Trump’s Impact on Environmental and Energy Policy
- May 25, 2017 8:45 pm GMT
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Of all the policies revealed in President’s Trump’s first 100 days, those involving environmental and energy regulation have arguably had the most impact. Many of the President’s executive orders merely announced policy aims or directed review of existing regulations, but when it comes to environmental regulation and energy policy the Administration has already accomplished a number of its goals and laid the groundwork for unwinding complex federal programs. For example, the Administration:
- Revived the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines.
- Revoked methane reporting rules for oil and gas drilling sites.
- Overturned stream protection rules for mountaintop mining operations.
- Ended use of a carbon cost estimating tool to measure climate change impacts in federal regulations and policies.
- Nullified planning rules for the management of 6.5 million acres of public lands in Alaska.
- Ended a ban on energy exploration in the outer continental shelf areas that will expand off-shore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, and allow assessment of drilling in marine sanctuaries in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans
- Suspended deadlines for power plants to comply with regulations limiting arsenic, lead, mercury and other toxins in wastewater
- Reversed federal accounting rules that could have caused energy companies to pay more in royalties for mineral extraction on federal lands
- Overturned bans on hunting practices like trapping and shooting bears, wolves, caribou and other animals from airplanes in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.
- Reversed a ban on lead shot and fishing tackle in national parks.
- Rejected a proposed ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops.
The Trump Administration has also begun the complicated and time-consuming process of unwinding other complex federal programs. Several, such as the Clean Power Plan, were already hung up in the courts, where the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice was defending them but the Trump Administration has now withdrawn the DOJ’s support. For example, the Administration has:
- Requested that the DC Circuit federal court suspend litigation over the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which had been challenged by industry groups and was being defended in court by the Obama Justice Department so that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can review the CPP.
- Sought to delay or overturn in another court the 2012 limits on mercury, lead and other airborne toxins emitted by power plants. Industry groups and states had filed lawsuits to overturn these limits, which were defended by the Obama Justice Department. One such state is Oklahoma, represented by its attorney general Scott Pruitt who is now the head of the United States EPA.
- Moved to delay other litigation involving limits on mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxins in power plant wastewater and limits on ozone in air emissions.
Although President Trump clearly opposed the Paris Climate Accord as a candidate and is dismantling the Clean Power Plan and other rules aimed at implementing U.S. commitments to the Paris Accord, he has more recently indicated a continuing review of U.S. intentions regarding the Accord. He has also issued Executive Orders and other directives requiring agencies to begin reviewing – and likely to rescind – a number of other environmental and energy regulations. These matters under review include:
- Fuel efficiency standards for 2022 to 2025 automobiles and light trucks.
- EPA’s proposed definitions of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.
- All national monument designations made by previous Presidents in the past 21 years.
Many of President Trump’s environmental and energy goals face a long road of legislative deliberation, rule-making and likely litigation. In the meantime, one other effect of his first 100 days in office is the spawning of a “pro-science” environmentalist movement. Hundreds of protest marches involving hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. and worldwide were held in April 2017, coinciding with Earth Day events and the Peoples Climate March the following week. The global March for Science movement may also be counted as a long-term legacy of President Trump’s first 100 days in office. Time will tell the depth and durability of these developments.