen it before, and I’m hopeful that with enough public pressure, the incoming administration will reshape its promises to fit reality and address these concerns. But it’s up to us.”