Energy & Environment

Trump undecided on supporting Obama pollution treaty, adviser says

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President Trump hasn’t yet decided whether to support a treaty amendment that seeks to phase out the use of certain potent greenhouse gases, an adviser said.

George David Banks, Trump’s adviser for international environmental policy, said at a Monday event that he and colleagues are still analyzing the 2016 pact to see if they’ll recommend that the president support it.

The Kigali Amendment, negotiated in part by the Obama administration, changed the 1987 Montreal Protocol to work toward a global phaseout of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), commonly used in refrigerants and air conditioning. They are hundreds of times more potent as greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide.


Domestic companies that make and use the chemicals support the amendment, as do environmental groups.

“While the administration recognizes that the amendment enjoys broad industry support, we need to carefully think this through and do our best to understand the economic, legal, political, the environmental aspects of the amendment,” Banks told a gathering at the Hudson Institute Monday.

“Before we provide a recommendation to the president, we will need to have a really — really good economic information, we’re going to have to have a real command of it,” he said.

“We understand that there’s broad industry support. But we really want to understand, in a more concrete way, a few things: how this benefits U.S. companies, how it preserves and creates U.S. jobs and how it can help the trade balance and help foster exports to other countries.”

Banks said if Trump does support the agreement, he would submit it to the Senate for ratification, which would require a two-thirds majority vote.

Trump’s potential support for Kigali contrasts with his opposition to the Paris climate agreement, a more wide-ranging climate pact reached in 2015 by nearly 200 countries. Trump in June said he would pull the United States out of that deal.

Judith Garber, a high-ranking career official at the State Department, signaled in November that the Trump administration looks upon Kigali favorably.

“The United States believes the Kigali Amendment represents a pragmatic and balanced approach to phasing down the production and consumption of HFCs, and therefore we support the goals and approach of the amendment,” she said in Montreal, Canada, without saying whether the administration would fully support the pact.

The Montreal Protocol was written in 1987 with the goal of restoring the ozone layer. It had strong support from then-President Reagan, and has been seen as successful.

That treaty phased out ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons for HFCs. But HFCs, while better for the ozone, are destructive to the climate.

Banks said the White House is also examining whether implementing the Kigali Amendment would require additional legislation to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce HFC phaseouts.

But Jeff Holmstead, a former EPA official and current partner at law and lobbying firm Bracewell, argued it is unnecessary to separately implement the accord if the Senate ratifies it, since that process would give the EPA authority to regulate HFCs.

“Once it is ratified, there is a provision in the Clean Air Act that makes it very clear that the United States Environmental Protection Agency, under Title 6 of the Clean Air Act, has authority to implement that amendment,” Holmstead said at the Hudson Institute event.

“Congress determined in 1990 that that’s the very mechanism they wanted to have.”

The Obama EPA tried in 2015 to ban the use of HFCs, but a federal appeals court struck the rule down last year.

Tags Air pollution Climate change Donald Trump hydrofluorocarbons Ozone depletion

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