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Today, Trump launches effort to undermine Obama climate policies

Originally published by E&E News

Goodbye, Obama-era climate policies.

With the stroke of a pen today, President Trump plans to wipe out some key components of his predecessor's climate change legacy while kicking off efforts to repeal major climate rules.

Trump is slated to visit U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, where he'll sign a sweeping executive order that the White House says will advance domestic "energy independence."

Among the big-ticket items the order will target are the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan rule to limit power plants' greenhouse gases. The document will also wipe out the Obama administration's coal-leasing moratorium on public lands and executive orders dealing with climate change.

The order will steer clear, however, of several controversial climate policies from Obama's tenure, including the United States' participation in the Paris climate accord and EPA's so-called endangerment finding, which triggered climate regulations under the Clean Air Act.

A senior White House official told reporters during a background briefing Monday that Trump "believes that we can serve the twin goals of protecting the environment, providing clean air and clean water, getting EPA back to its core mission while at the same time again moving forward on energy production in the United States."

The aide said Trump believes humans are contributing to climate change, but the president "understands there's a disagreement over the policy response."

What's in Trump's executive order

Here's a look at the contents of the document Trump will sign today, according to the White House:

  • The White House will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan — which limits existing power plants' emissions — and a related Obama rule aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions of new power plants. There's no time frame laid out for reviewing the Clean Power Plan, but "I think [EPA] Administrator [Scott] Pruitt is ready to hit the ground running," the White House aide said. As Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt was a leader in the legal fight against EPA's climate rules.
  • The Obama administration's moratorium on new coal leases for federal lands will be rescinded.
  • Climate change guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality that deals with climate change will be rescinded. "That guidance was widely opposed by a number of different industries," the aide said. "We believe that guidance goes way beyond what [the National Environmental Policy Act] requires" (Greenwire, Aug. 2, 2016).
  • Additional climate change executive orders and memoranda will be "taken off the books," the aide said. That will include Obama's Climate Action Plan. The administration believes that "those orders simply don't reflect the president's priorities when it comes to dealing with climate change," the aide said.
  • Trump will knock down the Obama administration's calculation of the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions. "The previous administration put out its own estimates, not in a very transparent fashion, in a fashion we believe violates long-standing [Office of Management and Budget] policy, so as a matter of federal policy those estimates will no longer stand," the aide said (Greenwire, March 20).
  • The order will direct each federal agency to identify rules and policies that "serve as obstacles or impediments to domestic energy production," the White House aide said. Over about 180 days, agencies and the White House will review those submissions, and "those plans will serve as a blueprint for the administration going forward on energy policy."

What's not in Trump's order

  • Action on the Paris climate treaty. "In terms of the Paris Agreement, whether we stay in it or not is still under discussion," the White House aide said.
  • The EPA endangerment finding. Despite pressure from some conservatives to ax the Obama administration's 2009 finding that triggered EPA greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act, that determination won't be addressed in tomorrow's order, the White House said.

Mixed reactions from friends, foes

Democrats and environmentalists have already been assailing the anticipated executive order, and their complaints are likely to mount once the administration moves ahead on its energy plans.

"The administration's 'Back to the Future' environmental policy might be funny if it were a movie, but it's real life," Obama EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

"They want us to travel back to when smokestacks damaged our health and polluted our air, instead of taking every opportunity to support clean jobs of the future. This is not just dangerous; it's embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth and U.S. leadership," she added.

Supporters of Trump's energy policies, meanwhile, have been eager to see the president and Pruitt begin to take action on knocking down rules like the Clean Power Plan.

"These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration's strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue.

"The U.S. Chamber has long argued that EPA's power plant regulations are not only unlawful, they are a bad deal for American families and businesses. Similarly, the Obama administration's NEPA guidance threatened to obstruct our ability to build badly needed infrastructure of all kinds, and the moratorium on coal leasing exemplified the reckless hostility toward America's domestic energy resources."

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2017. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net