Decoding President Trump’s Climate Destruction Plan

This paper shows how the White House “fact sheet” on the Executive Order on climate conflicts with reality. The text in black and the bullet points in the left column are the verbatim language from the White House sheet. NRDC’s comments on each White House claim follow the word “REALITY”. 

President Trump’s Energy Independence Policy

“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.”

—Donald J. Trump

REALITY: This isn’t about “energy independence.” According to recent analysis from the Energy Information Administration, net energy imports (as a percent of energy consumption) are currently at some of the lowest levels in over 40 years. And in any event, the Executive Order focuses on electricity generation, which uses almost no oil, the one fuel the U.S. imports in significant quantity. The Executive Order is an effort to block just about all federal efforts to address climate change—something the Administration apparently doesn’t want to highlight, perhaps because they know it would be politically unpopular. Between this Order and the budget, the Administration is proposing to stop efforts to limit climate change, to enable communities to respond to climate change and even to measure and understand climate change. Remarkably, the Administration does not want to discuss this action as an erasure of climate policy. You don’t have to be an environmentalist to be concerned with this complete abandonment of climate action, even activity to help communities prepare for its impacts.

MUCH NEEDED REFORM: The past Administration burdened Americans with costly regulations that harmed American jobs and energy production.

The previous Administration’s Clean Power Plan could cost up to $39 billion a year and increase electricity prices in 41 States by at least ten percent, according to NERA Economic Consulting.

REALITY: The NERA report grossly overstates the costs of the Clean Power Plan through faulty and misleading accounting and outdated cost assumptions. If NERA had used proper accounting and the latest cost data for clean energy, they would have found the energy sector can save money under the Clean Power Plan. See here for more details.

The Clean Power Plan would cause coal production to fall by 242 million tons, according to the National Mining Association.

REALITY: Basic economic forces are responsible for the decline in U.S. coal generation (and consumption) in recent years, and jobs in the industry have been declining for decades in part due to increasing automation in the industry. Energy markets have been moving away from coal toward solar, wind, and other lower-carbon electricity sources. Workers in the coal sector deserve support and a just transition, but repealing environmental safeguards will not change underlying market forces.

27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops, and 3 labor unions are challenging the Clean Power Plan in Federal court

REALITY: 19 states, 10 power companies, 15 public health and environmental groups, and several advanced energy trade associations are supporting the Clean Power Plan in Federal court. Numerous other parties, including former EPA Administrators and officials of both parties, are also supporting the Clean Power Plan in court. One of the states that had challenged the Clean Power Plan, North Carolina, has withdrawn from the suit in recent months.

AMERICAN ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: President Donald J. Trump’s Energy Independence Policy Executive Order reverses the regulations on American jobs and energy production.

President Trump’s Executive Order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend, revise, or rescind four actions related to the Clean Power Plan that would stifle the American energy industry.

REALITY: Like all agency rulemakings, any EPA action to reverse course is legally required to follow the formal administrative process that ensures public input and allows judicial review. Furthermore, multiple Supreme Court decisions permit EPA to take action on greenhouse gases, and EPA is required to act pursuant to the agency’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. The science behind that finding would make it very difficult to reverse.

President Trump’s Executive Order directs the Attorney General to seek appropriate relief from the courts over pending litigation related to the Clean Power Plan.

REALITY: Motions to hold the Clean Power Plan and new source rule in abeyance were filed by the Department of Justice on March 28, and a coalition of intervenors will oppose freezing the cases next week and will file briefs with the court soon.

President Trump’s Executive Order rescinds Executive and Agency actions centered on the previous administration’s climate change agenda that have acted as a road block to energy independence.

REALITY: Clean energy is one of the fast-growing sectors of the U.S. economy and already employs more Americans than the fossil fuel industry; ending these policies will introduce new uncertainties to a vibrant sector of the economy. At its heart, by ending these orders and guidance Trump is attempting to limit the ability of agencies to understand the threats of climate change and the climate impacts of the actions they take. This is about pretending climate change doesn’t exist. This can only make the public more vulnerable to severe weather and other climate impacts.

President Trump’s Executive Order lifts the ban on Federal leasing for coal production.

REALITY: In lifting the moratorium President Trump derailed an effort to overhaul a broken coal leasing program that’s short-changed taxpayers more than $30 billion.

