Surrounded by miners at the Environmental Protection Agency, President Donald Trump today signed an executive order that suspends, rescinds or flags for review more than a half-dozen measures that were part of the previous administration’s plan to curb global warming. One of the most controversial measures, of concern to advocates in the Northeast, is a rollback of the Clean Power Plan.
In 2015, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman led a coalition of 25 states and municipalities in a motion to defend the Clean Power Plan, which forces coal fired power plants to cut their emissions pursuant to the Clean Air Act. An injunction has kept the plan on hold while a decision is pending from D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The executive order issued by President Trump would begin the process of dismantling the Plan. Schneiderman says he will “aggressively oppos(e) in court President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change.” “Given the case law and various Supreme Court decisions we are very confident that the EPA cannot simply dismantle the Clean Power Plan and leave nothing in its place. It has to have regulations in place on greenhouse gasses and one way or the other we’re going to ensure that that happens and that they meet all applicable standards. So we regret the fact that the president is trying to dial back history but it’s not going to happen.”
Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan believes the executive order will hurt the environment and economy of the Adirondacks. “The Adirondacks would be hurt by increased carbon emissions that don’t get controlled and by an increase in acid rain that would surely come with any relaxation of the carbon regulations.”
Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth says the executive order gives a free pass to the major sources of CO2 in the Midwest that are sending their pollutants east. “New York and New England states cannot stop the flow of air pollution from the Midwest. So this takes away a powerful tool that the Northeastern states had to insure that we basically stopped those air pollutants and moved to a cleaner future.”
On the House floor Tuesday, Vermont Democrat Peter Welch vilified the executive order, saying the president is relying on false science and false economics. “Some of the best minds of the 18th Century apparently are advising President Trump on science matters. This planet is melting. We’ve had the worst wild weather in centuries. The three hottest years on record. Let’s not deny what’s before our very eyes.”
The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council is a utility advocacy group. Spokesman Frank Maisano notes that plants haven’t changed operations to conform to the Clean Power Plan because it never went into effect. He sees the order as a way to curb overaggressive moves by the Obama administration. “Clearly what this executive order does is rollback the regulatory overreach that the precious administration had seen as their only path to achieving gains on these environmental issues. They didn’t have access through legislation through Congress, which is where really this process belongs.”
President Trump has called climate change a hoax and criticized the Clean Power Plan as an attack on American workers and the U.S. coal industry.