President Trump yesterday began dismantling former President Obama’s efforts to combat climate change, starting with a move to have the EPA formally begin the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan, which calls for a 32 percent cut in the energy industry’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

“I am taking an historic step to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations,” said Trump as he signed the executive order at the EPA, surrounded by coal miners and politicians – but not by EPA employees, who have been openly critical of Trump’s characterization of climate change as a “hoax” and his goal of reversing EPA efforts to reduce or reverse it.

During the signing ceremony, Trump recalled one of his campaign promises, made to coal miners; “We will put our miners back to work.”

The coal industry and energy independence

That claim is being challenged by some experts, who say that the coal industry’s downturn in recent years is due to the rise in cheaper, more plentiful natural gas.

“We’ve seen coal production and coal employment in decline for many years now, driven by market forces. And those factors will still be there,” said Jason Bordoff, director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

Bordoff said the U.S. already has considerable energy independence – with an increase in oil production in the last eight years allowing it to significantly reduce its reliance on imported oil.

“Regulation did not stand in the way of a dramatic surge in U.S. oil production,” said Bordoff.

Environmentalists reactions

Environmental groups and Democrats were outraged by the order, which also starts the process of repealing the EPA’s carbon limits for newly built power plants and methane emissions standards for oil and natural gas drilling; halts a moratorium on new coal-mining leases on federal land; and takes climate change considerations out of environmental reviews that previously calculated the “social cost of carbon.”  

“This is an all-out assault on the protections we need to avert climate catastrophe,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s a senseless betrayal of our national interests. And it’s a short-sighted attempt to undermine American clean energy leadership.”

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said Trump’s action serves to “boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires” at the expense of clean energy jobs,” which are getting “more affordable and accessible by the day.”

Industry reactions

The fossil fuel industry expressed approval of the order.

“Today’s action by President Trump is an important step toward increasing American competitiveness and recognizing that our industry is part of the solution to advancing U.S. economic and national security goals,” said American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the EPA power plant regulations passed under Obama “a bad deal for American families” and hailed Trump’s order as a positive move.

“These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration’s strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy,” said Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue in a statement.