President Trump moved Tuesday to unravel a host of energy regulations imposed by his predecessor, targeting in particular the Obama administration’s signature program that was intended to curb carbon emissions – but blasted by Republicans for hurting the already-struggling coal industry.
With a sweeping executive order signed at EPA headquarters, Trump initiated an immediate review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. Surrounded by coal miners, the president described that plan as a “crushing attack” on workers and vowed to nix “job-killing regulations.”
“We’re going to have safety, we’re going to have clean water, we’re going to have clean air, but so many [regulations] are unnecessary, so many are job-killing,” he said.
Trump added, “Together we are going to start a new energy revolution.”
Speaking earlier with “Fox & Friends,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the president is setting a “new course” that is both “pro-jobs” and “pro-environment.”
“It’s going to create jobs in the oil and gas sector,” he said. “For too long, over the last several years, you’ve had certain industries, certain sectors of our economy that were within the crosshairs of the EPA.”
He added, “That is not going to happen anymore.”
Pushback from Democrats was swift, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blasting the administration’s “spiteful assault” on the Clean Power Plan and declaring it would not bring coal jobs back.
“President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ contempt for clean air, clean water, and our clean energy future endangers the health of our children and the strength of our economy,” she said in a statement.
The Clean Power Plan has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and allies of the oil, coal and gas industries.
Trump’s overall executive order goes beyond that program and will suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.
In addition to pulling back from the Clean Power Plan, the administration is lifting a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.
The Obama administration had imposed a three-year moratorium on new federal coal leases in January 2016, arguing that the $1 billion-a-year program must be modernized to ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers and address climate change.
The order also chips away at other regulations, including scrapping language on the "social cost" of greenhouse gases. It initiates a review of efforts to reduce the emission of methane in oil and natural gas production as well as a Bureau of Land Management hydraulic fracturing rule, to determine whether those reflect the president's policy priorities. It also rescinds Obama-era executive orders and memoranda, including one that addressed climate change and national security and one that sought to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change.
The administration is still in discussion about whether it intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. But the moves announced Tuesday will undoubtedly make it more difficult for the U.S. to achieve its goals.
The power-plant rule at the heart of Trump’s order has been on hold since last year as a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly states and more than 100 companies who call the plan an unconstitutional power grab.
Opponents say the plan will kill coal-mining jobs and drive up electricity costs. The Obama administration, some Democratic-led states and environmental groups countered that it would spur thousands of clean-energy jobs and help the U.S. meet ambitious goals to reduce carbon pollution set by the international agreement signed in Paris.
While Republicans have blamed Obama-era environmental regulations for the loss of coal jobs, federal data shows that U.S. mines have been shedding jobs for decades under presidents from both parties as a result of increasing automation and competition from cheaper natural gas. Another factor is the plummeting cost of solar panels and wind turbines, which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.
The Trump administration's plans drew praise from business groups and condemnation from environmental groups.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue praised the president for taking "bold steps to make regulatory relief and energy security a top priority."
Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy accused the Trump administration of wanting "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."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.