President Donald Trump signed executive orders rolling back several Obama-era decrees addressing climate change but neglected to rescind an order forcing agencies to address global warming abroad.
Trump issued executive orders in March 2017 nixing former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) and a Department of the Interior moratorium covering new coal mining leases on federal lands. The president has yet to rollback an order his predecessor signed in 2014 requiring the integration of climate-resilience considerations into all U.S. international development work. Rescinding the Obama’s EO was unnecessary, according to the White House.
“The thinking at the time behind not rescinding the [executive order (EO)] was that because the EO just dealt with resilience, adaptation, and information sharing, which you would do regardless, we would not repeal it,” a source familiar with Trump’s thinking told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Obama’s executive order on the climate resiliency is still on the books, according to data from the Columbia Law School Sabin Center tracker and the Federal Register EO tracker.
Some conservatives are worried ignoring the order could come back to bite Trump.
They want the president to accelerate his rollbacks. Trump has been busy. He signed an order in 2017 asking the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule and repeal parts that don’t align with administration priorities. Republicans and conservative activist cheered the move.
Farmers and property rights advocates also welcomed the order, while environmentalists claimed rescinding WOTUS would endanger water quality and allow coal producers to wantonly pollute tributaries. The rule was held up by the courts in 2015 after 32 states filed suit. It’s never gone into effect. Trump’s order targeted another Obama-era rule some say was designed to destroy coal.
Trump’s memo got rid of the CPP, which was intended to cut U.S. emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025. Undoing the rule could save Americans $33 billion in compliance costs, despite the previous administration claiming it would only cost $8.4 billion and millions through public health benefits. (RELATED: Trump Signs Executive Order To Reorganize Federal Government And Reduce Waste)
The president moved swiftly during his first term to ding as many regulations as possible. Trump’s former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt undid, delayed or blocked more than 30 environmental regulations during the first few months of his tenure. The rollbacks were more than any other administrator in the agency’s 47-year history over such a short period of time, according to a February 2017 report from The New York Times.
Trump eventually left the Paris agreement in June 2017, arguing that the 179-member pact was poorly negotiated, hurt American manufacturers and decimated coal country. The CPP was inextricably tied to the accord and was designed to keep the U.S.’ pledge under the pact. Lost in the administration’s break-neck pace is one order that could allow future presidents to reanimate aspects of the Paris deal.
Environmental law experts also believe there are still orders on the book mandating agencies consider climate change before engaging in international development. (RELATED: Trump Readies Executive Order To Dismantle EPA’s Clean Power Plan)
Conservative analysts disagree about the significance of the one climate order Trump hasn’t nixed. Much of Obama’s executive decrees are now moot, Myron Ebell, an analyst at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, told TheDCNF, adding that the oversight probably wouldn’t affect Trump’s agenda much going forward.
“A lot of this stuff just becomes a dead letter. So, they just ignore it. Clearly, they are not paying attention to it if they have not yet rescinded it,” said Ebell, who headed Trump’s EPA transition team in 2016. “It’s no longer policy. If he has not rescinded it.” Other members on Trump’s transition team are not so certain.
“It wasn’t in the March EO and I don’t know what is going on with it,” David Stevenson, director for the Center for Energy Competitiveness at the Caesar Rodney Institute, told TheDCNF. He suggested the order could give activist groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council the legal basis to sue the EPA for failing to take climate change into consideration when hashing out international programs.
It’s possible Trump’s successors could use the Obama memo as an alternative to the Paris agreement, he said. Stevenson signed a July 2 letter addressed to Trump urging him to reject the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which imposes restrictions on the kinds of refrigerants manufacturers can use in air conditioners. The Montreal Protocol was designed to protect the ozone layer, not protect Americans from global warming, Stevenson wrote in the letter.
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