Trump slashes environmental regulations

US president Donald Trump is making true on his election promises and slashing regulations meant to limit climate change. However, there is little he can do to stop the US from moving away from coal. John Dyer reports from Boston.

After his embarrassing failure to overturn Obamacare, President Donald Trump is taking big steps to reverse his predecessor’s ambitious environmental legacy.

In a sweeping decree last week, Trump sought to reverse President Barack Obama’s substantive and symbolic efforts to promote sustainable energy and fight climate change.

Climate change a “Chinese hoax”

The president who called climate change a Chinese ‘hoax’ last year on the campaign trail eliminated requirements that federal officials consider climate change when drafting or enforcing regulations, including those associated with national security and building infrastructure to withstand rising sea levels and other expected environmental changes.

The president also ordered a review of Obama-era rules on coal-fired and other power plants, efforts to reduce methane pollution and studies on hydraulic fracturing and climate change.

Lastly, Trump lifted a three-year moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.

“A lot of people are going to be put back to work, a lot of coal miners are going back to work,” said Trump in a rally in Kentucky earlier in March, referring to his proposed order.

Taking his own course on climate change

The action is likely the most significant step in a series of moves to reverse Obama’s environmental legacy.

“This policy is in keeping with President Trump’s desire to make the United States energy independent,” said a White House official who spoke to the press on Monday the condition of anonymity. “When it comes to climate change, we want to take our course and do it in our own form and fashion.”

Trump’s actions are unlikely to be stopped in Congress, as his attack on Obama’s health care reforms was. The Republicans have had control of the US House of Representatives since 2010 and began already then to oppose Obama’s environmental agenda, forcing the White House to use executive orders and other regulations to boost solar, wind and other sustainable energy while placing restrictions on coal, oil and other greenhouse gas emitters.

Executive orders taken to court

Because they don’t carry the force of laws enacted by Congress, the executive orders and new rules were controversial, but some withstood legal challenges.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that didn’t adequately take energy company’s costs into consideration, but it did accept an Obama order that expanded the aegis of the 1970s-era Clean Water Act.

The court temporarily paused Obama rule to curb coal emissions at power plants while a lower federal court determined whether the rule was legal or not. Energy companies and state officials – including the current head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general – challenged the rule.

Paris agreement facing the chopping block

Now Trump has been similarly using executive orders to roll back the power plant rule and other Obama moves.

The former New York real estate mogul and reality television celebrity recently gave the green light to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, which Obama had rejected.

Trump has also ended restrictions on mining, drilling and coal and gas-fired power plants, cancelled regulations to stop mining companies from polluting waterways and threw out a new accounting system that led energy companies to pay more for using federal land.

He’s even said he might postpone rules ordering car companies to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.

White House officials said they were still deciding whether he would withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a keystone of the international community’s efforts to fight climate change. Obama in 2015 pledged to cut American emissions by as much as 28 per cent in 2025 compared to 2005 levels.

Divisive president, divided policies

The US Chamber of Commerce, the primary business lobbyist in Washington, DC, praised Trump’s moves.

‘‘These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration’s strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy,’’ said Chamber President Thomas Donohue.

Environmentalists said the president was putting his head in the sand on global warming.

“In taking a sledgehammer to US climate action, the administration will push the country backward, making it harder and more expensive to reduce emissions,” said World Resources Institute President Andrew Steer in a statement. “Climate science is clear and unwavering: mounting greenhouse gas emissions are warming our planet, putting people and business in harm’s way.”

US president Donald Trump is taking steps to reverse his predecessor’s environmental legacy.

Image credit: Rich, flickr/Creative Commons

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