President Trump is expected to sign another executive order this week that will try and weaken the Clean Power Plan, which is now in the federal courts and which mandates a 32% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
Trump has said that the carbon targets are hurting coal and natural gas developers, which in turn damages the economy and job creation.
The order would essentially tell the federal DC appeals court now deciding the case that the US Justice Department is withdrawing its advocacy of the plan. The administration’s thinking is that the justices would then fail to render a decision and the carbon-cutting plan would become a moot point.
That’s certainly possible, say some legal experts. But it is probably not likely.
The environmental movement along with the states supporting the plan say that they have every intention of stepping up to fill the role that the Justice Department should be playing. Moreover, they say that they have the law on their side.
For now, the biggest trump card held by environmentalists and the supportive states is probably the 2009 Endangerment Finding in which the US Supreme Court Okayed EPA’s right to regulate carbon dioxide as an emission under the Clean Air Act. When challenged, EPA ultimately had to provide its research and methodology to see how it arrived at its conclusion — that carbon is a danger to human health and the environment.
“I think, as a matter of law, that carbon is a pollutant has been settled,” said Christine Todd Whitman, who served as EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, in an interview with E&E News “EPA has to act once you have that kind of a finding.”
At the very least, the latest efforts by the Trump administration will allow some older coal plants to live a bit longer and its most extreme, the Clean Power Plan would either become non-functional or reversed altogether.
Gradually, though, the power of market economics will revitalize the effort. That is, the trend toward lower carbon fuels does not seem to be relenting, led in large part by the corporate world. Indeed, it is the biggest companies that have implored the president to pursue the carbon targets set by the Obama administration. The companies range from Target and Walmart to DuPont and Hewlett Packard.