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Fact Checker

Trump's unsupported claim he has 'received awards on the environment'

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee

January 24, 2017 at 3:00 AM

(Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

"I'm a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment."
— President Trump, remarks during a meeting with business leaders, Jan. 23

One of Donald Trump's first proposals as president is to help businesses by cutting regulations by 75 percent. Trump cited environmental regulations as an example during a meeting with business leaders, but claimed he was a "very big person" on the environment who has "received awards on the environment."

Trump touted his alleged environmental accolades as early as 2011, when he said during a "Fox and Friends" interview, "I've received many, many environmental awards." He repeatedly claimed this during the 2016 presidential campaign: "I've won many environmental awards, by the way. I've actually been called an environmentalist, if you can believe that."

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While speaking at a rally in Atkinson, N.H., Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised to end international climate change agreements while protecting "crystal, clear, clean water." (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Are there any facts to support this claim to environmental fame?

The Facts

The short answer is: No. Media outlets and environmental groups have tried to find evidence of this claim since 2011 but have come up short. We could not readily find references to Trump's environmental awards in news coverage over the past 10 years. We checked with the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club, and none had any record of Trump's environmental awards.

In fact, environmentalists have criticized many of Trump's projects. In 2008, Trump faced backlash from local officials and environmentalists in Scotland when he proposed to build a golf course on protected sand dunes. During a hearing on the project, Trump called the state of the site "kind of disgusting."

During the 2008 hearing, Trump said he didn't read his environmental consultants' advice because he didn't need to. From the Wall Street Journal's coverage of the hearing:

"I would consider myself an environmentalist in the true sense of the word," Mr. Trump said, a comment that drew so much laughter from the public gallery that the inquiry chairman had to call for order.

Ultimately, Trump got his project approved after promising to create jobs for local workers. Trump later fought an offshore wind farm project near his golf resort in Scotland, saying the wind turbines sullied the view from his course.

In 2010, environmentalists criticized Trump for chopping down more than 400 trees along the Potomac River during a renovation of his golf course in Loudoun County, Va.

Chelsea Henderson, who has worked on environmental policy for Republican lawmakers and conservation organizations for two decades, conducted a thorough search of Trump's environmental record — on clean water and air, and the use of green energy in his real estate projects. Trump had one certification in progress with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), but LEED is a building certification, not an award.

The only award that Henderson found was the 2007 Metropolitan Golf Association Club Environmental Award, given to the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. The award honors a Metropolitan Golf Association member who "has demonstrated environmental stewardship through golf course maintenance, construction, education and research."

But in 2011, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection cited the golf course for a series of environmental violations.

The White House pointed us to "Donald J. Trump: An Environmental Hero," a 90-page book self-published by Edward Russo, Trump's longtime environmental consultant who oversaw most of the environmental work on Trump's golf courses. A White House spokesman told us the book "lists the environmental awards President Trump has received."

The book does not list any environmental awards. (It does mention awards that Russo believes Trump should have received.) The only award it mentions is one supposedly from the New Jersey Audubon Society: "New Jersey Audubon offered to recognize the work that was done at Trump National Bedminster — but not with an award to Donald, just to 'Trump National.' That wasn't right," Russo wrote.

But New Jersey Audubon rejected Russo's claim: "NJ Audubon never presented an award to Donald Trump, Trump National nor any of its employees, nor did NJ Audubon apply for one on his behalf," spokesman Jonathan Jaffe said.

Russo did not respond to repeated requests for clarification. The White House did not respond to our request for clarification.

[Update: Our readers found one award that Trump himself received. The Friends of Westchester County Parks, Inc., gave Trump a "Green Space Award" in 2007 for donating 436 acres of land to the state of New York. Trump had purchased the land in the 1990s to build a golf course, but withdrew plans after facing opposition from local residents and environmental restrictions.

Trump donated the land to be built into the Donald J. Trump State Park. But the land was never developed; the State of New York closed it after budget cuts in 2010.]

The Pinocchio Test

The evidence is quite slim for Trump's claim that he has "received awards on the environment." We know of one award by the Metropolitan Golf Association, given in 2007 to his golf course in Bedminster, N.J. The golf course was later cited for environmental violations.

The White House pointed us to a self-published book by Trump's former environmental consultant. The only award mentioned in that book was from New Jersey Audubon — but the group denied it ever gave an award to Trump, the Trump National club in Bedminster or any of its employees.

Here is one award that we'll give to Trump. It's not related to the environment — and he already has many of them — but we present Trump with his first four-Pinocchio rating as president.

Four Pinocchios

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Michelle Ye Hee Lee is a national political enterprise and investigations reporter for The Washington Post.

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