White House Staffers huddle to talk energy, environment

Source: Zack Colman, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, September 22, 2017

Trump administration officials gathered today to discuss a forward-looking strategy on energy and environment issues to present a more coherent policy message, an administration official told E&E News.

Climate change surfaced as a discussion topic amid a subset of broader matters like technology and energy security, the official said. The deputy assistants from the departments of the Treasury, Energy and others wanted to find a framework and legacy that differed from the Obama administration’s climate-centric posture on energy and environment policy.

The meeting, which was first reported by Politico, comes as the White House generated confusion at the United Nations this week regarding its commitment to the Paris climate accord and as a series of hurricanes that scientists say were intensified by climate change have ravaged the U.S. and Caribbean islands.

The administration official, however, said the meeting wasn’t in response to anything in particular. The official said deputies are now meeting more frequently at the request of new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to build cohesion on a number of policy issues, though the official noted there’s no regularly scheduled meeting on energy and environment policy.

The Trump administration has dodged questions about its views on climate change in recent weeks. When asked whether Hurricanes Harvey and Irma had changed President Trump’s views on climate change, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last week: “The president has addressed this already. I don’t think that it’s changed over the last several weeks.”

The White House also declined to offer specifics on what terms would need to change to spur “re-engagement” in the Paris process.

Trump announced an intent to withdraw from the deal June 1, but an Aug. 4 letter of intent from U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley left a door open for such “re-engagement,” leaving some diplomats to think Trump could be convinced to remain in the pact before formally exiting in November 2020.

A decision point is also nearing on the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s signature domestic climate policy that would curb power-sector emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Industry groups, utilities and public health organizations have been meeting with the Trump administration to discuss the White House’s plans for removing and potentially replacing the regulation.