How the new Trump Administration will help the environmental activist movement

In Mafia parlance, the phrase “going to the mattresses” means going to war with a rival family. Last week, leading environmental activists declared that they were going to the mattresses in their fight against oil and natural gas companies following their unexpected loss of the White House (and their failure to retake the Senate). And it turns out those mattresses are full of money.

Cataclysmic political failure is a fundraising godsend for activist organizations. Last week’s sweeping Republican victory, for example, has triggered a cloudburst of grassroots enthusiasm that is raining manna on the extreme environmental movement as we speak.

According to E&E News’ Climate Wire (subscription required), environmental activist groups from the Environmental Defense Fund to 350.org have seen unprecedented increases in donations in the week since Donald Trump won the presidential election.

“In the week since Election Day,” they wrote, “the Sierra Club has added 7,500 monthly donors. That's more than the environmental advocacy organization added in all of 2016 so far.”

The shifting political landscape has also unearthed a groundswell of new (and potential) environmental activists.

“Citizens' Climate Lobby saw its website traffic double, said spokesman Steve Valk, and the organization has seen a doubling of new Twitter followers on a daily basis since the election,” E&E Legal reported.

And much like a rock hitting a beehive, this loss has energized the activists. According to a statement by Friends of the Earth, “The People’s Revolution, the Standing Rock Sioux, the Movement for Black Lives and Keep it in the Ground activists will not go gentle into the night. We will fight … [and] harness our new energy, join together, and use every strategy possible to fight against hate and greed and environmental destruction.”

Unfortunately, the corollary is equally troubling: tremendous political victories usually yield complacency among the victors, especially those who are accustomed to fighting on the regulatory and legislative battlefields. But this is no time to be complacent.

Yes, the environmental activists will soon lose their very close connections at the EPA, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the White House. But these losses will force the activists to shift—and redouble—their efforts to attack companies in other ways, such as through the divestment campaign, shareholder activism, and PR campaigns against targeted companies, to name a few.

So while it’s true that there will be far fewer federal-level assaults against the oil and gas industries in the near term, the environmental assault on other fronts promises to be significant.