Trump White House Takes Immediate Aim at Restrictions on Domestic Oil, Natural Gas and Coal
The Trump White House announced today it will eliminate the Obama administration’s “Climate Action Plan,” an umbrella policy that was used to target the nation’s oil, natural gas and coal industries.
“For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry,” the Trump administration said in a statement on the White House website. “President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.”
The statement, released shortly after Trump’s 16-minute inaugural address, also predicted rolling back these regulatory restrictions on the energy sector will boost worker incomes by $30 billion over the next seven years.
The decision to highlight the Climate Action Plan, instead of a single carbon regulation like the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, is significant. Released in 2013, the Climate Action Plan provided the rationale for a series of actions targeting the production and consumption of fossil-fuels, which provide more than 80 percent of the nation’s energy.
In September 2016, with only a few months left in office, the Obama White House published a report on the actions taken under the Climate Action Plan. It references many different efforts across the entire federal government, including:
The Clean Power Plan: This regulation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would require states to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal- and natural gas-fired power plants and use more expensive energy sources like wind and solar. The plan was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court almost a year ago, pending legal challenges from states, trade unions, business groups and other stakeholders.
Methane rules: The Obama administration has targeted oil and natural gas producers with new restrictions on methane emissions from the EPA and in a separate rulemaking from the Bureau of Land Management, which regulates energy production on federal lands. These regulations have also triggered lawsuits from states and industry groups, including Western Energy Alliance, a supporter of Western Wire.
Social cost of carbon: This measure was developed to support the economic case for new restrictions on the production and consumption of oil, natural gas and coal. It estimates the cost of every ton of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere, and when new restrictions are imposed, it assigns a dollar value to the future emissions reductions that may result. Critics of the measure include Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist professor Robert Pindyck, who has called it “close to useless” and “misleading.”
Moratorium on federal coal leasing: Under pressure from “keep it in the ground” groups that oppose all fossil fuel production, the Obama administration announced a three-year moratorium on federal coal leasing last year. The move was strongly opposed by Western leaders, including Gov. Matt Mead (R) of Wyoming and Gov. Gary Herbert (R) of Utah. U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) called the move “liberal fantasyland at its worst and I will fight it every way I can.”
Paris Agreement: The 2016 progress report on Climate Action Plan says the Paris Agreement on climate change provides a “critical missing link between domestic and international climate goals.” Adopted at a 2015 United Nations conference in Paris, the agreement includes a goal for the United States to cut emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025. But the Obama administration refused to submit the agreement to the U.S. Senate for ratification and critics say this makes it non-binding.
In addition to the Climate Action Plan, the Trump administration also vowed to eliminate the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which has drawn opposition from a wide swath of industries, including energy, home-building, manufacturing, mining and agriculture.
Critics say the regulation dramatically expands the definition of federal waters, undermining state and local governments and private property rights. “The final rule … creates confusion and risk by giving the agencies almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects, including common farm ditches, ephemeral drainages, agricultural ponds and isolated wetlands found in and near farms and ranches across the nation,” according to the Farm Bureau.
Anti-fossil fuel groups have vowed to fight any rollback of the Climate Action Plan or the Waters of the United States rule. “It’s all a big handout to the oil, gas, and coal companies Trump has given a front-row seat at the table of American government, and we will fight this handout, tooth, nail, and hair,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The NRDC’s tough talk, however, ignores the fact that the fossil-fuel industry itself – through dramatic increases domestic natural gas production – is largely responsible for U.S. carbon emissions being at their lowest levels since the early 1990s.