Take Two

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Trump's climate policy order challenges California's clean-air efforts

by Take Two

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Surrounded by miners from Rosebud Mining, President Donald Trump signs the Energy Independence Executive Order at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, DC, on March 28, 2017. Trump claimed an end to the "war on coal" as he moved to roll back climate protections enacted by President Obama. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Declaring "the start of a new era" in energy production, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that he claimed would revive the coal industry and create jobs.

The move makes good on his campaign pledge to unravel former President Barack Obama's plan to curb global warming — the Clean Power Plan. The order seeks to suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

Environmental activists denounced the plan. But Trump said the effort would allow workers to "succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time."

According to an Energy Department analysis released in January, coal mining now accounts for fewer than 75,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.

California has set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gases, and made progress toward them. So, what will the impact of these changes be on the Golden State?

In a statement released shortly after Trump signed the order, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said:

“The administration is taking clear steps to undermine not only the federal government's commitment to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, but also U.S. leadership on public health and growing the clean energy economy. ... No matter what happens in Washington, we will work to meet our Sustainable City pLAn goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, move toward zero emissions transportation, and pursue our vision of a 100 percent clean energy future."

On KPCC's Take Two, host A Martinez spoke to UCLA environmental lawyer Cara Horowitz, who broke it all down.

Interview Highlights

This new order exercises two different kinds of power:

"First, it undoes some of the climate orders that President Obama had enacted by executive order. For example, it undoes a coal leasing moratorium on federal lands. It undoes an executive order that had told agencies to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and to help communities become more resilient to climate impacts.

And then there's a second category of things the executive order does. It directs the federal Environmental Protection Agency to begin a process of backtracking from some of the more formal rules that President Obama's administration had put into effect on climate. 

For example, backtracking off the Clean Power Plan, which was the rule reducing emissions from existing power plants."

What kinds of legal roadblocks are likely as the administration tries to enforce these types of policies?

"Undoing EPA rules, it turns out, it takes time and resources and it's really complicated. So let's take the Clean Power Plan, for example. It was enacted after years of public comment. There was a draft rule issued. There were hearings and notices and then there was a final rule issued, and that final rule is in litigation before the [federal] D.C. circuit [court] right now.

And EPA will have to go through that same process if it wants to undo the Clean Power Plan. So, it has to issue a notice that it wants to undo the plan, and then a proposed rule and then some drafts and take public comment. And that new rule will be subject to litigation, almost certainly.

States like California and environmental organizations will take EPA to court and say, "Look, EPA can't undo this rule just based on a political whim, it needs a strong administrative record justifying why it's changing its mind after spending so much time and energy justifying the first rule, you know, in the first place.

That's all litigation to come and it's really unclear how it will be resolved."

Associated Press contributed to this story.

To hear the full segment, click the blue play button above.

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