President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order Tuesday that makes good on his campaign promise to undo some of his predecessor’s most significant environmental regulations.
“The action I’m taking today will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom, and allow our companies and our workers to thrive and compete on a level playing field,” said Trump at the signing ceremony. “Together we are going to start a new energy revolution, one that celebrates American production on American soil.”
The order demands a review of the 2015 Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation that sought to cut greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning power plants.
The presidential directive also aims to lift a 14-month-old freeze on federal coal leasing, withdraw a rule that forces federal officials to consider the impact of climate change before making decisions, and lift restrictions on hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands.
“Our administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” said Trump. “We’re ending the theft of American prosperity, and rebuilding our beloved country.”
The directive is designed to create more jobs in the coal-mining industry and to reduce the cost of electricity. But US coal jobs have been declining for years, and it is not clear just how many jobs this shift in policy will create.
“Frankly the pressure on coal jobs has come from the competition of natural gas and the affordability of natural gas and the plentiful nature of natural gas in our country, and also from technology,” explains Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe insists these changes will have a serious impact on the economy. “This order is a clear sign to the country that Trump is serious about unleashing this country’s energy dominance,” said Inhofe.
Democrats argue that Obama’s Clean Power Plan would have created thousands of jobs in the clean energy sector and helped the US meet emissions goals as outlined by the Paris climate change agreement.
Some Republicans argue that getting rid of the Clean Power Plan isn’t enough. Myron Ebell, former head of Trump’s EPA transition team, insists that we must revoke the EPA’s 2009 finding which states greenhouse gases are a threat to mankind.
“Before you know it you end up having to do a Trump Clean Power Plan,” complains Ebell.
EPA chief Scott Pruitt is hesitant to challenge the EPA’s endangerment finding, claiming that to do so would land him in a drawn-out court battle.
A legal fight may be on the horizon either way, as Trump’s order will force the EPA to rewrite the Clean Power Plan. This is a long and complicated process.
“Tearing the rules down requires going through the same process it took to build them up,” says David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We will make them face the music at every step.”