So it happened. No big surprise. There stood “45,” as many people are now referring to him rather than utter his name, surrounded by fossil fuel execs and coal miners. This latest executive order directed the EPA to start withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan put in place by President Obama. “C’mon fellas,” Trump grinned at the miners, “you know what this is? You know what this says? You’re going back to work!”
Well, fat chance of that, for starters. Even coal exec Robert Murray, a big Trump fan, says it’s not likely his industry’s share of the energy market is ever again going to increase. Over 50 coal companies have gone bankrupt in recent years. Coal provided more than 50 percent of America’s electricity back in 2008; today our dirtiest fuel contributes around 30 percent. “I suggested that he temper his expectations,” Murray says he told Trump recently. “He can’t bring them [the mining jobs] back.”
An even bigger “ooops” occurred after Trump’s announcement. The EPA issued a press release which, toward the top, had a most interesting quote: “With this executive order, President Trump has chosen to recklessly bury his head in the sand. Walking away from the Clean Power Plan and other climate initiatives, including critical resiliency projects is not just irresponsible – it’s irrational. Today’s executive order calls into question America’s credibility and our commitment to tackling the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime. With the world watching, President and Administrator [Scott] Pruitt have chosen to shirk our responsibility, disregard clear science, and undo the significant progress our country has made to ensure we leave a better, more sustainable planet for generations to come.”
Which is all true, of course. The quote was attributed to Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito. But actually, it came from Democratic Senator Tom Carper and got “mistakenly sent” out and “wrongly attributed” in an internal draft, according to a befuddled EPA spokesman. So a revised press release went out quoting the “right stuff” from Captain Capito, who said: “Stopping this disastrous plan will preserve America’s coal industry, expand our manufacturing renaissance that is reliant upon affordable energy, and protect American families from unprecedented hikes in their electric bills.”
Excuse my French, but bull—-!! Makes you wonder, though – did somebody inside EPA make this little mistake on purpose, God bless ’em. Will we soon learn the identity of the leaker – I mean, the alt-fact correcter, or…..I guess we’ll just have to see whether things go from Trump “burying his head in the sand” to “off with his head!”
Then another “ooops” moment followed. Trump’s executive order is intended to scuttle the American commitment to substantially reduce carbon emissions that was forged by almost 200 nations, and which Obama’s Clean Power Plan was meant to do. However, in a letter written on March 22 to the president’s special assistant for international energy and the environment, the Paris agreement is described as “an effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change.” And guess who wrote that letter? Exxon’s manager for environmental policy, Peter Trelenberg, who went on to add: “We welcomed the Paris Agreement when it was announced in December 2015 and again when it came into force in November 2016.”
Whoaaaa! Exxon is saying that?! And their just-retired CEO, Rex Tillerson, is Trump’s Secretary of State? As Bernie Sanders pointed out, “How crazy could it be that the largest oil company in this country understands more [about climate change] than the president of the United States?” Sanders went on to note in a TV appearance that corporate investments in solar energy are rising steadily, and that General Motors, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Whole Foods have all committed to achieving 100 percent renewable power.
Nor will it be easy for Trump and his EPA lackey Pruitt to dump the existing regulations. “With regard to rules and standards….that the Obama administration has already put in place under the Clean Air Act, those can’t be undone by an executive order,” according to the Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel, Joanne Spalding.
It turns out that a law passed in 1946 forces our courts to “hold unlawful and set aside any agency action, findings and conclusions” found to be “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” No wonder the new administration would just as soon expel the existing science from all its government websites. (A supervisor of the Department of Energy’s international climate office just told staff not to use phrases like “climate change” or “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement” in briefings or written communications). As attorney David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council says in a blog post: “Administrator Pruitt can tear down these regulations only using the same process it took to build them….We will use all the tools at our disposal to protect the current climate safeguards at every step of this process.”
See you in court, Donald and Scott, because there are plenty of other legal precedents for the environmental organization’s to cite. And on any proposed rule change, by law there must be an opportunity for public comment and public hearings. This column will keep readers apprised as the litigation marches on. Time to make our voices heard!