Trump directed EPA to reconsider two major regulations affecting coal-fired power plants
Trump signed an executive order taking aim at former president Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan and a companion rule setting CO2 limits for new power plants.
The president directed EPA to undertake an "immediate re-evaluation" of the power plant regulations and decide whether to repeal or revise them. "Perhaps no single regulation threatens our miners, energy workers more than this crushing attack on American industry," Trump said.
The order is intended to help push the US toward energy independence and refocus EPA on its "core mission" of ensuring clean air and safe drinking water. It also serves as an overall rebuke of Obama's effort to address climate change, which had infuriated fossil fuel producers.
"My administration is putting an end to the war on coal," Trump said.
The order also targets a number of other Obama administration actions, including ordering a review of methane rules for oil and gas, ending a moratorium on coal leases on federal land and rescinding guidance on the use of the social cost of carbon estimate to help measure the effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Former EPA officials who helped craft the regulations called Trump's executive order a dangerous move that is "embarrassing" the US.
"The administration's ‘Back to the Future' environmental policy might be funny if it were a movie, but it is real life," former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said. "They want us to travel back to when smokestacks damaged our health and polluted our air, instead of taking every opportunity to support clean jobs of the future."
Their allies in Congress vowed to do what they could to defend the rules, but acknowledged that any legislative efforts will not make it far in the Republican-controlled Congress. "Today's executive order calls into question America's credibility and our commitment to tackling the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime," said US senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware), the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
But industry groups that had sued EPA to overturn the power plant rules said Trump's action will provide much needed regulatory relief and boost US energy security. "These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration's strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations," US Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donohue said.
The administration has no timetable for completing the regulatory review. EPA will have to conduct a formal rule-making process, which could take more than a year to complete. And supporters of the regulations are already promising to take the administration to court.
"We will not surrender our children's future to fossil fuel profits without a fight," Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh said.
The Clean Power Plan requires states to develop plans to cut CO2 from existing power plants from 2022-2030, which EPA has said will result in a 32pc reduction in emissions. The new unit standards limit emissions from new coal-fired generators to no more than 1,400lb CO2/MWh.
Trump's order does not address EPA's 2009 endangerment finding for GHG emissions, which the agency used as the foundation for its regulatory efforts. It also will not answer the question of whether the US should remain in the Paris climate agreement. That issue "is still under discussion," a senior administration official said.