Published: March 28,2017
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to roll back former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, a federal rule that was enacted to combat climate change, calling it a "crushing attack on American industry."
"The action I'm taking today will eliminate federal overreach," Trump said at the signing ceremony. "We will put our miners back to work."
"My administration is putting an end on the war on coal," he added. "We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal."
Trump's Energy Independence Executive Order set out to curtail the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations restricting greenhouse gas emissions derived from coal-fired power plants.
EPA chief Scott Pruitt told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that the president was keeping "his promise to the American people."
"We need a pro-growth and pro-environment approach for how we do regulations in this country," Pruitt said. "For too long, we have accepted a narrative that if you're pro-growth, pro-jobs, you're anti-environment. That's not where we have been as a country. We have made tremendous progress on our environment – we can be both pro-jobs and pro-environment. The executive order will address the past administration's effort to kill jobs throughout the country through the Clean Power Plan."
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Earlier this month, Pruitt said in an interview that he didn't believe that carbon dioxide was a "primary contributor to global warming" – an opinion which runs contrary to the beliefs of the vast majority of climate scientists.
President Donald Trump, accompanied by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, third from left, and Vice President Mike Pence, right, signs an Energy Independence Executive Order, Tuesday, March 28,2017, at EPA headquarters in Washington.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The White House had earlier announced its intention to defund the Clean Power Plan in its 2018 budget proposal, in addition to a 31 percent cut to the EPA's funding.
Environmentalists denounced Trump's executive order, saying that it would jeopardize efforts to address global warming.
"This is an all-out assault on the protections we need to avert climate catastrophe," Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement. "It's a senseless betrayal of our national interests. And it's a short-sighted attempt to undermine American clean energy leadership."
Former Vice President Al Gore also condemned the president's action, calling it a "misguided step away from a sustainable, carbon-free future for ourselves and generations to come."
"No matter how discouraging this executive order may be, we must, we can, and we will solve the climate crisis," Gore added. "No one man or group can stop the encouraging and escalating momentum we are experiencing in the fight to protect our planet."
President Obama had unveiled the Clean Power Plan as a key part of the country's commitment to the 2015 United Nations Paris Climate Agreement. Its implementation was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2016, which ruled that the federal government's ability to employ the rule would be put on hold until legal challenges by certain U.S. states and groups were settled.
Despite Trump's initiative to immediately undo the Clean Power Plan with this executive order, those familiar with the legal ramifications believe it will actually take many years to overhaul, with further challenges expected.
"While there's no political support in the administration for the Clean Power Plan, it's not the kind of thing you can just do away with quickly," David Konisky, Environmental Affairs professor at Indiana University, told CNBC in an interview.
When the plan was first unveiled in 2015, President Obama's EPA called the plan a "historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that (took) real action on climate change," "shaped by years of unprecedented outreach and public engagement" and "(showed) the world that the United States (was) committed to leading global efforts to address climate change."
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