EPA sends draft rollback to White House

Source: Emily Holden, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, June 12, 2017

The Trump administration made its first formal move to roll back Obama-era climate standards for the power sector.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget yesterday received from U.S. EPA a proposed rulemaking for rescinding the Clean Power Plan.

The regulation called on states to write plans to reduce carbon emissions from electricity 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. It was central to U.S. international climate commitments to slash emissions 26 percent by 2025. But even with it, the country would have needed to pursue more cuts, according to studies (Climatewire, June 2).

The rulemaking to rescind the Clean Power Plan focuses on the Trump administration’s reasoning that it is illegal, according to an official with knowledge of the process, as E&E News reported last month (Climatewire, May 25).

Environmental advocates have vowed to fight the effort at every turn.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has said he doesn’t know whether the agency will try to replace the rule with less stringent standards (E&E News PM, May 24). Doing so might position EPA better against legal challenges from environmental groups and green states, but it would also mean conceding that the agency will have to regulate greenhouse gases eventually.

President Trump directed EPA to “review” the rule as part of an executive order he issued in March. The text of the document isn’t yet available, although it is widely expected to revoke the Clean Power Plan.

During interagency review, OMB typically holds meetings with some interested parties before tweaking and publishing the draft rule in the Federal Register. That could take weeks or months.

The Clean Power Plan is also undergoing court review. The Supreme Court put the climate standards on hold pending court review in February 2016. Since then, states and companies haven’t needed to ready their plans.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in September. After Trump was elected, government lawyers told D.C. Circuit judges that they are reconsidering the Clean Power Plan, so the court temporarily froze the case and is now considering whether to keep proceedings on hold or close the case entirely.

In the meantime, the Trump administration must give judges monthly updates on efforts to revise or rescind the regulation (Climatewire, May 31).

Reporters Ellen M. Gilmer and Amanda Reilly contributed.