Trump’s Repeal of Environmental Laws Sparks Condemnation, Hints of Future Legal Battles Over Climate

 

While the past week has been dominated by testimony of Russian tampering and the House’s failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, yesterday’s signing of an executive order that seeks to roll back many regulations put in place by former President Barack Obama to help curb climate change put President Donald Trump squarely back in the conversation of being an enemy of the environment.

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The order, not the first to undo greenhouse gas regulations during Trump’s first 100 days in office, is expected to do away with the Clean Power Plan, a policy enacted under the Obama administration to cut emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants.


 

The act would almost certainly put the United States out of contention of meeting its goal of a 26 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025—outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement—as the Clean Power Plan, if enacted fully, would only get the country about halfway toward its Paris goal by the end of 2025.

Trump’s signing was heralded as him keeping a campaign promise to the coal miners of America who had been put out of work by what he characterized as unfair regulatory practices that were too burdensome for US suppliers to keep up with international markets.

Earlier this month the president also took down another Obama-era regulation aimed at fuel economy which, if reached, would’ve put the average miles per gallon (mpg) for model year 2025 cars and light trucks at over 54 mpg. Trump, a climate change denier who once floated the idea that global warming was “invented by the Chinese,” also appointed Scott Pruitt—who recently questioned carbon’s role in rising global temperatures—as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency that Trump’s provisional budget seeks to slash funding to by over 30 percent.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal, who represents Long Beach and sits on multiple house committees and subcommittees that are responsible for energy resources, federal lands and the environment, said that stripping away regulations aimed at curbing further climate change would only mean a larger expense down the road.

“We all want our world to be a safe, healthy place to raise our families and grow our economy,” Lowenthal said in a statement. “But, changing weather patterns, more frequent droughts, worsening air quality, and sea level rise cost us money and threaten the well-being of our families and our neighbors. The longer we wait to mitigate these impacts the more expensive it will be to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and the less chance we have of keeping the world’s warming below a safe threshold.”

Mayor Robert Garcia similarly denounced the action by Trump on Tuesday pledging to keep Long Beach as a climate leader that will “implement aggressive emission reductions.” Garcia joined 75 other “Climate Mayors” that signed onto a letter addressed to Trump yesterday calling for a reversal of course of his energy agenda to address the needs of those most impacted by pollution and worsening extreme weather events. 

“Climate change is both the greatest single threat we face, and our greatest economic opportunity for our nation,” the letter read. “That is why we affirm our cities’ commitments to taking every action possible to achieve the principles and goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, and to engage states, businesses and other sectors to join us.”

Garcia was joined by Mayors Bill de Blasio (New York), Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles) and Rahm Emanuel (Chicago) in signing the letter. 


 

The letter also advocated for clean energy serving as an investment in the economy, something that Trump alleged was a driver in his decision as he seeks to pave the way for more coal mines and oil fields to be opened on federal lands. It pointed out that nearly one in fifty US jobs are now in the renewable energy field, a figure that has surpassed that of oil, gas and coal extraction combined.

Analysis of the president’s order, one that is surely to be tied up in legal battles with states like California, have projected that even with the clearing of regulatory hurdles for fossil fuel industries to invest, many industries have already shifted course to renewable energy and natural gas.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who recently was confirmed to fill the vacancy left by United States Senator Kamala Harris, released a statement yesterday with a coalition of attorneys general and other chief legal officers from 16 states opposing the dismantling of the environmental plan.

The statement pointed to taxpayers’ rising costs to respond to storm response and other weather related disasters that a strong federal law is needed to guide state’s actions on emission levels. The Clean Power Plan that Trump’s executive order would effectively cripple was projected to have reduced emissions in existing power plants by a level equivalent to the emissions put out by 160 million passenger cars annually.

“We won’t hesitate to protect those we serve—including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change,” the statement read.

 



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