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By Rachel Leven
Expect President Donald Trump to follow through on most of the more than three dozen campaign promises he made related to energy and environment policy, said a former top adviser on Trump’s transition team.
Trump’s promises from the campaign trail include backing out of a blockbuster international climate agreement and gutting several major Obama-era actions of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Myron Ebell, who oversaw the transition to the new administration’s EPA.
Following through on several promises related to the EPA wouldn’t need congressional approval and could be carried out by a much leaner agency, Ebell said, encouraging Trump to decrease the size and budget of the EPA.
“We didn’t spend a lot of time looking at how the administration could approach Congress and ask for legislation,” Ebell told reporters at a Society of Environmental Journalists event Feb. 4. “If you want to have inaction in recent years, particularly on energy and environment policy, you go to Congress.”
Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, emphasized that he couldn’t speak on behalf of the new administration. However, he helped prepare a roughly 75-page action plan for the EPA and has had the ear of Trump on energy and environment issues.
Ebell lauded Trump’s commitment to complete his campaign promises, such as getting the U.S. out of the United Nation’s global climate change agreement reached in late 2015 in Paris, and repealing the so-called waters of the U.S. rule, which is meant to clarify the definition of protected wetlands. Also among the priority actions is rolling back the Obama administration’s signature Clean Power Plan to restrict carbon emissions from power plants, he said.
Ebell said the president would attempt to complete all 42 of his promises in this area as quickly as possible. He estimated that Trump would complete approximately 30 of those pledges over the next four years.
Trump has already signed an executive order, for example, to advance the Keystone XL pipeline from the Canadian oil sands through the U.S., an expansion that was stopped by President Barack Obama, and which Trump discussed numerous times on the campaign trail.
Abolishing the EPA isn’t among Trump’s energy and environment-related campaign “promises"—as counted by transition officials—Ebell said, although the president did say he would like to eliminate the agency.
Ebell also said that should Trump determine any of his campaign promises were wrong, he wouldn’t necessarily be tied to them going forward.
Ebell said he personally hopes the EPA will be significantly smaller than its existing body—smaller by 50 to 67 percent of its budget.
Environmental pollution directly affecting public health has been “dramatically improved” since the EPA came into being and states have taken on a major role in those efforts, Ebell said.
“We need to look to cut federal spending and federal programs,” Ebell said. “It seems to me that agencies that have largely succeeded in their mission and largely devolved all of their work to other agencies at the state-level should be prime candidates for budget cuts.”
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