Trump Loosens Climate Rules

from The Wall Street Journal,

President says rollback of Obama's agenda will save coal jobs, but utilities now focus on gas.

President Donald Trump Tuesday took steps to begin unraveling the centerpiece of the Obama environmental agenda, signing an order to reverse rules aimed at pushing U.S. utilities to shift from coal plants to cleaner-burning fuels. “My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Mr. Trump said ahead of the official signing at the Environmental Protection Agency, repeating a campaign slogan he used to champion policies he said bring back mining jobs. He said he was ending a “crushing attack on American industry” and paring back regulations that impeded job creation, while still ensuring clean air and water.

But while the moves are being billed as job savers, companies and energy experts said the order is unlikely to reverse the U.S. utility industry’s shift to natural gas, solar and wind as leading sources of electricity. The order begins a formal review of President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have required utilities to reduce power plant carbon-dioxide emissions to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. It also initiates a review of a regulation that would impose tougher emissions requirements on new plants. It further pulls back 2016 guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality on climate change and official estimates of the social cost of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide and rescinds a temporary ban on new coal leases on federal lands, which Mr. Obama’s Interior Department issued early last year.

The moves are all but certain to trigger legal and political pushback from environmentalists, and Democrats announced swift opposition on Tuesday. The actual repeal could take years as the litigation and rule-making process run their course. The White House on Monday night acknowledged it would likely take “some time.” “Ultimately, litigation will keep these agencies on course, but this order is a big waste of time and effort, done to appease a dirty industry and right-wing climate-denial fanatics,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat. The White House action is part of a broad push across the government to rein in what Republicans and businesses say is a burdensome and costly regulatory environment created under the Democratic administration. It also gave the president an opportunity to move beyond the difficult collapse of health-care legislation in the House last week and hand a win to allies who have fervently opposed the power plant rules.

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