Energy & Environment

Week ahead: Anticipation builds for Trump climate order

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The coming week could finally bring President Trump’s long-awaited executive order on climate change.

The White House has promised an executive order undoing large swaths of President Obama’s work on climate change.

On Friday, Politico reported Trump could sign such an order on Monday. An administration official declined to comment on the report.

But the timing of Trump’s order isn’t the only question surrounding it. The exact breadth of the actions remains an open question for everyone in the energy and environment sphere.

What’s most likely is that Trump’s order will first begin the process of undoing the Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

{mosads}That rule was the key climate regulation of the Obama administration, and by directing his EPA to begin unraveling it, Trump would be making good on a key campaign promise to cut back on energy industry regulations.

During the campaign, he also promised to lift a moratorium on coal leasing on public land, something that’s likely to happen within his executive order as well.   

But the question remains just how broad the order will be.

Reports this week suggested the White House could expand the order, taking aim at methane regulations, Obama-era guidance that government agencies consider climate change in standard environmental reviews and the “social cost of carbon” metric used to measure projects’ impact on climate change.

The fate of the U.S.’s involvement in the Paris climate accord is also up in the air: Trump is consulting with energy industry companies about their position on the climate pact, indicating a softening of his campaign pledge to yank the U.S. out of the landmark deal.

Regardless of the breadth of Trump’s order, it will kick off a flurry of activity both inside of government and out.

Undoing the Clean Power Plan or the methane rules will take years: Trump’s order, like one he recently signed about a water regulation, would simply instruct the EPA to redo the emissions rule, a lengthy process.

The coal moratorium can go away with a simple signature from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but actually reviving the leasing program and conducting a sale — and attracting any interested miners — will take months, as well.

The order will also open the door to lawsuits from environmentalists, who will certainly ask the courts to keep Obama’s climate work intact.

The executive order will be the latest in a string of Trump actions aimed at Obama’s climate work.

His budget plan, released this week, proposes to slash the EPA’s budget by 30 percent and cut several climate programs around the government.

On Wednesday, the EPA and the Department of Transportation formally reopened a review of fuel emissions standards for vehicles finalized during the Obama administration.

Trump has signed executive actions opening the door to the construction of oil pipelines denied by Obama, and Congress has so far sent him three resolutions undoing Obama rules dealing with water quality, land planning and the fossil fuel industry.

But the executive order, when it comes, will be Trump’s biggest foray yet into reversing federal efforts targeting climate change.


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