10-Point Expert: Trump’s Executive Order on Pulling Back Environmental Standards

We’re going to take a wild guess here and say that President Donald Trump probably isn’t a member of the Sierra Club…



President Donald Trump and his administration look at environmental initiatives as being directly opposed to those that stimulate the economy. So to the Trump administration, policies that cut carbon dioxide emissions or combat global warming have to go! Once you put all that into perspective, President Trump’s new executive order on rolling back environmental initiatives set by the Obama administration makes a whole lot more sense! So what’s in the new executive order? Let’s find out!     



Point 1: The majority of President Donald Trump’s strategy when it comes to current environmental standards has been pretty simple; to roll them back. His most recent executive order directly targets many of the Obama administration’s efforts to curb global warming and even goes as far to tell federal agencies to stop enforcing its key features.


Pont 2: Before we get into the specifics of President Trump’s executive order on pulling back environmental standards, it’s important to note that the directive only deals with how governmental agencies will implement – well, technically not implement in this case – the standards that the Obama administration had set. The executive order DOES NOT repeal any of the current legislative environmental laws that are currently in the books.



Point 3: One of the major rollbacks that the executive order asks for from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) comes in the implementation of Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Originally the environmental initiative wanted existing US power plants to drastically cut their emissions levels by 2030, however with legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan, the rule has been currently stuck in federal court. It’s expected that with the new executive order, the Trump administration will drop defending the legal challenge and write a new provision for the rule.


Point 4: Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions contribute immensely to the creation of greenhouse gases that help erode the Earth’s atmosphere. The Obama administration had set new standards in lowering both CO2 and methane emissions by 2025. This of course was a big hit to multiple industries in the energy sector (coal plants, oil refineries, and natural gas extraction sites were all effected, just to name a few). Under the Trump administration and the new executive order, there’s now a consorted effort to rethink these emission standards so that they’re more favorable to energy companies.


Point 5: In 2009, the Obama administration brought multiple governmental agencies together to estimate the monetary damage done by a ton of CO2 levels in a given year. This figure was called “the Social Cost of Carbon” by the EPA. The general idea of the figure was to show the benefit that could be had with a small reduction in CO2 emissions. For 2015, the central estimate of the Social Cost of Carbon came to around $36 per ton. The Trump administration’s new executive order wants to re-evaluate how the federal government currently calculates the Social Cost of Carbon. Many climate change policy experts worry that the Trump administration will deliberately try to lower the government’s Social Cost of Carbon estimate, thus validating their rollbacks on federal climate change initiatives.


Point 6: For decades the federal government had been leasing out its more coal enriched areas to mining companies. The practice was always controversial to environmentalists because they felt the federal government had leased the land for not that much money, which in turn, produced more CO2 emissions through an increase in mining, but also created a taxpayer subsidiary for the fossil fuel industry. When President Obama was in office, he had put a hold on that practice, but now with the new executive order, the Trump administration looks to continue that practice of leasing federal coal reserves once again. This goes back to President Trump’s promise for a bigger push behind the coal industry back on the campaign trail. With this initiative, it looks like his administration is trying to keep that campaign promise.



Point 7: The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to create a yearly report on the impact they have had on the environment. The Obama administration requested agencies add their impacts on climate change into their report. However, with President Trump’s new executive order, their impacts on climate change are no longer needed to be reported in the NEPA.


Point 8: Surprisingly, for all the environmental standards that President Trump’s executive order does pullback on, there is a major environmental initiative from the Obama administration that remains untouched; the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Considering the Obama administration had given the EPA that kind of power, it was a real possibility that their ability to regulate greenhouse gases could have been one of President Trump’s environmental rollbacks. But at least for this executive order, it isn’t.


Point 9: To touch on an earlier point, all of these environmental rollbacks by the Trump administration are initiatives that Barack Obama had implemented while he was president. While some political commentators have pointed that out as the Trump administration being “petty”, in reality, the move is more practical than it originally seems. For the Trump administration to rollback actual environmental legislation, they would need to work through Congress, which for the most part has been an abject failure. For President Trump, rolling back some of Obama’s executive orders is much easier legislatively.


Point 10: While President Trump’s executive order does rollback years of climate change policy progress by the federal government, it’s also important to note that its reach only goes to federal agencies. If President Trump wanted to do some real damage to climate change policies that goes further than of its implementation on a bureaucratic level, he’ll have to rollback Congressional legislation. Considering the unpopularity of this current executive order, as of right now, that move looks unlikely.



(Photo Credit: Pixabay.com)


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