President Donald Trump will order the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin dismantling a regulation central to former President Barack Obama’s plan to fight global warming.
A source briefed on the matter told The Washington Post one of the orders “will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the 2015 regulation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from existing electric utilities” and order “the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing.”
Trump will issue a second order instructing the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule that expanded federal control over rivers, streams and wetlands — even those on private property.
Trump is expected to issue the orders in the next week. Dismantling EPA regulations could take months and is bound to draw legal challenges. Repealing the Department of the Interior’s coal moratorium, on the other hand, could take effect immediately.
Previous media reports suggested Trump would issue executive orders dealing with Obama’s Climate Action Plan after the Senate confirmed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head EPA. The Senate confirmed Pruitt Friday.
Obama’s Climate Action Plan aims to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025, and mainly relies on EPA’s Clean Power Plan regulation to get there. The CPP limits carbon dioxide emissions and is expected to force more coal plants to prematurely shut down.
Trump’s withdrawal of the CPP, along with lifting Obama’s moratorium on new federal coal leases, marks the next step in fulfilling his campaign promise to lift the regulatory burden off the coal industry.
Trump recently signed legislation repealing the Obama administration’s Stream Protection Rule on coal mining. Congress voted to rescind the rule using the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
“We’re bringing it back, and we’re bringing it back fast,” Trump said before signing the CRA.
Rewriting the WOTUS rule is popular among coal companies, but also farmers and rural landowners who oppose expanded federal control over their property. WOTUS limits development and some farming activities.
Withdrawing the CPP could mean Pruitt will replace it with a more narrow rule, but the former attorney general questioned whether or not EPA even had the tools under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 in a recent Wall Street Journal interview.
“It’s a fair question to ask if we do, or whether there in fact needs to be a congressional response to the climate issue,” Pruitt told WSJ’s Kim Strassel.
The CPP and WOTUS are being challenged in federal courts. The Supreme Court issued a stay against the CPP in February 2016 and a federal appeals court put a hold on WOTUS later that year — suggesting both rules suffered legal deficiencies.
Pruitt, whose nomination was hotly contested by Democrats and environmentalists, joined dozens of other state attorneys general in challenging the rules in court. Withdrawing CPP and WOTUS will effectively render those court cases moot.
Are More Orders On The Way?
Trump may not stop with just two executive orders targeting the CPP, WOTUS and the Interior Department’s coal moratorium.
Obama’s Climate Action Plan also consisted of regulations to cut methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations and agriculture. Obama also used the Energy Department to put out energy efficiency standards for household and commercial appliances aimed at cutting emissions. Future Trump orders could focus on these.
The president is also expected to issue executive actions on the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) estimate that EPA and other agencies rely upon to craft global warming regulations. Critics say the SCC is an imprecise number that can be manipulated by politics.
Trump could also take aim at the underlying reason for Obama’s Climate Action Plan — the Paris climate agreement.
The United Nations agreement to cut global greenhouse gas emissions went into effect in November 2016. Obama joined the agreement last year, but never sought approval from the Senate.
Trump promised to pull out of the agreement on the campaign trail and eliminate all funding for UN climate programs.
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