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Executive order takes aim at Clean Power Plan
March 27, 2017

President Trump will follow through on his promises to roll back Obama era environmental regulations when he signs an executive order designed to undo the Clean Power Plan that was aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the move on ABC's "This Week." The announcement came days after President Trump signed an executive order to permitting the Keystone XL pipeline.

"We've made tremendous progress on our environment, and we can be both pro-jobs and pro-environment, and the executive order's going to address the [past] administration's effort to kill jobs across the country through the Clean Power Plan," Pruitt said.

E&E News reported that the order would begin the long process of unwinding the Clean Power Plan by requiring Pruitt to review the program, which cuts carbon emissions from existing power plants 32 percent by 2030. It also orders the Department of Justice to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to freeze the legal challenge against the Clean Power Plan, effectively ending the government's defense of the carbon program.

The order is also expected to cancel the Climate Action Plan, while instructing federal agencies to review actions that restrict energy production.
The order itself does not have legal force to repeal the Clean Power Plan, but it does send a signal to EPA to begin the process of rulemaking and public comment necessary to rescind it. The administration would then have to prove that the repeal was evidence-based and not arbitrary, said Steve Silverman, a former EPA attorney in the Office of General Counsel.

Agency efforts to terminate the Clean Power Plan could also be hindered if Congress follows through with Trump's proposed 31 percent cut to EPA's budget.

"If EPA is going to continue budget cuts, they aren't going to be able to do a new rulemaking process," said Kenneth Gillingham, an assistant economics professor at Yale University and a former senior economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama.

The "bare minimum" the administration could do to address the Clean Power Plan would be to simply repeal it, without replacing the climate rule with something else. In this case, the administration could take away funding for Clean Power Plan implementation in states but would still have to have funds to address court challenges to the rule's repeal, he said.

While environmental groups have challenged a repeal as an assault on climate action, Pruitt told "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos that the executive order would help bring back coal and manufacturing jobs to the United States and would also help the country reduce the need for energy sources from abroad.

Pruitt added that technological innovations in the coal and natural gas sectors were largely responsible for recent reductions in the United States' CO2 emissions. He cited horizontal drilling for extracting natural gas as an example but did not cite any coal-related technologies.

When questioned whether the move would affect the United States' ability to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, Pruitt said the Clean Power Plan was not "tethered" to the accords. He called the 2015 negotiations on climate change a "bad deal" since major polluters China and India do not have to take steps to reduce pollution until 2030. Instead, he said the United States should act within the framework of the Clean Air Act.

 

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