Four Things Donald Trump Could Do to Reverse Obama’s Climate Agenda

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has picked up his discussion of energy and environment issues on the campaign trail, including at a Sept. 22 speech in Pittsburgh. Trump’s major environmental proposal is to scrap key Obama administration regulations, including the Clean Power Plan and other actions taken under Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

Over the last week, Bloomberg BNA looked into what a potential Trump administration could do to reverse course on Obama-era environmental policies. Here are four ways a President Donald J. Trump could act on that.

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1.  Rescind Obama’s rules: As president, Trump would have the authority to order his EPA to rescind environmental rules like the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. regulation. However, there’s a catch: it would take a lot of time. 

Susan Dudley, who served as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget, told me that Trump wouldn’t be able to repeal the rules “with the stroke of a pen” like he could with executive orders issued by his predecessors. Instead, the Trump administration would have to go through a full rulemaking process, which would take more than a year and be open to legal challenges by environmental advocacy organizations.

2. Trump’s Justice Department: Litigation over major Obama-era environmental rules will stretch into the next administration. If elected, Trump’s Justice Department would likely offer a less vigorous defense of those rules than a potential Hillary Clinton’ administration would. In addition, Trump could shift Justice Department resources away from defense of Obama environmental rules toward other priorities. There’s no guarantee of success with this tactic: Obama’s EPA was no fan of the 2008 ozone standards issued at the tail end of the Bush administration, with his EPA administrator telling Congress that the regulation was “not legally defensible.” A federal appeals court upheld the standards anyway.


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3. Halt Implementation and Enforcement: The most direct way Trump would reverse course on Obama-era rules would be to simply order his EPA to halt implementation and enforcement of those rules. While that would likely trigger lawsuits, it would take time for courts to step in. In the meantime, the Trump administration would be able to at the very least successfully delay Obama’s environmental agenda.

4. Pull Out of the Paris Climate Agreement: Trump has pledged to either “renegotiate” or “cancel” the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, in which the U.S. pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. Our Eric Lyman reports that Trump’s ability to pull the U.S. out of the Paris deal will depend on whether the agreement becomes international law before he is elected. Check out Eric’s story: Could Trump Withdraw U.S. Support for Paris Climate Pact?