Among the many politically divisive aspects of the Obama Administration was its focus, dedication, and often trend-setting views on climate change and environmental issues.
Many of those efforts were undone on Tuesday with the stroke of a pen. President Donald J. Trump, through an Executive Order, directed the Environmental Protection Agency to begin dismantling, among other regulations, the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.
In June 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday unveiled tough new rules intended to curb emissions from coal-burning power plants.
The Clean Power Plan, for the first time, set state-by-state targets for reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants. By 2030, the EPA, as mandated by the Obama Administration, sought to cut carbon emissions from the power sector, nationwide, by 30 percent below 2005 levels, equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year.
As it did with other initiatives under the Clean Air Act, the EPA set reduction targets for each state and leave it to them to design and execute a strategy to meet those goals. Targets, which varied, were based on numerous factors, including the number of on-line plants each hosts.
States that failed to provide an EPA-approved reduction plan were slated to have one imposed upon them by the agency.
In speeches and conference calls, EPA officials at the time reiterated claims that power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and account for roughly one-third of all its domestic greenhouse gas emissions. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there were no national limits on carbon pollution levels until the Climate Action Plan.
The EPA estimated, in 2014, that the rule would cost as much as $8.8 billion annually, but that cost would be offset with eventual economic benefits as high as $93 billion. Those savings were attributed to preventing up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in stark contrast to the government's numbers, estimated that the rule could result in an average annual drop of $51 billion in economic output and 224,000 fewer jobs every year through 2030.
The Obama Administration saw the closure of coal-fired power plants as something that would encourage the use of alternative energy sources, notably wind and solar. The Trump Administration, however, has been steadfast with its pledge to bring back lost coal-related jobs.
“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities,” President Trump said, at a ceremony to sign the Executive Order. “The past Administration burdened Americans with costly regulations that harmed American jobs and energy production."
The previous administration’s Clean Power Plan could cost increase electricity prices in 41 States by at least 10 percent, according to NERA Economic Consulting, in data cited by the Trump Administration in a statement. The Clean Power Plan would cause coal production to fall by 242 million tons, according similar statistics from the National Mining Association.
Trump’s Executive Order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend, revise, or rescind four actions related to the Clean Power Plan that would stifle the American energy industry.
The Administration also noted that 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops, and three labor unions are challenging the Clean Power Plan in Federal court. The Executive Order directs the Attorney General to seek appropriate relief from the courts over pending litigation related to the Clean Power Plan.
Other Presidential orders, through both executive action and signed legislation:
Disbanding the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases.
Directing the Department of Commerce to streamline Federal permitting processes for domestic manufacturing and to reduce regulatory burdens on domestic manufacturers.
Preventing “the burdensome ‘Stream Protection Rule’ from causing further harm to the coal industry.”
Reviewing the “Clean Water Rule: Definition of Waters of the United States,” known as the WOTUS rule, to evaluate whether it is stifling economic growth or job creation.
Clearing roadblocks to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The Executive Order lifts the ban on Federal leasing for coal production. It also directs federal agencies “to conduct a review of existing actions that harm domestic energy production and suspend, revise, or rescind actions that are not mandated by law.” Within 180 days, agencies must finalize their plans.
Agencies were directed “to use the best available science and economics in regulatory analysis, which was not utilized by the previous administration.”