President Donald Trump’s ongoing efforts to eliminate or reverse his predecessor’s efforts to combat climate change is driving the issue to a new arena: the state level.
Trump is being cheered by industry groups and condemned by scientists, environmentalists, and health advocates for recent executive orders aimed at dismantling the Clean Power Plan, which limits the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that electric power plants in the U.S. can emit.
Trump’s directives also seek to do away with the requirement that federal officials must consider the impact of climate change in the decision-making process.
“We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country,” said the president, as he signed the executive order at the EPA, surrounded by coal miners and coal company executives.
"You're going back to work"
“Come on, fellas. Basically, you know what this is?” Trump said to miners. “You know what it says, right? You’re going back to work.”
Trump had promised during his campaign to restore jobs in the coal industry – something experts say is unlikely to be accomplished through regulatory rollbacks, because the industry’s decline is largely due to the increase in cheap, readily available natural gas.
American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard called President Trump’s “Energy Independence” executive order “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.”
As federal regulations intended to limit climate change vanish, states are stepping into the regulatory void with actions of their own.
Clean energy, tough auto emissions
Illinois in December passed the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, which will result in investments in solar energy in the state. Solar energy jobs in the state increased 6.7 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Washington State used its Clean Energy Fund to help underwrite a massive battery project that will integrate solar and wind power into the state’s energy grid.
Michigan and Iowa are increasing incentives to help grow renewable energy industries.
In defiance of President Trump’s vow to ease gas mileage rules for U.S. automakers, the California Resources Board voted unanimously at a meeting in Riverside to continue with the standards for 2022 to 2025. The board went even further – approving policies aimed at further reducing vehicle greenhouse gas emissions in the state, at least in part by having four million+ zero emission cars on California roads by 2030.
Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan is expected to sign a statewide ban on fracking, which environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) say emits air pollution that poses health threats.
"A colossal mistake"
And at least one state, California, has indicated a willingness to mount a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s razing of climate change regulations.
“Gutting the Clean Power Plan is a colossal mistake and defies science itself,” said Gov. Jerry Brown (D). “Erasing climate change may take place in Donald Trump’s mind, but nowhere else.”