Trump’s executive order emphasizes energy more than environment

US President Donald J. Trump signed a much-anticipated executive order that was directed more at energy than environmental regulation. While it calls for a reevaluation of former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was designed to aggressively reduce carbon emissions, Trump said his Mar. 28 order also will lift the federal coal leasing ban Obama’s administration imposed; “lift the job-killing restrictions on the production of coal, oil, and gas”; and return regulatory power to states.

US President Donald J. Trump signed a much-anticipated executive order that was directed more at energy than environmental regulation. While it calls for a reevaluation of former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was designed to aggressively reduce carbon emissions, Trump said his Mar. 28 order also will lift the federal coal leasing ban Obama’s administration imposed; “lift the job-killing restrictions on the production of coal, oil, and gas”; and return regulatory power to states.

“With today’s executive action, I’m taking steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations—not only in this industry, but in every industry,” Trump declared in an address at the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters before the signing ceremony.

“We’re doing them by the thousands. And we’re going to have safety. We’re going to have clean water. We’re going to have clean air,” Trump said. “But so many [regulations] are unnecessary, and so many are job-killing. We’re getting rid of as many of those as we can. One after another, we are keeping our promises and putting power back into the hands of the people.”

At the US Department of the Interior, the executive order calls on Secretary Ryan Zinke to review three final rules DOI issued regarding oil and gas production on both federal and private land and the US Outer Continental Shelf as well as the US Bureau of Land Management’s 2016 federal coal-leasing moratorium. BLM’s final rules on methane emissions and hydraulic fracturing on onshore federal and American Indian lands also will be under review.

“Our nation can’t run on pixie dust and hope. The last 8 years showed that. The hallmark of a great president is one who takes decisive action. That’s exactly what our president has done,” Zinke said in remarks before the signing ceremony. “Energy independence is necessary for a better environment because it’s better to produce it here under regulation than in other countries where there’s none. It’s better for American jobs. And it’s better for security, not just for ourselves but for our allies.”

Actions at EPA

The order also requires EPA to review, and if appropriate suspend, revise, or rescind its final rule on methane emissions from new or modified oil and gas sources as well as final rules on carbon emissions from new or modified power plants and from existing power plants.

“By his signature today, the president is rejecting the narrative that this country cannot be both pro-energy and pro-environment,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said at the signing event. “We have done that throughout our history. We can actually achieve good jobs, good growth, and pro-energy policies at the same time we protect our environment.”

Pruitt said Trump’s order “also sets a pathway forward on a journey to say we’re no longer going to have regulatory assault on any given sector of our economy.” He said, “That’s going to end by the signing of this executive order. We’re not going to allow regulations here at EPA to pick winners and losers.”

Pruitt added, “Finally, we’re going to play within the rules. EPA should pass rules that are in the framework that Congress established.”

Also at the signing, Sec. of Energy Rick Perry said, “This executive order is a rejection of the belief that the path forward on energy is through additional federal regulations. Mr. President, you understand that the path forward is through American ingenuity and entrepreneurship.”

Focus on innovation, opportunities

Perry said in his first few weeks in charge of the US Department of Energy, he has met with a wide variety of energy stakeholders who have shown him a tremendous focus on increased innovation and exploring new opportunities.

“But I’ve also seen the down-side of poorly designed government policies that have resulted in distorted markets and a weakening of the American energy portfolio,” Perry said. “We’ve seen our power grid reliability tested because our fuel diversity has been diminished in order to benefit one technology over another. We’ve seen where the regulatory review process has been gummed up to the point that investors look everywhere else for opportunities.”

Perry added, “How we use our resources for our benefit and for the world’s benefit is the decision and opportunity before us. The executive order will begin the process that begins to unravel the red tape that’s keeping investment on the sidelines and innovation stymied.”

Also on hand, Vice-President Michael R. Pence said, “Everyone here knows the truth: Affordable, reliable energy powers the American economy. President Trump is committed to an all-of-the-above energy policy that gives the American people and American businesses the power to innovate and to thrive.”

The executive order also will rescind the Council on Environmental Quality’s Aug. 1, 2015, National Environmental Policy Act guidance document for federal agencies relating to greenhouse gases, the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases and other technical and supporting documents, and the Nov. 3, 2015, presidential memorandum on mitigation of impacts from development of natural resources.

Industries react positively

Officials from oil and gas trade associations and other business groups reacted positively to Trump’s executive order.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America supports the direction the new executive order signals, including the rescission of 2016 CEQ guidance relative to NEPA reviews, INGAA Pres. Donald F. Santa said. “This executive order returns agency NEPA guidance to long-established precedent. There appears to be some misinterpretation of the impacts of this executive order as it relates to the repeal of the Obama-era climate guidance for application of NEPA,” he noted. “INGAA is reviewing this executive order. In general, we agree with the purpose of provisions to develop domestic energy supplies and build the infrastructure to fully utilize these resources.”

Natural Gas Supply Association Pres. Dena Wiggins said, “We applaud the administration for reversing the CEQ’s guidance, which attempted to broaden the way federal agencies interpreted NEPA in a way that did not serve the act’s goals or purpose. The existing NEPA project review process is already stringent, extensive, and thorough. By attempting to include unquantifiable and speculative upstream impacts in an expanded guidance, CEQ risked hindering development of the very infrastructure that has enabled natural gas to reduce emissions.”

National Association of Manufacturers Pres. Jay Timmons said, “President Trump just delivered a decisive win for every American who wants to see more manufacturing jobs in our country and true energy security. For years, Washington has sold a false choice to the American people: choose the environment or jobs. That false choice today gives way to a ‘show-and-tell’ story—about our ability to protect the environment and create jobs simultaneously—that manufacturers are eager to lead.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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