Trump Pledge Means Cuts Ahead on Environmental Regulation

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By Renee Schoof

Nov. 9 — President-elect Donald Trump is expected to fulfill a key campaign promise to American industries to eliminate a wide range of environmental regulations.

“A critical part of the Rust Belt revolution, as some are now calling it, may have been reaction to the second Obama term, especially regulatory overreach,” said Salo Zelermyer, a partner with the Policy Resolution Group at Bracewell LLP in a webinar about the election Nov. 9. That reaction probably came from manufacturers as well as some traditional Democratic voters, such as some union members, he said.

The Trump transition team has a guide for rolling back regulations in each agency, Zelermyer said. While the Clean Power Plan, which puts the first limits on carbon emissions from power plants, is the top target, the Trump administration also is expected to consider how to eliminate regulations on oil and gas, coal mining, energy efficiency and other areas.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said the coal industry would be a beneficiary of regulatory cuts. Both the Senate and House of Representatives remain under Republican control as a result of the election.

“One of the things I hope the new president, he mentioned this during the campaign, will do is take a look at all of the unilateral actions the president took both through executive orders and regulatory overreach of one kind or another, and the coal industry is a perfect example of that, and see how much he can undo,” McConnell said at a news conference.

Cuts to EPA, Regulations

Trump’s environmental policies sketched out during the campaign included big—though unspecified—funding cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Brent Fewell, a former senior EPA official and founder of the Earth & Water Group, an environmental law firm in Washington D.C., said Trump has “provided strong hints of how he will govern on environmental matters.”

“Regulatory reform no doubt will be a major focus—not a rollback, but common sense reform that balances the economy with environmental protection,” Fewell said.

The Bureau of Land Management’s regulations for hydraulic fracturing, now under judicial review, are another possible target of the Trump administration, attorneys said.

“I think the fracking rules he could just stop that or make them more industry-friendly. Now that he has Congress he can pretty much do whatever he wants if Congress will agree,” Brian Potts, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP in Madison Wis., told Bloomberg BNA.

ClearView Energy Partners LLC, a policy research group, said in a Nov. 9 report that the Trump administration could use executive branch authority to make many changes, including slowing down renewable energy leasing on federal lands and waters, lifting a moratorium on federal coal leasing and revising the 2015 ozone standard.

“We view Trump’s victory as generally positive for fossil energy extraction, midstream infrastructure and downstream processing; generally neutral for renewable fuels, power and storage; negative for electric vehicles; and disruptive for climate policy and international oil company investment in Iran,” ClearView said in a summary.

U-Turn on Climate

Trump also has called for cuts in climate spending that would amount to $100 billion over the next eight years, a figure his campaign said resulted from its estimate of all Obama administration spending, U.S. projected contributions to a global climate fund for poor countries, and Trump’s estimate of savings to the economy if climate polices were reversed.

Environmental groups said they’d work to preserve the environmental regulations of the Obama administration.

“Make no mistake about it, and we’ve been here before…we’ll stop the rollbacks,” Anna Aurilio, D.C. director for Environment America, said in a statement.

And Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said, “We are eager to get right back to work defending President Obama’s tremendous progress in fighting climate change, protecting treasured public lands, and ensuring all communities have access to clean air and water.”

Renewable Energy Future

One area where there might be agreement is on production tax credits for renewable energy, said Scott Segal, a Bracewell attorney and lobbyist who also spoke at his firm’s Nov. 9 webinar.

The tax credits for renewables are popular programs, and Trump has never said he would reject them on ideological, free-market grounds, Segal said.

At the same time, Trump has promised to boost coal, oil and natural gas.

“America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy—some $50 trillion dollars in shale energy, oil reserves and natural gas on federal lands, in addition to hundreds of years of coal energy reserves,” Trump said at the Shale Insight conference, a gathering of natural gas producers in Pittsburgh Sept. 22, promising to “lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.”

The Republican president-elect has said he does not accept the scientific view that human actions—mostly burning fossil fuels—are causing climate change.

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance in Washington, D.C., a group that endorsed Trump, said the Republican president-elect would “shatter the status quo with respect to energy policy.”Trump has promised to reverse policies that unjustly target the use of our natural gas, oil and coal resources because he knows that affordable energy is the lifeblood of a strong economy and is essential to job creation, not just in the energy industry, but throughout the economy,” Pyle told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.Pyle also said Trump likely would consider downsizing the Department of Energy and ending government support for renewable energy development, relying on the market for energy decisions.

With assistance from Amena Saiyid and Andrew Childers

To contact the reporter on this story: Renee Schoof in Washington at rschoof@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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