By Devin Henry
President Trump will use an executive order on Tuesday to dismantle to the Obama administration’s climate change agenda.
The order will compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the Obama administration’s chief climate rule for power plant emissions, the 2015 Clean Power Plan, a White House official said on Monday night. The White House opposes that rule, signaling its eventual termination.
The action will order several other federal agencies to undo the previous administration’s climate change work: it will tell the Interior Department to end a moratorium on new coal leasing on federal land, the official said, and the Obama administration’s assault on methane emissions — outlined in early 2014 and overseen by Interior and EPA — will be ended, as well.
A major hydraulic fracturing regulation from the Bureau of Land Management will be reviewed under the order. It will also end President Obama’s climate action plan, the main 2013 directive outlining the federal government’s response to climate change.
Trump’s Tuesday order will represent a reset of the federal government’s policies on climate change.
It will not address several major environmental rules issued during Obama term, including an update on ozone pollution or mercury standards at power plants. But efforts initiated by Obama — who made addressing climate change a key goal of his second term — will disappear.
“There are plenty of rules on the books already, that we will continue to enforce, that provide for clean air and clean water and that’s what we’re going to do,” the White House official told reporters on Monday night.
“I think the president has been clear he wants the EPA to stick to that basic core mission that Congress laid out for it.”
One thing the order will not address is the United States’s involvement in the Paris climate deal, a global pact to cut greenhouse gases. Obama was a driving force behind that agreement, pledging a 26 percent to 28 percent reduction in U.S. emissions by 2025.
But the official said the administration has a “different view about how you should address climate policies as the United States and we’re going to go in a different direction.”
Trump doubts the broad scientific consensus — affirmed by the vast majority of climate scientists — that human activity contributes to and has exacerbated a warming trend around the globe.
He has stacked his administration with officials who agree with his views. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, for example, said earlier this month that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a “primary contributor” to global warming, a conclusion at odds with the scientific research of his own agency.
Trump’s order will not nix the Obama administration’s 2009 finding that carbon dioxide is a threat to the United States, a formal conclusion that underpins federal rules on the matter.
“But the administration will interpret it differently than Obama did. That “endangerment finding,” Trump’s administration argues, relates only to carbon emissions from cars, not carbon emissions as a whole, and therefore does not apply to the power plant rules Obama issued.
The official said climate change is an “issue that deserves attention,” but there is no indication from the contents of the order that Trump will focus on it.
Instead, the White House is framing the order as one to help the U.S. economy — something Republicans, Trump and others in his administration have said is threatened by climate regulations.
“Energy independence: that’s the goal,” the official said. “The president understands there’s a disagreement over the policy response and you’ll see that in the order tomorrow. We’re taking a different path.”
Environmentalists have promised a strong response.
Groups have planned a protest on Tuesday night, an early sign that they will fight back against the changes.
DC – Raise your voice against @POTUS’s dangerous environmental executive order TOMORROW at 5: https://t.co/TXqCbzYFUa — Sierra Club (@SierraClub) March 27, 2017
“On the heels of the three hottest years on record, President Trump is reversing the biggest steps our country has taken to fighting climate change, League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said.
“Donald Trump may care more about corporate interests, but the people of this country care about a safe, clean and healthy environment and they will not let him get away with destroying it.”
Environmental lawyers have said they will pore over the regulatory review process in order to sue against it in the end.
“This order ignores the law and scientific reality,” Trip Van Noppen, the president of the environmental law group Earthjustice, said in a statement.
“Dirty coal power is never coming back because it can’t compete with clean energy and denial won’t make climate change go away. Earthjustice will continue to defend clean air and progress on climate in court and out, and we will never back down from protecting our public lands.”
The White House said it was preparing for a lengthy fight over the contents of the order.
“I bet a good deal that there will be litigation once the final review is undertaken,” the official said. “It’s going to take a while.”
The action will rescind several other Obama directives issued by his administration.
An order asking federal agencies to consider climate impacts in normal environmental reviews will come off the books, and the administration will reconsider the “social cost of carbon” metric designed to assess the climate implications of government actions.
Other Obama policies — including those focusing on climate change adaptation and its impact on national security — will also come off the books.
The order will have federal agencies identify plans for expanding American energy production, something that will serve as a “blueprint” for the Trump administration’s energy agenda.
The fossil fuel industry stands to benefit from the action. The coal sector, for instance, has lambasted the Clean Power Plan as a regulation designed to damage the industry, which produces a high-polluting fuel.
Oil and natural gas companies oppose the methane regulations as burdensome and duplicative, and they have fought them in court and in Congress.
But the order will not be a silver bullet, something even coal executive Bob Murray acknowledged this week. “I suggested that he temper his expectations,” Murray told The Guardian, noting market forces that have hurt his sector. “Those are my exact words. He can’t bring [jobs] back.”