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US President Trump Signs Order To Roll Back Obama Climate Protections

Wed, 29th Mar 2017 07:32

WASHINGTON (Alliance News) - US President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that looks to roll back many of his predecessor Barack Obama's environmental protections.

Trump declared the "start of a new era in American energy and production" as he signed the order.

It calls for a review of Obama's Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants but which has been halted in the courts. The plan would have reduced emissions from existing power plants by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.

"It is in the national interest to promote clean and safe development of our nation's vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation," the order says.

It rolls back a moratorium on coal leasing on federal land, orders a review of regulations on hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - and on methane emissions from oil and gas production, and lifts a requirement that officials weigh the impact of climate change in decision-making.

Speaking alongside coal miners at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, Trump said the order would eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow workers to compete on a level playing field.

"This is all about bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams and making America wealthy again," he said.

The White House said the focus is on making the US energy industry independent by lifting restrictions on energy production and creating more jobs.

The Clean Power Plan would have increased electricity prices in most states as well as prompting coal production to fall, the White House said.

It was stayed by the Supreme Court last year pending five separate legal challenges by more than two dozen states and industry groups to the carbon pollution emissions guidelines issued in 2015.

Obama announced the first-ever rules for US power plant emissions ahead of international climate talks in Paris and drew immediate opposition from the power industry and Republicans.

Obama had praised the move as a sign of US leadership on climate change, while Trump frequently pointed to job losses in coal mining and other energy sectors during his campaign.

Trump recalled conversations with coal miners in West Virginia during his campaign and their love of the work.

"My administration is putting an end to the war on coal," he said.

The executive order is part of broader efforts by Trump on energy, including the approval last week of construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to the US and the rolling back of other environmental regulations.

The move to lift the Clean Power Plan however will be more complicated than simply signing an order. Because the matter is currently tied up in the courts, the administration will first have to seek permission from the court to make changes and under a 2007 Supreme Court decision would be required to issue regulations to replace the plan.

The move however does not address whether the US will remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, an international accord aimed at curbing global warming, which officials said was still under consideration.

US environmental groups expressed concern about the move, with the Union of Concerned Scientists calling it "an all-out attack on our country's policies to address climate change" and said it would be damaging to public health.

Industry groups however welcomed the move for lifting burdensome regulations.

"The clean power plan and the [coal leasing] moratorium served the interests of political activists, not the American people," Hal Quinn, head of the National Mining Association, said in a statement.

"The president's actions today help to restore common sense priorities and the important balance between costs and benefits that have been missing from federal regulatory policies."

Michael Gerrard of the Columbia Law School's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law characterized the move as part of a broader effort by Trump's administration to tout fossil fuels at the expense of climate change science.

"This is all driven by denial of climate change and being as friendly to the fossil fuel industry as possible," he said. "It is rejecting science and sound economics."

By Anne K Walters, dpa

Copyright dpa

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