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Trump may have hard time repealing anti-coal regulations


The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — During his presidential campaign then-candidate Donald J. Trump promised to ax regulations hindering coal.

“I will rescind the coal mining moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rules and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama administration,” he said in Pittsburgh during the campaign.

As the newly elected president, Trump continued the promise to bring jobs back to the coalfields. He released a short video outlining his first 100 days in the White House, which included his plans for coal.

“I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs. That’s what we want, that’s what we’ve been waiting for,” said Trump, who won nearly 69 percent of the vote in West Virginia, campaigning as a friend of coal.

But those wanting to see the Clean Power Plan restrictions eliminated could be in for a long wait, as scraping the plan could be a large, time-consuming task.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the Natural Resource Defense Council’s climate change expert, David Doniger, said a Trump administration “can’t make [the CPP] go away unless they go through rulemaking process and unwind it.”

He explained that if Trump issues an executive order, it could still face a long, public process. During that public process, those who favor the CPP would voice their support loudly, he said.

Perhaps one of the loudest pro-CPP voices would come from a group of attorneys general from more than a dozen states and four large municipalities. Last week, they sent a letter to Trump requesting the CPP be preserved.

The letter asks Trump to reject pressure to void the CPP, calling any action weakening the plan “misguided advice.”

Those opposed to the CPP said it has been devastating to coal and other fossil fuel-producing states. In West Virginia, opponents predict more job losses in the coal and natural gas industries. They argue the CPP forces states to illegally revamp their energy portfolio and does so without congressional authorization. Further, the states contend implementation will cost jobs, force higher energy costs and hinder energy reliability.

The latest letter comes two weeks after 24 state attorneys general, mainly Republican, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and congressional leaders asked Trump to kill the CPP on Day 1 by issuing an executive order declaring the CPP as unlawful and prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing it.

The plan set new greenhouse gas regulations by imposing stricter carbon dioxide limits on states – a 32 percent cut by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. States have until 2022 to comply. Greenhouse gas, an overwhelming amount of scientific research shows, causes climate change.

Currently, the CPP is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will decide if the plan oversteps constitutional limits.

The latest letter, penned by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, states the CPP “builds on that successful work and is a blueprint for the critical action needed to fight climate change’s devastating environmental, economic, and public health impacts. The science is clear and far too much is at stake to turn back the clock on our climate efforts.”

The four-page letter lists a series of local impacts of climate change from fossil fuel emissions: California droughts, catastrophic storms in New York, and record flooding in Colorado, Florida and Virginia.

With less than three weeks until his swearing-in, Trump has started to send mixed messages about his stance on climate change. While on the campaign trail, Trump said science showing effects of science change was a hoax.

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” one of Trump’s famous tweets read.

However, in an interview recently with Fox News, Trump toned down his harsh language on climate change.

“I’m still open-minded. Nobody really knows. Look, I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It’s not something that’s so hard and fast,” he said.

Trump’s lighter tone has some coal advocates worried, including Robert Murray, head of Murray Energy, the largest privately owned coal producer in the United States. Murray told CNBC that Trump is obligated to follow through on his promise to coal people.

“Mr. Trump has a mandate to carry out what he said,” Murray told the network’s “Squawk Box” program. “It’s going to be difficult to do it all, but he’s got to do it. And he’s got to do it in a short time frame.”

Trump has nominated two pro-coal politicians to lead key environmental agencies. Pending Senate confirmation, Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt will head the EPA. Pruitt has sued the EPA numerous times to stop its climate change plans, including the CPP.

Trump has also nominated former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run the Department of Energy. Perry also has questioned the existence of climate change while pushing for more coal-fired power plants in Texas.

West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading the legal challenge against the CPP. An email seeking reaction from Morrisey’s spokesperson Curtis Johnson was returned with no answer.

After the U.S. Supreme Court in May issued a stay, kicking the case back down to the Appeals Court, Morrisey told reporters, “We all know the cause of coal’s decline is multifaceted, but the regulatory regime, certainly from my perspective, has played a very important role. If you can reverse some of the regulatory carnage we have seen, then there is an opportunity to at least come back.”

New York, California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, along with officials in Broward County and South Miami, Fla.; Boulder, Colo.; and New York City signed the pro-CPP letter.

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