Environmental law expert discusses impact of executive order on climate change

March 28, 2017


Elaine Justice


Today the Trump administration issued an executive order that asks Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt to review the Clean Power Plan, asks the Department of Justice to seek an immediate stay of the ongoing litigation of the Clean Power Plan, and asks Administrator Pruitt to review other climate change related regulations.

Mindy Goldstein, director of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law, says the executive order may prove difficult to carry out on several fronts:

CO2 emissions

“Regulation of carbon dioxide emissions is a necessary approach to addressing climate change. It is also not a novel one. The U.S. already regulates CO2 emissions from vehicles and other sources. The Clean Power Plan was an attempt to regulate those emissions from existing power plants—a necessary piece of the puzzle, but not the only piece. Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not entirely eliminate CO2 regulation and wave a magic wand over the coal industry, nor will it revive coal jobs. Indeed, the CPP doesn’t even address new power plants. Nevertheless, its repeal could have a seriously negative effect on the environment.”

Clean Power Plan

“The president, through executive order, does not have the authority to repeal the Clean Power Plan. All he can do is ask EPA administrator Pruitt to review it. That review will take time and money. It will require a long, administrative process of public notice and comment. It will require significant scientific backing to explain why the EPA wants to reverse course, against the counsel of nearly every climate scientist around the globe. And, if the President wants to slash EPA’s budget, I’m just not sure how the agency will have the resources it needs to conduct such a burdensome review. Ironically, the EPA may need more money to conduct less environmental protection. It is beyond absurd to ask the American public to pay more for dirtier air.”

Coal fired power plants

“Coal fired power plants simply do not represent the best, cheapest, or cleanest way to produce power. It is for those reasons that coal fired power plants around the country are closing. Repealing the CPP will not bring back those power plants. This executive order and call for CPP repeal is a misdirected attack. If the president wants to create jobs, he should focus on industries that are growing – including supporting renewable energy research and development.”

Paris Agreement

“Repeal of the CPP threatens the position the United States took when signing the Paris Agreement – that the U.S., as one of the largest emitters of CO2 in the world, is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If we aren’t, then why should India or China? This one step could have cascading, global implications.”