The Trump administration took steps Tuesday toward dismantling former President Obama’s signature climate regulation, the Clean Power Plan, as President Donald Trump signed an executive order the White House promises will both bring back jobs and help the climate.
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"[We are] bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams and making America wealthy again,” the president said during an address at the EPA.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said the new administration believes in “pro-growth and pro-environment” policies during an interview on Fox News Tuesday.
Tuesday’s executive order is a push toward American energy independence, an agenda the Trump administration believes will bring back jobs in manufacturing, coal and gas.
The “energy independence” directive is a stab at President Obama’s Clean Power Plan which aimed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning power plants. The law was halted by the Supreme Court last year after 27 states and a multitude of business groups challenged its legality.
Trump called the Obama-era regulations “job killing.” While both critics and supporters agree with the administration’s sentiment that pro-jobs and pro-climate policies aren’t mutually exclusive, they disagree on what type of jobs should be created.
Rolling back these regulations will “absolutely” lead to a boost in employment throughout the sector, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told FOX Business.
“Regulation costs companies money. It makes them less competitive, [results in] less jobs and investors are less likely to invest in that particularly product,” Paxton said.
On a purely statistical basis, Paxton may have a point when it comes to the damaging effects of regulation. Another piece of regulatory legislation imposed on the U.S. energy industry, the Clean Air Act, is blamed for eliminating 590,000 jobs in heavily affected sectors during its first fifteen years as law, according to 2001 research by Michael Greenstone, former chief economist for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. The same report showed those “pollution intensive industries” lost $37 billion in capital stock and $75 billion worth of output during the same timeframe.
However, some energy experts say those jobs died of old age.
“Pro-growth and pro-environment can in fact go hand in hand, but only if one invests in high growth, environmentally-friendly technologies like renewable energy. Coal in any form doesn't [meet] this criterion," Dr. Robert Orr, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and special advisor to the U.N. secretary-general on climate change, told FOX Business.
Former Gov. Bill Richardson, Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton, told FOX Business the "Trump-Pruitt ticket to the Stone Age" will result in "massive job losses in renewable energy and green jobs."
Further, it will be difficult for the Trump White House to fully unravel the former administration’s climate regulations, according to Nathan Hultman, who worked on the Obama Administration’s climate and energy policy team.
“Not all of the Obama climate regulations can or will be undone. The Clean Power Plan, for example, covers less than 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency standards … will continue to drive up energy productivity and are generally not worth undoing because they tend to have relatively high benefits for very low costs,” Hultman said.
Many of the Obama-era climate regulations however, were an overreach of authority, according to Paxton.
“[The state of Texas has] around twelve lawsuits related to energy…the federal government over the past six years has overstepped its Constitutional role of implementing law… the Obama administration was creating law at the executive branch level…the Trump administration undoing that [is] appropriate,” he said.