Trump Signs Executive Order Rolling Back Obama's Climate Policies: Who Benefits The Most?

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As discussed earlier, on Tuesday afternoon Donald Trump signed an executive order undoing most of Obama-era climate change regulations that his administration says is hobbling oil drillers and coal miners, a move environmental groups have vowed to take to court. The decree’s main target is former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan that required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants – a critical element in helping the United States meet its commitments to a global climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015.

The so-called “Energy Independence” order also reverses a ban on coal leasing on federal lands, undoes rules to curb methane emissions from oil and gas production, and reduces the weight of climate change and carbon emissions in policy and infrastructure permitting decisions.

Trump signed the order in a ceremony at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency responsible for many of the major policies being targeted. He was flanked by coal miners — whom EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt joked “might never have been to the EPA before” — as well as cabinet officials and Vice President Mike Pence, who celebrated the executive order as a repudiation of the Obama administration’s climate agenda.

“My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Trump said, using a term coined by the industry and its supporters to describe government regulations. “I am taking an historic step to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations.”

Trump is pitching the order primarily as a move to increase the nation’s energy independence, with the added effect of increasing jobs in affected sectors and related industries. The president said the order fulfills a promise made to coal miners during his presidential campaign. He recounted a trip to West Virginia when he met with miners who told him they wanted to continue working in the industry despite a downturn in employment.

“I said, if that’s what you want to do, that’s what you’re doing to do,” Trump said. “The miners told me about the attacks on their jobs and their livelihoods. … I made them this promise: we will put our miners back to work.”

The Bloomberg table below shows which states stand to benefit the most from today’s executive order.

According to Reuters, today’s wide-ranging order is the boldest yet in Trump’s broader push to cut environmental regulation to revive the drilling and mining industries. But energy analysts and executives have questioned whether the moves will have a big effect on their industries, and environmentalists have called them reckless.

“I cannot tell you how many jobs the executive order is going to create but I can tell you that it provides confidence in this administration’s commitment to the coal industry,” Kentucky Coal Association president Tyler White told Reuters.

Meanwhile, environmental groups slammed Trump’s order, arguing it is dangerous and goes against the broader global trend toward cleaner energy technologies. “These actions are an assault on American values and they endanger the health, safety and prosperity of every American,” said billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, the head of activist group NextGen Climate.

Green group Earthjustice was one of many organizations that said it will fight the order both in and out of court. “This order ignores the law and scientific reality,” said its president, Trip Van Noppen.

Maybe not: Trump and several members of his administration have expressed doubts about climate change, and Trump promised during his campaign to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord, arguing it would hurt U.S. business. Since being elected Trump has been mum on the Paris deal and the executive order does not address it.

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Today’s order will direct the EPA to start a formal “review” process to undo the Clean Power Plan, which was introduced by Obama in 2014 but was never implemented in part because of legal challenges brought by Republican-controlled states. The Clean Power Plan required states to collectively cut carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Some 85% of U.S. states are on track to meet the targets despite the fact the rule has not been implemented, according to Bill Becker, director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, a group of state and local air pollution control agencies.

Trump’s order also lifts the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management’s temporary ban on coal leasing on federal property put in place by Obama in 2016 as part of a review to study the program’s impact on climate change and ensure royalty revenues were fair to taxpayers.

It also asks federal agencies to discount the cost of carbon in policy decisions and the weight of climate change considerations in infrastructure permitting, and reverses rules limiting methane leakage from oil and gas facilities.

As The Hill adds, fossil fuel industries stand to benefit from the order, and many voiced their support for the measure this week.  Oil and natural gas groups, for instance, have fought back against the methane rules in court and in Congress. 

But Trump and his administration have had a special affinity for the coal industry. The sector is suffering through an economic downturn due in large part to declining demand for its product, which is increasingly being replaced by cheaper and more plentiful natural gas. Trump framed his order Tuesday as a measure to help put coal miners back to work, a promise repeated this week by administration officials like Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“You know what this says?” Trump asked a miner before he signed the order on Tuesday. “You’re going back to work.”