Trump to tout natural gas as Paris climate deadline looms

Source: By Jean Chemnick and Scott Waldman, E&E News reporters • Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2019

President Trump will travel to a natural gas conference today in western Pennsylvania where he is expected to mention that the United States is entering the final stage of its withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Trump is scheduled to speak at the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh, near one of the nation’s hubs for natural gas drilling. It is Trump’s second visit to the region in two months. In August, he visited an ethane cracker plant, which makes products used to manufacture plastics from natural gas. He pushed the message that his administration was creating new opportunities in the fossil fuel industry to replace lost jobs in the steel and manufacturing industries.

The president is expected to reiterate a message he delivered at the White House in July, which is that the United States is reducing carbon emissions while growing the economy because of an increased reliance on natural gas. In that speech, Trump didn’t mentioned climate change, and his administration has continued to roll back Obama-era regulations that reduce carbon emissions.

Earlier this week, the White House reached out to administration allies who supported the Paris withdrawal and who routinely attack climate science to invite them to today’s speech, according to one of the invitees.

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Former State Department climate officials say past colleagues have told them to expect a letter next month formalizing the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The climate accord sets Nov. 4 as the first day on which the United States could submit a letter to the United Nations that would start the clock on the one-year withdrawal process.

If the letter is sent promptly on Nov. 4, the United States will no longer be a party to the climate deal on Nov. 4, 2020 — one day after the presidential election.

Mandy Gunasekara, a former senior EPA official who now heads a pro-Trump advocacy group called the Energy 45 Fund, said it seems likely that Trump will discuss Paris in Pittsburgh.

Not only is Nov. 4 less than two weeks away, she said, but Pittsburgh has been a symbol of Trump’s “America First shift” on climate diplomacy ever since the Rust Belt city got a name check in his White House Rose Garden speech announcing plans to withdraw.

Gunasekara, who advised then-EPA chief and staunch Paris Agreement opponent Scott Pruitt in 2017, remembers working with Pruitt on a press release ahead of Trump’s Rose Garden address in June 2017 that argued for placing Pittsburgh’s economic interests over approval from foreign capitals like Paris.

“That’s really what it started as. A press release. And that made its way into the speech,” she told E&E News.

“We talked about trying to have an innovation forum in Pittsburgh and inviting world leaders to see what type of technologies we were using, which is why we beat the world in clean air and clean water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Gunasekara added.

Pittsburgh officials immediately rejected the White House attempt to connect them with the Paris withdrawal after the June 1, 2017, announcement.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, co-wrote an op-ed in The New York Times with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo lambasting Trump for assuming that his city would back a withdrawal and highlighting its commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035.

“We Pittsburghers are proud of our industrial history, but we are preparing for a prosperous future,” it read. “And that means taking climate change seriously.”

Many of the Democrats vying to run against Trump in 2020 have pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement and could do so with a stroke of a pen and a 30-day waiting period.