A memo obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy outlining Donald Trump’s energy agenda for when he takes Office next January has revealed the full extent to which Donald Trump is going to lay waste to America’s climate record and clean energy industry.
The memo, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, was written by Thomas Pyle, head of the Department of Energy transition team for President-Elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration. It lists 14 key energy and environment policies (listed in full below) the incoming administration is planning to enact. According to Mr Pyle, “After eight years of the Obama administration’s divisive energy and environmental policies, the American people have voted for a change — a big change.” As such, Mr Pyle explains that “We expect the Trump administration will adopt pro-energy and pro-market policies.”
Highlighted as key aspects of President-Elect Trump’s energy agenda is the promise “to hit reset on the most harmful parts of the Obama climate agenda, including the Paris Agreement and the so-called “Clean Power Plan”.” Mr Pyle’s memo takes to task all the environmental and pro-clean energy policies of the previous eight years, including the recently-defeated carbon tax ballot initiative in Washington State, adding that “we must remain vigilant to ensure it doesn’t rear its head again.”
Mr Pyle also comments on incoming Cabinet positions, suggesting that this memo was written prior to several of the most recent appointments made, including this week’s appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA. Mr Pyle writes that “we are confident that the Trump administration will nominate candidates who embrace free-market ideals and who are dedicated to hitting reset on the Obama administration’s harmful policies.”
Throughout, Mr Pyle speaks of the work that must be done by the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and the American Energy Alliance (AEA), of which Pyle is the president of both — organizations which list among their major donors companies like ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Koch Industries. Mr Pyle was himself a top lobbyist for Koch Industries between 2001 and 2004. “The opportunity that lies before us means that IER and AE’s mission is as important as ever,” Mr Pyle writes. “It is incumbent upon us to continue to fight for policies that take power out of Washington and restore it back to the states and the people” — places where, presumably, Mr Pyle believes the fossil fuel powers-that-be will be able to regain control.
Coupled with recent cabinet appointees, including the aforementioned Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA (read more on why that particular choice bodes ill here), this transition memo is dire news for America’s climate and clean energy industry. Donald Trump’s White House Administration appears to be taking aim at environmental policies that are vital, not only at a national level, but also at a global level, to curb greenhouse gas emissions and support the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
The Trump Administration’s Energy Plan
The Trump administration’s energy plan and statements on the campaign trail indicate that they will likely focus on the following policies:
- Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is in deep trouble. President-elect Trump has promised to cancel the agreement and stop spending taxpayer dollars on wasteful U.N. climate programs. Even if the Trump administration does nothing, this means there will be massive defections from the agreement. Any prior commitments to emissions reductions or taxpayer funding for the Green Climate Fund should be seen as null at this point.
- Increasing federal oil and natural gas leasing. Less than 3 percent of federal offshore areas are currently leased for energy development. In particular, this will increase in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea and the mid and south Atlantic. Onshore, there will be more leasing, especially in places like the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and on federal lands in the west.
- Lifting the coal lease moratorium. The Obama administration’s coal leasing moratorium on federal lands—a part of their “keep it in the ground” strategy—will likely be terminated and royalty rates will likely be kept at current levels.
- Giving the states greater say on energy leases on federal lands within their borders. Here’s what the Trump campaign wrote in response to the American Energy Alliance’s Presidential candidate questionnaire:
- “The federal government does have stewardship of millions of acres of land. Rather than selling the land to states and private enterprises, the first step should be establishing a shared governance structure with the states. This first step would allow for maintaining the aesthetics of the land while finding ways to gain revenue that would benefit both the federal and state governments.”
- Expediting approvals of LNG export terminals. The Obama administration has slow-walked the review of LNG export terminals. Under the Trump administration, approvals will be expedited.
- Hitting reset on the Clean Power Plan. This regulatory rule is currently before the D.C. Circuit Court. Even if the regulation is upheld, the Trump administration will issue a new regulation withdrawing the Clean Power Plan. Also, the seldom-talked about regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants will also be withdrawn.
- Reconsidering the “endangerment finding.” In response to Massachusetts v. EPA, the Obama administration found that greenhouse gas emissions harmed human health and welfare. This is the regulatory predicate to the Obama administration’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandates and Clean Power Plan and greatly expanded EPA’s power. This finding will be reconsidered and possibly revoked, marking a major blow to underpinning for many climate regulations.
- Moving forward with pipeline infrastructure. The Obama administration slow-walked the Keystone XL pipeline, making it a political issue, and has done the same with the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The Trump administration will likely work to streamline and expedite pipeline permitting.
- Taking a closer look at the environmental impacts of wind energy. Trump has been concerned about the harms to wildlife from wind turbines such as bird and bat deaths. Unlike before, wind energy will rightfully face increasing scrutiny from the federal government.
- Reducing energy subsidies. Here’s what the Trump campaign wrote in response to the Presidential candidate questionnaire from the American Energy Alliance:
- “This is an issue for Congress and the people they represent. Subsidies distort markets and should be used only when national security is at stake. Eventually, all subsidies should end so that the demand for energy will set prices, allow consumers access to the best values and encourage all facets of the energy industry to do all they can to keep their particular source competitive.”
- Amending the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Trump has expressed support of the RFS as a way to increase domestic energy production. The RFS will be amended to reduce EPA’s discretionary authority to set the biofuel levels, especially after 2022.
- Hitting reset on the Obama administration’s unconstitutional definition of “Waters of the United States”. This rule is currently in the courts. The Trump administration could revise the regulation to work cooperatively with the states. An expansive definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act tramples on the prerogatives of the states to regulate water.
- Relaxing the federal fuel economy standards. Under the Obama administration’s CAFE standards, light-duty vehicles must achieve 54.5 mpg by 2025. This regulation will be significantly relaxed. It will either be completely withdrawn or revised and phased out to be closer to the current levels of fuel economy.
- Ending the use of the social cost of carbon in federal rulemakings. The Obama administration aggressively used the social cost of carbon (SCC) to help justify their regulations. During the Trump Administration the SCC will likely be reviewed and the latest science brought to bear. If the SCC were subjected to the latest science, it would certainly be much lower than what the Obama administration has been using.