WASHINGTON, March 28, 2017 – President Donald Trump is issuing an executive order today that takes aim at the Clean Power Plan and overturns a federal moratorium on coal leasing across tens of thousands of acres of public land — two disastrous decisions that would worsen the climate crisis, sicken and endanger people, and hurt wildlife, clean air and clean water.
“Trump just took his war against our climate to a terrifying new level,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “With these massive giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, he proves that his first loyalty is to polluters, not the American public. Anyone who values wildlife, clean air and clean water will be hurt by this plan to let dirty companies pollute our climate and exploit our beautiful public lands.”
Trump’s executive order comes after EPA administrator Scott Pruitt recently denied fundamental scientific facts about climate change. “I would not agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said in a CNBC interview.
Part of today’s order directs the EPA to review the Clean Power Plan. The administration apparently intends to rescind or water down this landmark effort to reduce planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources.
“An administration that doesn’t understand basic climate science has no business playing around with vital efforts to protect America from power-plant pollution,” Suckling said. “Cutting emissions from power plants is mandated by the Clean Air Act, and Trump can’t undo science and law with the stroke of a pen. We’ll fight in court to defend this critical effort to protect our planet from global warming.”
Today’s order also turns back the Obama administration’s coal moratorium, put in place while the Department of the Interior examines the 1970s-era leasing program for potential reform, including the costs to taxpayers and accounting for the impact on a livable climate.
The federal coal program, which is a major source of U.S. carbon emission and chronically shortchanges taxpayers by selling for far below market rates, hasn’t been reexamined since earlier Nixon- and Reagan-era moratoriums. But the federal government recently recognized the need for fundamental reform — including the possibility of setting a carbon budget limit for federal coal, or ending the program entirely. Scientists have called on the United States to stop new coal leasing to help prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Coal mined from public lands contributes more than 40 percent of the United States’ coal and approximately 10 percent of its greenhouse gas pollution. Coal mining and combustion also impose heavy air-quality and public-health costs through emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury.
The Interior Department’s preliminary report last month recognized that “modernization of the Federal coal program is warranted. While energy markets, communities, environmental conditions, and national priorities have changed dramatically, the program has remained fairly static in its administration over the last thirty years.”
“We can’t meet our climate goals — which are critical to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change — if we lease any more public land for coal mining,” said Suckling.