Brad Plumer · Monday, March 27, 2017, 11:45 pm
This is it. The battle over the future of US climate policy kicks off in earnest Tuesday.
In a sweeping new executive order, President Trump will order his Cabinet to start demolishing a wide array of Obama-era policies on global warming — including emissions rules for power plants, limits on methane leaks, a moratorium on federal coal leasing, and the use of the social cost of carbon to guide government actions.
Everyone knew this was coming: Trump has said repeatedly that he wants to repeal US climate regulations and unshackle the fossil fuel industry. But Tuesday’s order is only a first step. Trump’s administration will now spend years trying to rewrite rules and fend off legal challenges from environmentalists. It’s not clear they’ll always prevail: Some of President Obama’s climate policies may prove harder to uproot than thought.
Trump’s order, meanwhile, doesn’t say anything about whether he wants the US to stay in or withdraw from the Paris climate deal, the key international treaty on global warming. While Trump vowed to pull out of the accord during the campaign, some of his advisers, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have reportedly warned that he’d face immense diplomatic backlash if he did so. A White House official said that’s “still under discussion.”
The order also doesn’t challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s fundamental authority to regulate greenhouse gases via the so-called “endangerment finding,” a power that Obama used to craft his climate policies after early attempts to pass legislation failed. That’s important: If the EPA’s regulatory authority survives the Trump era, then a future president could use it to write new rules to curb US emissions. That’s what happens when climate policy is crafted through the executive branch, as it currently is in the United States — things can change drastically with a new president.