In what is a further rebuke of the previous administration, President Trump is expected to sign executive orders to curb the environmental work of his Environmental Protection Agency. The orders will be signed shortly after his nominee — Scott Pruitt — to be the agency’s administrator is confirmed by the US Senate.
Inside EPA reported this week that a source told it the impact would “suck the air out of the room.”
A bigger question, though, to what effect this would have on American industry. The answer, it would appear, is hardly any at all. That’s because 365 businesses have already written the president and implored to stay on track to help the country meets its climate obligations under the Paris accord.
The businesses include General Mills, Loreal, Nike, HP and Kellogg.
At the same time, no American utility has any plans to build any coal-fired units, although Trump’s policy may permit some of them to keep older plants going for a bit longer.
Trump has said he opposes the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions by 32% by 2030 and the Paris climate accord, which is non binding but seeks to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius by mid century.
To that end, the country is well on its way to achieving its climate goals set under the Obama administration by simply changing out its coal fleet for one that runs on natural gas. It is unlikely that this will trend will change much.
“Natural gas is very competitive,” says Nicholas Potter, vice president of Commodities at Barclays, at a Bloomberg Intelligence web conference. “There is still room for gas to grow.”
However, if the Clean Power Plan is tossed by the Supreme Court — now tied at 4-4 — it would then have an effect on natural gas markets. Given that natural gas has about half the carbon emissions as does coal, it has become the immediate beneficiary of a national policy to cut carbon emissions.
If the American court system upholds the Clean Power Plan, it will be difficult to wipe it off the books, although the Trump administration could choose not to enforce the law. And if that is the case, plenty of interest groups, and some states such as New York and California, have said they will use the judiciary system to compel such compliance.
As far as the Paris accord goes, the US is required to give notice if it drops out. The country’s new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the US should keep its seat at the table.
In related news, President Trump’s freeze on both hiring and regulations that had been written but not finalized has traumatized the EPA. Catherine McCabe, the acting administrator of the agency, said in a video this week that her team is working with the White House and the Office of Management Budget for guidance on how to proceed.