The impact of Trump’s executive order – which unravels all traces of climate change initiatives in the federal government – is already being felt. Climate Change Denial is now US policy.
An empowered Department of Energy (DOE) is showing the most ridiculous display of bravado – telling its Office of International Climate and Clean Energy to no longer use the phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement” in written communications, reports Politico. Even without a “banned word list,” staff at other DOE divisions and the State Department are also avoiding “hot-button” climate-related terms. The mission to address climate change has been scrubbed from every relevant federal agency, including the State Department, where it was a priority.
An empowered House of Representatives has already passed two bills: The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act (HONEST Act) restricts EPA from using anything other than publicly available science to justify new regulations. Another bill directs EPA’s Science Advisory Board – which reviews and advises on scientific research – to include more members from the private sector.
NOAA, which faces steep budget cuts …
Interior Secretary Zinke immediately reversed the coal leasing moratorium on federal lands. In response, environmental groups and the Northern Cheyenne tribe filed a lawsuit. The tribe wasn’t consulted as law requires, and “Trump upended a public process intended to stop taxpayer losses on coal mined from our public lands where land is auctioned for “pennies on the dollar to coal companies that reap fat profits ruining our land and water,” explains Bill Corcoran of Sierra Club.
36 House Democrats introduced legislation that declares Trump’s executive order null and void (good luck with that!). The “Congressional Leadership in Mitigating Administration Threats to the Earth” (CLIMATE Act) also prohibits federal funds for implementing or enforcing the order.
Benefits for Oil & Gas Companies Exaggerated
Trump’s move to cleanse the US of climate regulations so the oil and gas industry can thrive not only ignores the “energy boom” we already have in efficiency and renewable energy, it doesn’t make much difference for fossil companies. Although they are always happy to make a few more cents, regulations have had little impact on their business.
13 of the 15 biggest producers state in SEC filings that complying with Obama’s regulations had no impact on operations or their financial condition. The other two say they spend less than 3% of revenue on complying, reports Reuters.
So, In exchange for more pollution, drillers make a bit more money. Instead of dropping 28% (the US pledge to the Paris Climate Agreement), US carbon emissions will likely remain flat through 2025, according to one analysis. But Trump is just getting started – he can do a lot more damage, potentially eliminating tax credits for renewable energy, ignoring the new Montreal Protocol commitment to phase out HFCs, watering down fuel economy vehicle standards, etc.
Details of the Executive Order:
- rescinds President Obama’s Climate Action Plan – his comprehensive template that guided policy
- directs the EPA to begin the repeal process of the Clean Power Plan, which cuts emissions from power plants 32% by 2030 – the largest single source of US emissions. It also repeals emissions standards for new power plants. Fact: every industry has pollution controls Except power plants!
- eliminates regulations that would cut methane emissions from oil and fracking on public land 40% by 2025. Fact: these emissions could easily be captured and sold profitably, but the industry refuses, losing natural gas worth $330 million a year. These emissions make natural gas as bad as coal.
- lifts the moratorium on new coal mining leases on federal land. Fact: in the last few auctions no company even bidded!
- federal agencies no longer have to cut their own emissions – the goal of 42% by 2025 is gone. They also don’t have to boost use of renewable energy – the goal of using 30% renewables for ALL energy by 2025 is gone.
- Obama’s visionary order is gone: federal agencies had to establish standards to that development projects have a “net benefit” for our nation’s land, water and wildlife.
- federal agencies no longer have to consider climate ramifications when planning infrastructure investments or make sure those projects can withstand climate change. They no longer have to incorporate sea level rise projections into planning and construction along US coasts, for example.
- repeals Obama’s order to publish annual federal subsidies for fossil fuels.
- repeals requirement for Defense Department to include climate change risks in national security strategies and policies.
- Every federal agency must identify all regulations and policies that could possibly slow the growth of fossil energy production and develop plans to deal with that in the next 170 days.
While Obama’s executive orders are now repealed, rescinding EPA regulations like the Clean Power Plan and methane emissions won’t be easy. The EPA will have to take the same steps of public hearings and comment periods as Obama’s EPA did to develop the rules in the first place. With the long list of policies Trump wants thrown out, his administration will also be tied up in lawsuits for years.
Lawsuit Filed Against Keystone Pipeline
When Trump gave the State Department 60 days to issue a permit for the Keystone Pipeline, seven environmental groups filed suit. US law requires an up-to-date comprehensive environmental review that accounts for potential threats to the climate, water resources, wildlife, and communities along the pipeline route.
The biggest threat to the pipeline could come from Nebraska – which never gave TransCanada a permit for a route through the state. The decision could take up to a year and could easily be denied because of renewed lawsuits from landowners that don’t want a foreign company bullying them with eminent domain. The route also cuts through Sioux treaty lands and is near several other tribal reservations, all of whom say they haven’t been consulted. Meanwhile, a University of Nebraska study projects 91 significant spills from Keystone along its 1,179-mile route.
States Fight Back
17 states plus Washington DC, 5 cities and 1 county have formed a coalition to take legal action. “We’re very confident the EPA can’t simply dismantle the Clean Power Plan and leave nothing in its place,” says New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The states: New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii. The cities: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boulder, South Miami and Broward County, Florida.
Members of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda sent an open letter to Trump saying they represent over 41 million Americans in 75 cities: “Climate change is both the greatest single threat we face, and our greatest economic opportunity for our nation.” After affirming their commitment to taking every possible action, they say, “We are standing up for Americans harmed by climate change: coastal residents confronting erosion and sea level rise; young and old suffering from worsening air pollution and at risk from extreme heatwaves; mountain residents engulfed by wildfires; farmers struggling at harvest time due to drought; and communities across our nation challenged by extreme weather.”
“There is no question that to act on climate is to act in our best economic interests. Through expanded climate policies, we have grown jobs and expanded our economies while cleaning our air. This Order moves our nation in the wrong direction and puts American prosperity at risk,” state West Coast governors and mayors of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.
60% of the US pledge in the Paris Climate Agreement can be met by states and business leaders, says the Sierra Club. The Clean Power Plan alone would have met 15% of the goal to reduce greenhouse gases 28% by 2025.