President Trump’s Executive Order Takes Aim at Climate Protections

March 29, 2017

President Trump issued an Executive Order on Tuesday that sets the stage to reverse the progress our country has made in addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution from fossil fuels, the main ingredient of human-caused climate change.  The AMC has been working to address climate change through federal and regional policies for decades, and we view this order as a significant step backwards.

The order is multi-pronged and far reaching. It directs federal agencies to discount the impacts of GHG pollution, and to open up federal land to leasing for coal mining.  The order also targets the EPA rules that are designed to reduce GHG emissions from power plants (known as the Clean Power Plan), and from oil and gas production.  The order specifically:

  • Instructs EPA to re-evaluate the Clean Power Plan, which addresses carbon emissions from existing power plants as well as one that addresses new power plants carbon emissions.
  • Lifts the moratorium on coal leases on public lands
  • Instructs EPA to review any actions or plans that would reduce methane emissions (a GHG more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year window), and other waste from oil and gas production
  • Review the methods used in federal rule makings for calculating the social cost of carbon
  • Review related rules such as one that provides oversight of Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands
  • Rescinds the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) guidance on considering climate change in National Environmental Policy Act decisions.

Rolling back the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a cornerstone of the national effort to curb climate change impacts, has been a particular focus of this Administration.  However, the rule is officially on hold as a result of a DC District court case, and so the Administration is asking that court to suspend their decision until the EPA can re-evaluate the CPP as directed by this Executive Order. Reconsideration of the CPP and other rules, as this Executive Order directs EPA to do, requires a public process and will likely to take years to unfold, effectively stalling national progress on reducing GHG emissions that contribute to climate change.

Addressing greenhouse gas pollution through cleaner fuels, energy efficiency and conservation, and renewable energy—go well beyond simply climate benefits. There are co-benefits that come along with these technologies that make outdoor recreation a healthier activity for us all by reducing ozone and particulates in the air we breathe. This Executive Order sets the nation back both in addressing climate change, and in advancing companion clean air policies.

The beacon of light in this anti-climate storm is that Northeastern states are still moving forward with multiple programs that will reduce our region’s carbon emissions.  For example, a number of states have zero-emission automobile standards and expect to have millions of electric vehicles on roads by 2025. And the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a successful emissions reduction program, is on track to be improved by participating states, including extending and deepening expected emissions reductions through 2030.

Join our Conservation Action Network today to stay in touch about ways you can keep progress on climate and clean air moving forward, not backward.

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Georgia Murray

Conservation and Nature Notes blogger Georgia Murray has been AMC's Air Quality Staff Scientist since 2000. She has an M.S. degree in Earth Sciences from the University of New Hampshire and currently oversees the AMC's air quality and climate monitoring programs.