Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Trump plans executive orders to curtail Obama's power-plant and 'waters of the U.S.' regulations

President Trump is planning executive orders to unravel Obama-administration policies on climate-changing greenhouse gases from power plants and the extent of federal jurisdiction over water pollution. "While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards," Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson report for The Washington Post.

Trump signs an order (Bloomberg News photo)
According to individuals briefed on the measures, "One executive order will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the 2015 regulation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from existing electric utilities," Eliperin and Mufson write. For the Trump administration, the move will be seen "as reducing U.S. dependence on other countries for energy," while instructing the Bureau of Land Management to "lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing."

The moratorium could be lifted immediately. The freeze on federal coal leasing has been in effect since December 2015, "and and last month the Interior Department proposed major changes to a program that guides coal exploration and production across 570 million publicly owned acres."

A second order will tell the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite a 2015 rule defining the term "waters of the United States" in the 1972 Clean Water Act, which "applies to 60 percent of the water bodies in the country," Eliperin and Mufson write. "That regulation . . . gives the federal government authority over not only major water bodies but also the wetlands, rivers and streams that feed into them. It affects development as well as some farming operations on the grounds that these activities could pollute the smaller or intermittent bodies of water that flow into major ones."

Trump has joined many industry groups who criticize these Obama-administration policies as the federal government "exceeding its authority and curbing economic growth," Eliperin and Mufson write. "While any move to undo these policies will spark new legal battles and entail work within the agencies that could take as long as a year and a half to finalize, the orders could affect investment decisions within the utility, mining, agriculture and real estate sectors, as well as activities on the ground."

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