‘Project 2025’: plan to dismantle US climate policy for next Republican president

16 08 2023 | 13:56Dharna Noor

An alliance of rightwing groups has crafted an extensive presidential proposal to bolster the planet-heating oil and gas industry and hamstring the energy transition, it has emerged.

Against a backdrop of record-breaking heat and floods this year, the $22m endeavor, Project 2025, was convened by the notorious rightwing, climate-denying thinktank the Heritage Foundation, which has ties to fossil fuel billionaire Charles Koch.Called the Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise, it is meant to guide the first 180 days of presidency for an incoming Republican president. Climate experts and advocates criticized planning that would dismantle US climate policy.

The nearly 1,000-page transition guide was written by more than 350 rightwingers and is full of sweeping recommendations to deconstruct all sectors of the federal government– – including environmental policy.

“Heritage is convening the conservative movement behind the policies to ensure that the next president has the right policy and personnel necessary to dismantle the administrative state and restore self-governance to the American people,” the foundation’s president, Kevin Roberts, said in an April statement.

The guide’s chapter on the US Department of Energy proposes eliminating three agency offices that are crucial for the energy transition, and also calls to slash funding to the agency’s grid deployment office in an effort to stymie renewable energy deployment, E&E News reported this week.

The plan, which would hugely expand gas infrastructure, was authored by Bernard McNamee, a former official at the agency. McNamee was also a Trump appointee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He previously led the far-right Texas Public Policy Foundation, which fights environmental regulation, and served as a senior adviser to the Republican senator Ted Cruz.

Another chapter focuses on gutting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and moving it away from its focus on the climate crisis. It proposes cutting the agency’s environmental justice and public engagement functions, while shrinking it as a whole by terminating new hires in “low-value programs”, E&E News reported. The proposal was written Mandy Gunasekara, who was the former chief of staff at the EPA under Trump.

Before his time in the Trump administration, Pendley headed the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm where he advocated for selling off public lands. He also authored a book, Sagebrush Rebel, praising Reagan’s anti-regulatory policies.

“He did a bunch of terrible things,” said Kert Davies, director of special investigations at the Center for Climate Integrity, about Pendley’s time at the Department of the Interior. “He worked to dismantle [the Bureau of Land Management] while he was in it.”

The Heritage Foundation has enjoyed a longstanding influence in GOP politics, even helping Ronald Reagan win the presidency, authors Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway detail in their 2023 book, The Big Myth. Many of Reagan’s policy proposals were cribbed from the pages of the thinktank’s first Mandate for Leadership, published in 1980, which asserted that the US was in the middle of a “crisis of overregulation”.

“It doesn’t trouble me that any individual or institution would develop advisory plans for politicians. What troubles me is the Heritage Foundation’s long history … of working to undermine environmental protection at the expense of health and wellbeing of the American people, at the expense of life on Earth,” said Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard.

Meanwhile, House GOP members are also continuing to attack federal climate funding in their spending bill proposals, putting governmental functions at risk.

Earlier this month, the Clean Budget Coalition– – composed of more than 250 advocacy groups – warned that Republican representatives were slipping restrictions on climate spending into the government’s annual spending bills, bills that must be passed before current funding expires on 30 September to avoid a government shutdown. This week, the coalition found that House Republicans had added additional “poison pills” to spending bills, including ones that target environmental funding.





cover photo:The ExxonMobil oil refinery in Baton Rouge. Project 2025 would bolster the oil and gas industry and gut the Environmental Protection Agency. Photograph: Barry Lewis/In Pictures/Getty Images