That determination did not kill the mine, because the company was still free to file for a permit from the Army corps, which wobbled for a while but ultimately denied the request. The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., a sportsman who has fished in the region, tweeted his opposition to the mine in August, a rare and welcome burst of environmental stewardship from the first family.
The action by the Army corps seems the death knell for the project, though the company might still contest the decision in court, or file an amended permit application. President-elect Joe Biden had already promised that it would not be built on his watch.
In any case, Mr. Biden has his work cut out for him to find ways to reverse the many environmental travesties hatched during the Trump years, whether by legislation, litigation or executive order. That is a tall order following four years of an administration that gave the oil and gas companies every incentive to pursue what the driller in chief called “energy dominance.” Mr. Biden’s challenges include protecting two national monuments in Utah established by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both of which Mr. Trump shrunk beyond recognition (perhaps illegally; the courts will tell); millions of acres of public lands in the West, once set aside for the threatened sage grouse, that the Trump administration hoped to open to drilling; and much of the outer continental shelf, although that particular ambition has been blocked for now by the courts.
The assault continues, even now, as the lame-duck administration seeks to lock in drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, proceeds with plans to open up protected areas of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to drilling and moves toward a narrower and more industry-friendly definition of what constitutes necessary habitat for endangered species. For good measure, the administration is also seeking to end two decades of protections against logging and other development in more than half of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, an ecological treasure that, like Bristol Bay, provides habitat for salmon and other species and serves as a huge sink for carbon dioxide.
These restorative challenges, it must be said, are in addition to all the things Mr. Biden has promised to do in his $2 trillion plan to fight global warming, and indeed must do to reach his stated goal of net-zero emissions by midcentury. He has already drawn praise for naming John Kerry, former secretary of state and one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, as his envoy to the world on the climate issue and as proof of his determination to re-engage America in what, after all, has to be a global effort to keep greenhouse gases from reaching a point of no return.