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Businesses Mixed on Trump Climate Change Executive Order

emissionsIn a move that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt described as a “pro-growth and pro-environment approach for how we do regulations in this country,” President Donald Trump today signed an executive order that aims to undo a slew of Obama administration climate rules.

The “Energy Independence” order tasks the EPA with taking steps to revoke the Clean Power Plan, reverse a ban on coal leasing on federal lands, undo rules that limit methane emissions from oil and gas production, and end the use of the “social cost of carbon,” which requires regulators to weigh the impact of climate change and carbon emissions when making policy and permitting decisions.

As expected, environmental groups and sustainable business advocates immediately denounced the order while pro-growth groups like the National Association of Manufacturers praised the move, tweeting “Today’s Executive Order delivers a decisive win on #regulations.”

The American Petroleum Institute said the order will be an economic boost for US companies.

“Today’s action by President Trump is an important step toward increasing American competitiveness and recognizing that our industry is part of the solution to advancing US economic and national security goals,” said API president and CEO Jack Gerard in a statement. “Smart, common sense and science-based guidance and regulations will help our nation’s energy renaissance continue to provide benefits for American consumers, workers and the environment.

On the other end of the political spectrum, sustainable business advocacy group Ceres took aim at the order’s intent to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to curb carbon emissions from power plants.

Ceres president Mind Lubber called Trump’s action “completely misguided and ignores the irreversible clean energy economy that is already underway, creating good-paying jobs and economic vitality in communities across the country.” In a statement, Lubber cited the more than 365 US companies and investors that publicly supported the Clean Power Plan when it was announced in 2015, as well as the more than 1,000 companies and investors that endorsed the recently released the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA statement.

“Companies and investors from across the country support the Clean Power Plan and other low-carbon policies currently under attack because they are precisely the type of consistent, forward-thinking frameworks the business community wants and needs to invest and grow with confidence and certainty,” Lubber said.

So what does this mean for the private sector? Note a whole lot, said Ali A. Zaidi, an attorney at Morrison & Foerster who served as associate director for natural resources, energy and science under President Obama. Zaidi said the Clean Power Plan fits in with most corporations’ business goals.

“Today, private sector companies choosing to ignore climate change occupy an increasingly shrinking island,” he said. “Instead, most are leaning into the risks and opportunities climate change presents — and finding ways to establish commercial and competitive advantage.”

Zaidi also questioned whether the move to end the Clean Power Plan will be as easy as the Trump administration presumes.

“The administration is reopening debate on policies backed up by a robust record of scientific and economic analysis as well as extensive engagement with stakeholders. To get from here to where administration’s rhetoric would suggest it wants to go will be tough,” he said. “I expect many private sector leaders will fight back against this approach and bring real legal muscle to defend America’s clean energy jobs.”

Attorney James Rubin, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney who previously served in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the US Department of Justice, said corporations can expect a friendlier approach to energy development. And this, in turn, could possibly mean lower energy prices.

“State and industry will likely see a more supportive environment for energy and resource development projects and a significantly diminished federal regulatory role,” Rubin said. “It remains to be seen, however, what kind of effect these actions will ultimately have on a power sector that has moved away from coal in favor of cheaper natural gas and growing renewables.”

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