Energy & Environment

Week ahead: White House readies climate orders

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The White House in the coming week could release long-awaited climate change executive orders undoing much of the Obama administration’s work on the issue.

According to reports, President Trump is set to sign an order calling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Obama’s climate change agenda.

The order could also lift an Interior Department moratorium on federal coal lease sales, something Obama’s team instituted during a review of the coal-leasing program.  

Reuters reported on Wednesday that an order covering both issues could come in the week ahead, now that Trump has the heads of both the EPA and Interior Department in place.

{mosads}”We’re going to free up our country, and it’s going be done in a very environmental and positive environmental way, I will tell you that, but create millions of jobs,” Trump said this week, hinting at new energy-related executive orders. “So many jobs are delayed for so many years, and it’s unfair to everybody.”

Since the presidential campaign, Trump has promised to undo Obama’s regulatory work and at the same time, help companies in fossil fuel sectors, including coal.

The Clean Power Plan has been one of the rules he has blasted the most. The rule, finalized in 2015, mandates a 32 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the American electricity sector.

It was the most sweeping environmental rule of the Obama administration and central to many of his climate change initiatives. The regulation was the primary tool in the White House’s efforts to cut overall American emissions by about a quarter, and Obama made it the centerpiece of his pitch to foreign officials in the lead-up to the Paris climate deal.

It is also deeply controversial, opposed by conservative state attorneys general and fossil fuel producers. As a coalition, they launched a legal challenge and won a stay from the Supreme Court last year. They argued against the plan’s merits before a federal court panel in the fall.

A ruling in that case is still pending.

Trump’s order on the issue would likely be similar to one he issued this Tuesday on an EPA water rule. The order itself won’t nix the rule, but it will instruct regulators to reconsider it, and, thus, effectively kill it later.

The Interior Department’s coal moratorium is tied to an agency review of the federal coal leasing program, which allows miners to produce coal on public lands. Obama officials wanted to review the program, and eventually suggested raising royalty rates on coal mined on leased land.

Ryan Zinke, the new Interior Secretary, indicated on Friday that he might continue the still-in-progress royalty review.

But it appears likely the Trump administration will lift the leasing moratorium and begin the process of leasing new tracts of land for coal mining.

One climate issue Trump might not touch next week: the Paris deal. Axios reported Friday that the White House doesn’t expect a decision on the matter. Their report came after the New York Times revealed deep internal divisions within the administration over the future of the global emissions pact.



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