Wed, Mar 29, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Trump to roll back climate policies

LIMITED EFFECT?West Virginia University professor James van Nostrand said that ditching the Clean Power Plan would do little to halt the decline of the coal industry

AFP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday next week is to roll back a slew of environmental policies enacted by former US president Barack Obama in a bid to untether the fossil fuel industry.

In a maiden trip to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Trump is to sign an “energy independence executive order,” a White House official told reporters.

The president is to unveil a series of measures to review regulations curbing oil, gas and coal production and limiting carbon emissions.

The centerpiece of Trump’s plan is an effort to slow walk Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which restricts emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The measures will “help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable, and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation,” the White House said.

Trump could face a cool reception at the agency’s headquarters.

Trump has questioned whether humans’ play a significant role in warming the planet and has done little to assuage those fears, vowing to slash EPA funding by a third, appointing litigator Scott Pruitt — who also challenges global warming — as head of the EPA and Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as US Secretary of State.

Trump’s stance has struck a chord with many Republican voters.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans say that climate change is caused by humans, but only 40 percent of Republicans say they worry about it, according to Gallup.

During last year’s US presidential election campaign Trump donned a hardhat and embraced miners from Kentucky to West Virginia, promising to return jobs to long-ravaged communities.

He won both states by a landslide.

Since coming to office he has coupled his pro-miner rhetoric with support for the fossil fuel industry.

However, curbing emissions from coal-fired power plants was a pillar of the US’ commitment in the Paris Climate Accord.

“Whether we stay in [the accord] or not is still under discussion,” a senior administration official told reporters.

It remains to be seen whether stalling implementation and defunding the EPA will bring coal back.

Some experts warn that the economic payoff from ditching the “clean power plan” will be limited.

“In my view, it will have virtually no impact,” said James van Nostrand, a professor at West Virginia University.

The decline of coal had more to do with higher mining costs and cheaper natural gas and sources of renewable energy, he said.

“Defunding or dismantling the EPA and repealing its regulations is not going to bring the coal industry back,” Van Nostrand said. “The constant narrative about the ‘war on coal’ and the alleged devastating impact of EPA’s regulations on West Virginia’s coal industry will now be exposed for its inherent speciousness.”

Referring to the plan, the same US official told reporters: “It’s going to take some time.”

In 2008 there were 88,000 coal miners in the US, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Today, the number of coal miners has fallen by about 25 percent.

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