Trump Issues Executive Order on Climate Change

President Trump issued an executive order aimed at at dismantling many of the key actions that have been undertaken at the federal level to address climate change. The order, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth”, includes the following components:

1. Clean Power Plan: The order directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediate review the Clean Power Plan, which established carbon dioxide (CO2) emission limits for existing fossil fuel-fired power plants, and “if appropriate”, to initiate a new notice-and-comment rulemaking to suspend, revise, or rescind the plan. It also directs the Attorney General to request a stay of the Clean Power Plan litigation while EPA reconsiders the rule.

The order does not specify exactly how EPA should re-write the Clean Power Plan. One possibility is that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will adopt the framework he recommended when he was working as the Oklahoma Attorney General. Under that framework, EPA would establish emission guidelines that reflect the emissions reductions that can be achieved “inside the fence” at individual power plants (which would include heat rate improvements, but not fuel switching). The states would then promulgate standards that are at least as stringent as those guidelines unless the state determines that circumstances justify the imposition of a less stringent emission standard. In other words, the federal guidelines would be recommendations rather than binding emission standards.

2. Emission Standards for New Power Plants: The order also directs EPA to review the emission standards for new coal-fired power plants and to rescind or rewrite that rule “if appropriate”. The standards promulgated during the Obama Administration reflected EPA’s determination that partial carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) was a viable technology for new coal-fired power plants.  The order also directs the Attorney General to request a stay of the case involving these standards pending EPA’s reconsideration of the rule.

3. Methane Regulations: The order calls for the review (and potential rescission or re-writing) of several regulations aimed at reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations, including EPA’s new source performance standards for the oil and gas sector and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s methane waste rule (aimed at curbing methane emissions from oil and gas development on federal lands). The order also directs the Attorney General to request a stay of cases involving these rules pending their reconsideration.

4. Social Cost of Carbon, Methane and Nitrous Oxide: The order disbands the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon and rescinds the federal estimates for the social cost of carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide. In the event that federal agencies have to monetize the costs of greenhouse gas regulations, the order specifies that they should follow OMB Circular A-4, which contains general guidelines on how to conduct cost-benefit analysis in rulemakings but does not provide specific direction on how to calculate the costs of greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Environmental Reviews: The order revokes the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)’s guidance on climate change and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews.

6. Coal Leasing Moratorium and Programmatic EIS: The order directs the Department of Interior (DOI) to amend or withdraw Secretarial Order 3338, which called for a programmatic environmental review and modernization of the federal coal leasing program, and to lift the moratorium on federal coal leasing that was called for in that order.

7. Other Obama-era Plans and Orders: The order evokes several additional plans and orders, including:

8. Reviewing Regulations for Energy Production Impacts: The order instructs agencies to “immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law.”