Today, President Trump is expected to begin the process of dismantling Obama’s environmental legacy, including his signature climate action policy, the Clean Power Plan. According to Reuters, Trump will sign an executive order compelling the Environmental Protection Agency to review and rewrite the plan, which calls on states to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, with an overall goal of shaving 32 per cent off the power sector’s greenhouse gas footprint by 2030. As Trump and EPA head Scott Pruitt see it, regulations like this need to be dismantled to end the EPA’s “job killing war on coal”. Other experts say a roll back of the CPP is in the fossil fuel industry’s best interest, but can’t revitalise Big Coal.
It’s important to recognise that Trump can’t unilaterally sweep away the CPP with a single executive order. All he can do is give the EPA the green light to review and rewrite the plan under Pruitt. (As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt sued to block implementation of the CPP, and later, he dismissed calls from Democrats to recuse himself from the rewriting process.) Any real changes to the CPP will require years of public hearings and, undoubtedly, lawsuits from environmental agencies arguing that a coal-friendlier version of the policy doesn’t go far enough in protecting us from climate pollution. In the meantime, however, Pruitt can send the message to the fossil fuel industry that the EPA, under his leadership, will be lax in enforcing regulations. The message to the rest of the world is that the America doesn’t care about tackling climate change.