President Trump’s Executive Order lifts job-killing restrictions on the production of oil, natural gas, and shale energy.

REALITY: President Trump is attempting to end protections against bad actors responsible for leaking and abandoned oil and gas operations in wildlife refuges, common sense limits on wasteful venting, flaring, and leaking of natural gas that will save taxpayers money, and long overdue standards for low-cost, readily available controls for methane pollution.

President Trump’s Executive Order directs all agencies to conduct a review of existing actions that harm domestic energy production and suspend, revise, or rescind actions that are not mandated by law. Within 180 days, agencies must finalize their plans.

REALITY: This places coal, oil and gas production above all other national goals, including conservation of public lands. 

President Trump’ Executive Order directs agencies to use the best available science and economics in regulatory analysis, which was not utilized by the previous administration.

REALITY: Federal appeals courts have already held that these assessments of the benefits from reducing carbon pollution were developed using reasonable methodologies, and the National Academy of Sciences recently reaffirmed that the IWG’s estimates reflect the best available science and economics.

It disbands the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases.

REALITY: Another signal that the Trump administration rejects sound climate science and economics.

By revisiting the federal overreach on energy regulation, President Trump is returning power to the states—where it belongs.

REALITY: Climate change is a quintessential example of pollution that does not respect state lines. By ceding national leadership on the issue, President Trump is bringing risks to all Americans in every state, regardless of whether their state decides to act on climate.

FREEING AMERICA’S POTENTIAL: President Trump has worked tirelessly to free American industry and ingenuity from the constraints of Government overreach.

President Trump has signed four pieces of legislation to clear burdensome and costly regulations on energy production from the previous Administration.

REALITY: The rollbacks are special-interest payoffs to big oil, gas, and coal that hurt real communities and encourage corruption.

President Trump has required that for every new Federal regulation, two existing regulations be eliminated.

REALITY: NRDC and partners have sued to block this Executive Order, which unconstitutionally directs agencies to violate the Administrative Procedure Act and numerous other laws that lay out a judicious process for rulemaking. The Executive Order ignores the benefits of rules, which are the entire reason they are put in place.

President Trump has directed each agency to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force to identify costly and unnecessary regulations in need of modification or repeal.

REALITY: Every recent President has undertaken efforts to find legitimately obsolete regulations. The unique aspect of Trump’s approach is its focus on deconstructing public safeguards.

President Trump has directed the Department of Commerce to streamline Federal permitting processes for domestic manufacturing and to reduce regulatory burdens on domestic manufacturers.

REALITY: This is another effort that minimizes the benefits of rules to safeguard the public and is geared to an approach that considers only industry’s concerns.

President Trump signed legislation, House Joint Resolution 38, to prevent the burdensome “Stream Protection Rule” from causing further harm to the coal industry.

REALITY: Signing this legislation simply freed Big Coal to bury pristine streams beneath toxic waste, pollute drinking water sources, kill fish and wildlife and scar the land.

President Trump ordered the review of the “Clean Water Rule: Definition of Waters of the United States,” known as the WOTUS rule, to evaluate whether it is stifling economic growth or job creation.

REALITY: Gutting this rule would threaten the wetlands and streams that feed the drinking water sources for one in three people—or 117 million Americans.

President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum and gave a Presidential permit to clear roadblocks to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline.

REALITY: The recent approval of the pipeline does not satisfy fundamental legal requirements and still faces major legal, regulatory and economic barriers.

President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum declaring that the Dakota Access Pipeline serves the national interest and initiating the process to complete its construction.

REALITY: Again, Trump’s approval of this pipeline does not satisfy basic legal requirements and still faces resistance.

FULFILLING HIS PROMISE: By taking action on the Clean Power Plan, President Trump is fulfilling his promise to the American people

As a candidate, Mr. Trump promised “we will eliminate… the Clean Power Plan—these unilateral plans will increase monthly electric bills by double-digits without any measurable improvement in the climate.”

REALITY: Trump’s claim about electric bills is merely another reference to the debunked NERA study mentioned above. It also ignores the role the Clean Power Plan and other safeguards under attack play in providing American leadership on addressing the climate crisis globally.

About the Authors

David Doniger

Senior Strategic Director, Climate & Clean Energy program

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