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WASHINGTON Donald Trump – a big supporter of the
U.S. oil, gas and coal industries – has promised to get to work
quickly after being sworn in as president of the United States,
raising expectations that he will sign a slew of executive
Here are some of the executive actions and other maneuvers
that could come quickly, related to energy, the environment, and
CLEAN POWER PLAN
Trump, a Republican, has promised to kill Democratic
predecessor Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a rule that
requires states to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power
plants. He has a few options to do so, some simpler than others.
The plan is being challenged by 27 of the 50 states in
court, so one option is to order the Justice Department to stop
defending it – effectively giving the plaintiffs a win. Trump
could also seek a “voluntary remand” asking the court to send
the rule back to the Environmental Protection Agency for review.
The problem is that attorneys general from states like New York
and California, as well as environmental groups, would likely
step into the gap and defend the rule.
Another possibility would be to order the EPA not to enforce
the rule. But that, too, could open the door to lawsuits.
A third option would be for Trump’s administration to try to
issue a new regulation “withdrawing” the Clean Power Plan, even
if it is upheld in the courts, according to the American Energy
Alliance, an industry group that helped advise Trump’s energy
transition team. That move may not be a fast one.
The Clean Power Plan, finalized in 2015, is the centerpiece
of Obama’s broader climate change strategy.
KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE
Trump has promised to ask TransCanada Corp to
resubmit its application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, a
project to pipe more Canadian oil sands crude into the United
States that was rejected by the Obama administration after years
of environmental lobbying against it. While the invitation to
resubmit could come fast, it is unclear whether TransCanada
would seek to revive the project given that oil prices are far
lower now than they were when the company initially pursued it.
Trump may also seek to issue an order to undo a guidance
issued last August by the White House Council on Environmental
Quality that requires federal agencies to quantify greenhouse
gas emissions and factor in impacts on climate change while
evaluating projects like pipelines. The council had updated the
decades-old National Environmental Policy Act to include the
greenhouse gas update.
DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE
Trump could sign an executive order approving the Dakota
Access Pipeline in North Dakota, or order the acting secretary
of the army to approve the project, according to Brigham McCown,
former head of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety
Administration under President George W. Bush. However, such a
move would be highly unpopular among pipeline opponents who have
camped out at the construction site for months, drawing national
attention. Leaders from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which led
the protests over worries the pipeline would threaten water
quality, have vowed to challenge any executive action. The
pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners LP.
SOCIAL COST OF CARBON
One little-known tool used by the Obama administration to
support its regulations curbing carbon emissions is the “Social
Cost of Carbon,” a calculation made by a panel of technical
experts to place a dollar value on the public harm caused by
carbon dioxide emissions. The calculation is used in the
rule-making cost/benefit analysis.
The current cost of carbon determined by the group is $36
per tonne, a level that will rise to $50 by 2030.
The American Energy Alliance believes that Trump could
immediately order government agencies to end the use of the
Social Cost of Carbon, a move that could help it unravel a
number of Obama’s other anti-carbon regulations.
FEDERAL COAL MORATORIUM
Trump could immediately lift the Department of Interior’s
moratorium on coal leasing on federal land – a move the
department made last year as it sought to review the program and
evaluate whether the government adequately priced the value of
coal extracted from public land on behalf of the taxpayer.
Lifting the moratorium would improve industry access to vast
coal deposits remaining in the Powder River Basin.
Reversing some of Obama’s more recent moves to put federal
acreage off-limits to drilling could be more complicated. Obama
designated around 1.6 million acres of federal lands in Utah and
Nevada as monuments, using a tough-to-overturn law called the
Antiquities Act. He also permanently protected areas of the
offshore Arctic and Atlantic using another law that legal
experts say would be a challenge to overturn.
The Obama administration finalized a couple of environmental
regulations in its last weeks in office that are likely to be
quickly overturned, including the Bureau of Land Management
Methane Rule and the Streams Protection Act.
Congressional leaders said they would target those rules
under the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to
use a simple majority vote to rescind a regulation within 60
legislative days of publication.
The methane rule limits methane emissions from energy
installations on federal land, while the Streams Protection Act
protects waterways from coal mining runoff.
Some other rules, affecting the agriculture industry, could
also fit in this category. They include the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s final rule regarding production requirements for
organic livestock and poultry, establishing minimum indoor and
outdoor space requirements for chickens.
PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
During his campaign for the White House, Trump said he would
pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement within
100 days of taking office. The accord, signed by nearly 200
countries last year, is intended to curb global warming by
slashing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Since his election, Trump has softened his stance slightly,
telling the New York Times that he would keep an open mind about
the deal. Nonetheless, the mercurial former New York businessman
has been advised by his team about swift options he could take
to end U.S. participation in the accord, including issuing a
presidential order simply deleting the U.S. signature from the
Paris accord. (Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder and PJ Huffstutter)
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