Speaking during a stop in Jupiter, Fla., Trump boasted of his administration’s environmental and conservation record as he put his signature on the order – calling himself the most environmentally-friendly president since Theodore Roosevelt and claiming that the United States now has “the cleanest air we’ve ever had in the last 40 years.”
“My administration’s proving every day that we can improve our environment while creating millions of high-paying jobs,” Trump said. “Trump is the great environmentalist.”
The existing moratorium on offshore drilling covers the Gulf of Mexico, and Trump said the new one would also cover the Atlantic coast – a significant political concern in coastal states like Florida – along with the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.
Trump also spoke about his call for additional funding for Everglades revitalization and addressing algae-causing run-off from Lake Okeechobee that has forced beach closures in the tourism-reliant state.
The order on Tuesday follows Trump’s signing last month of the Great American Outdoors Act, which will pay for repairs at national parks and permanently finance the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill had 59 cosponsors in the Senate, 42 Democrats, 15 Republicans and two independents. The Senate passed the legislation 73-25 in June, and the House approved it 310-107.
Trump also took the opportunity to bash the Democratic presidential nominee, arguing that if Joe Biden is elected he would "destroy America’s middle class while giving a free pass to the world’s worst foreign polluters.”
“The approach of Joe Biden and the radical left is exactly the opposite,” he said. “The environment will be badly hurt. It will be injured, it will be permanently injured.”
Despite Trump’s comments, the president has rolled back a host of regulations meant to protect the environment, including on power plant emissions, auto fuel standards and clean water. He withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a global agreement meant to address the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
The Trump administration has made the environment a primary target of his deregulatory push, with critics saying he has eliminated or weakened dozens of rules that protect the nation’s air and water quality and lands essential for imperiled species while reversing Obama-era initiatives to fight climate change.
Trump replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was aimed at slashing greenhouse gas pollution from electric plants and eased automobile fuel economy standards. Under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency stripped federal protection from millions of acres of streams and wetlands. He lifted restrictions on oil and gas exploration in sensitive areas and shortened environmental reviews of construction projects such as highways and pipelines.
Environmental groups and former EPA chiefs from both parties have criticized Trump’s environmental record.
Current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, defended it last week in a speech commemorating the agency’s 50th anniversary. He contended Trump had reined in an agency that had lost sight of its core mission. A second term would bring more cleanups of Superfund toxic waste dumps and restoration of polluted industrial sites, which drew renewed emphasis during Trump’s first term, Wheeler said.
Fox News’ Julia Musto and the Associated Press contributed to this report.