Trump signs executive order to roll back Obama-era climate actions, power plant emissions rule

Trump attempts to undo Obama's Clean Power Plan
Trump attempts to undo Obama's Clean Power Plan

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order aimed at rolling back a number of Obama-era climate policies.

The action sets in motion an overhaul of President Barack Obama's landmark rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants and rescinds a number of executive actions aimed at reining in climate change or mitigating its effects.

Trump will also seek to align federal agencies' policies with his goal of boosting U.S. fossil fuel production and achieving energy independence.

On Tuesday, he reiterated his long-held view that Obama-era policies were killing jobs.

"My action today is the latest in a series of steps to create American jobs and to grow American wealth. We're ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country," he said before signing the order.

That action signals that the administration is "going to go in a different direction" on climate policy, according to a senior administration official.

"It's an issue that deserves attention, but I think the president has been clear he's not going to pursue climate or environmental policies that put the U.S. economy at risk," he told reporters during a briefing on Monday.

Trump repeals rule that prevented coal waste from being dumped in streams
Trump repeals rule that prevented coal waste from being dumped in streams

Among the most substantial actions, the White House will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, a set of federal guidelines that gives states a framework for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel-fired electricity plants, particularly those that burn coal. That component was widely expected and telegraphed by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt this weekend.

The administration official confirmed the administration will aim to replace the Clean Power Plan through established administrative procedures, which can take about a year. He also said the White House knows it could face litigation over its rule writing.

The Clean Power Plan and other Obama-era regulations are currently being challenged in court by states and industry groups. The ongoing lawsuits around those rules make Trump's executive order legally complex, the official said.

Trump will also aim to rescind the Climate Action Plan, Obama's overarching strategy for cutting carbon emissions, preparing the country for the impacts of climate change and leading the international community's response to global warming.

The administration will seek to overturn regulations on hydraulic fracturing and methane emissions from oil and natural gas wells on federal lands. Trump will also end Obama's moratorium on issuing new leases for coal mining on government-administered property.

Government's role in fighting climate change

The order contains actions that would alter the government's role in combating climate change, according to information given during the briefing.

The Trump administration will review a formula that government agencies use to determine the benefits of regulations that reduce carbon emissions. Tinkering with the so-called "social cost of carbon" could influence policymaking by reducing the projected benefit of rules aimed at mitigating climate change.

The social cost of carbon underpins many current emissions regulations written since 2008.

Southern Company's CEO doesn't see CO2 as main reason for climate change
Southern Company's CEO doesn't see CO2 as main reason for climate change

The order also instructs the White House's Council on Environmental Quality to scrap the division's recent guidance to federal agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Obama administration sought to modernize how agencies report their environmental impact under the law, most recently advising them to measure the future greenhouse gas emissions of proposed federal actions.

The White House will further instruct departments within the executive branch to identify all regulations and policies that may present obstacles to domestic energy production. Those reports will serve as a blueprint for the administration in setting energy policy, the official said.

Paris Agreement Impacts

The actions continue Trump's war on energy regulation. He has approved two hotly disputed pipeline projects blocked by Obama and signed off on congressional Republicans' repeal of a rule meant to prevent corruption in the energy industry and another aimed at protecting waterways from coal mining pollution.

Do we need more oil?
Do we need more oil?

Tuesday's executive action, depending on the degree to which it is executed, would potentially make it more difficult for the United States to deliver on its promises to reduce planet-warming emissions under the Paris Agreement, an international accord aimed at limiting the impact of climate change.

Trump has threatened to pull out of the agreement, and Pruitt has called it a "bad deal."

Asked whether the administration has made a final determination on U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement, the administration official said, "Whether we stay in or not is still under discussion."