US President Trump on Tuesday (March 28) signed an executive order to dismantle most of the climate policies and environmental regulations of his predecessor Barack Obama.
According to the so-called “Energy Independence” executive order, government departments and agencies will “immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources”.
The order would begin the process of unwinding Obama’s flagship Clean Power Plan, issued in 2015 to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants 32 percent by 2030. The order itself does not have legal force to repeal the bill, but it does send a signal to EPA to begin the process of rulemaking and public comment necessary to rescind it, E&E News reports. The Clean Power Plan is currently on hold due to a complex litigation process (in which the current EPA chief Pruitt has played a leading role), so the Energy Independence EO’s “most immediate practical effect would be on pending litigation”, a former EPA attorney told E&E News.
According to Reuters, the order also cancel the Climate Action Plan, rescind a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands, reverse rules to curb methane emissions from oil and gas production, and reduce the weight of climate change in federal agencies’ assessments of new regulations.
The EO raised strong criticism from advocacy and environmental groups. “The Trump administration is failing a test of leadership to protect Americans’ health, the environment and the economy”, Andrew Steer, President of the World Resources Institute said in an official statement. “It’s been shown time and again that sustained economic growth and national security are intertwined with good environmental stewardship. In taking a sledgehammer to U.S. climate action, the administration will push the country backward, making it harder and more expensive to reduce emissions”.
Representatives from China and the European Union reacted to Trump’s plan reaffirming climate commitments, Reuters reported on Wednesday (March 29). “No matter how other countries’ policies on climate change, as a responsible large developing country China’s resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. European Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said: “We see the Paris Agreement and the transition to a modern, more innovative economy as the growth engine of job creation, investment opportunities and economic prosperity.”
A preliminary research conducted by the Rhodium Group finds that, if fully implemented, the measures introduced by Tuesday’s EO would leave the US pretty far from its Paris commitment of reducing GHG emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025.
White House official speaking at a background briefing on the order said that whether the US will stay in the Paris Agreement or not “is still under discussion”. “Certainly if you look at the previous administration’s INDC […] we have a different view about how you should address climate policies in the United States. So we’re going to go in a different direction”, official added answering specific questions.
The EO was widely anticipated in the past weeks and follows the announcement of the presentation of the federal budget in mid-March and the permit to the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. At a press briefing on Monday (March 27), Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that “Tomorrow, the President will sign an executive order to strengthen the nation’s energy security by reducing unnecessary regulatory obstacles that restrict the responsible use of domestic energy resources. This order will help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation”.
In the past week Trump announced the official approval of the presidential permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada’s Keystone XL project, a 1,179-mile pipeline that would transport 800,000 barrels of petroleum each day from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to the US Gulf Coast, was rejected by Obama administration in November 2015, on the basis that it would not serve the national interest and would be against US efforts to fight climate change.
The project still faces several obstacles, as it needs approval by Nebraska’ authorities for the pipeline’s route through the state, while environmental groups and Nebraskan landowners have organized legal and campaign actions against Keystone XL construction, Reuters reports.
(Image: Donald Trump holds up a magazine cover featuring himself while at a campaign stop at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Photo credit: Matt A.J. – Matt Johnson/Flickr)