Understanding Trump’s “Energy Independence” EO

Trump's "Energy Independence"

On March 28, President Trump signed a broad executive order taking aim at several Obama-era energy and environmental safeguards. The order will seek to undo or rollback an array of regulations:

  • Clean Power Plan: Trump will likely ask the EPA to
    • Review the current Clean Power plan
    • Notify DOJ of the review process so that the DOJ takes appropriate measures with respect to the ongoing litigation
    • Rewrite the rule
  • Social Cost of Carbon: The order likely calls for an interagency working group to “reconsider” the social cost of carbon figure
  • Climate Guidance Under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): The order will likely call for the Council on Environmental Quality to rescind guidance requiring agencies to consider the impacts of climate changes during NEPA reviews.
  • Four Obama-era climate change-related executive orders:
    • One seeking to cut federal government greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent over the next decade
    • Another aimed at improving the resilience of communities to flooding
    • A 2014 order mandating the integration of climate change resilience into international development projects
    • A fourth from 2013 that aimed to boost federal agency coordination on climate resiliency
  • Coal: The order will end the moratorium on new and modified coal leasing on public land.
  • Fracking: The order directs the Bureau of Land Management to rescind its 2015 rule updating controls on hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands, as well as initiate a review of emissions standards for new oil and gas operations.
  • Methane: The order calls for the EPA and BLM to reconsider regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

This executive order is only the beginning of a long process to roll back many of these regulations. This order not only does not fulfill the promises that Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made to coal country, it also runs counter to what the American people want. The EO is called the “Energy Independence” order, but the US will never be “energy independent” if it relies on fossil fuels.

This EO is out of sync with public opinion.

  • A majority of the public understands climate change is real and supports renewable energy and regulations on coal power plants.
  • Across the country, 75% of Americans want CO2 regulated as a pollutant, and 69% want strict CO2 limits to be put on existing coal-fired power plants.
  • Not a single state shows less than 55% support for regulations on coal plants.

This EO will not bring back the coal industry.

  • Market forces drove US coal production in 2016 to the lowest levels since 1978. Since 2010, 248 coal plants have closed in the US and more will continue to shutter due to economic inviability.
  • Competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables will make it difficult, if not impossible, for this executive order to restore the coal industry to its former glory.
  • Mitch McConnell, Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, and Public Utility Commissioners have all spoken recently about how Trump shouldn’t expect to restore coal jobs to levels seen in the past.
  • The administration’s steps to allow companies to mine on public land at cut-rate prices could lead to $310 million in lost revenue, and $150 billion in climate costs, at a time when companies aren’t even looking for new reserves.
  • Clean energy employs five times as many people as coal and gas, and 41 states have more clean energy than fossil fuel jobs.
  • Over 3 million people currently work in wind, solar, efficiency and other fields, according to the latest Energy Department report. For a detailed breakdown on U.S. energy employment – both clean and dirty – along with where in the report the information is found, see this chart.

The clean energy revolution is happening across the country — including red states.

  • Renewable energy is embraced by Republican governors, eight of whom signed a bipartisan letter to Trump in February calling for support for renewables and pointing out the $222 million a year rural landowners receive from wind facilities.
  • 21 of 27 states that originally challenged the Clean Power Plan are already on track to reduce emissions at a level that would be in compliance with the regulations.
  • The Republican governors of Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin all signed pro-renewable legislation after Trump’s election.
  • Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alaska and Alabama had the greatest percentage increase in solar jobs from 2015 to 2016.

American cities and businesses are committed to climate action.

  • Immediately after the EO was signed, more than 30 mayors released a letter condemning the order and committing to continued climate action.
  • The governors of California and New York also released a joint statement reaffirming commitment to exceeding the targets of the Clean Power Plan.
  • More than 1,000 US businesses and investors support the continuation of low-carbon policies that will help the US achieve its Paris targets
  • Mississippi Basin mayors released an ambitious infrastructure plan to prepare the region for climate impacts
  • 25 US cities have committed to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050

The Clean Power Plan would improve health and save money.

  • Trump’s decision to overturn the Clean Power Plan could lead to 3,500 deaths each year
  • Coal is the energy source the most harmful to human health, contributing to heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic respiratory diseases.
  • Under the CPP, households could have saved an average of $35/month on energy bills in 2030 by participating in state energy efficiency programs.
  • Every dollar invested through the Clean Power Plan would have saved American families up to $7 in health benefits.

The rest of the world has committed to climate action and a clean energy future.

  • Nearly 200 countries around the world, including all major developed nations and petrostates like Saudi Arabia, joined the Paris Agreement in 2015.
  • This executive order will hinder the United States’ ability to meet its emissions targets agreed on in Paris, and lead to diplomatic consequences in other venues.
  • China, already investing more than double the United States in clean energy, has indicated it may step into the void left by American inaction on climate change.
  • The day Trump signed the EO, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reaffirmed China’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, saying, “No matter how other countries’ policies on climate change change, as a responsible large developing country, China’s resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change.”

Climate denial has no place in the White House or the EPA.

  • Both President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have made statements counter to mainstream climate science.
    • Trump famously claimed climate change was a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese.
    • On March 10, Pruitt faced backlash for denying that CO2 is a primary contributor to global warming, and again on March 26 for more inaccurate statements on he made during an ABC News interview.

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