Southern Co.’s “clean-coal” plant has been hailed as a first-of-its-kind project. President Donald Trump’s climate-change skepticism could make it the last. The facility in Kemper County, Mississippi, is slated to finally start generating electricity and capturing carbon dioxide from coal by Jan. 31.
President Trump campaigned on sweeping promises to eliminate former President Barack Obama’s major environmental regulations and “get rid of” the Environmental Protection Agency. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump offered a down payment on those promises, with memorandums clearing the path to construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. He is expected to roll back a few more rules, including some on coal production, in the next few weeks. Although dismantling Mr. Obama’s most far-reaching climate regulations can be done, it will take legal acumen and a lot of time – perhaps longer than a single presidential term. Here’s a look at what Mr. Trump can and can’t do, and how quickly, to roll back environmental regulations.
The night before Donald Trump’s inauguration, five environmental lawyers filed a federal court brief defending an Obama administration clean-water rule that the new president and his Republican allies have targeted for elimination, considering it burdensome to landowners. The move served as a warning that environmentalists, facing a hostile administration and a Republican-dominated Congress, are prepared to battle in court against what they fear will be a wave of unfavorable policies concerning climate change, wildlife protection, federal lands and pollution.
Massachusetts legislators have proposed a bill that calls for the state to adopt a 100% renewable portfolio standard, according to Environment Massachusetts, a statewide, citizen-funded clean energy advocacy group. Under the legislation, H.D.3357 – filed by State Reps. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, and Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, and State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton – Massachusetts would be required to achieve 100% renewable electricity generation by 2035, as well as phase out the use of fossil fuels across all sectors, including heating and transportation, by 2050.
Doug Palen, a fourth-generation grain farmer on Kansas’ wind-swept plains, is in the business of understanding the climate. Since 2012, he has choked through the harshest drought to hit the Great Plains in a century, punctuated by freakish snowstorms and suffocating gales of dust. His planting season starts earlier in the spring and pushes deeper into winter. To adapt, he has embraced an environmentally conscious way of farming that guards against soil erosion and conserves precious water. He can talk for hours about carbon sequestration — the trapping of global-warming-causing gases in plant life and in the soil — or the science of the beneficial microbes that enrich his land. In short, he is a climate change realist. Just don’t expect him to utter the words “climate change.”
“Kansas is blessed with tremendous natural resources, from our fertile soil to the oil that lies beneath it. The Kansas economy has long thrived thanks to the natural gifts given to our land. As the global economy changes our energy markets change with it. Kansas has adapted and is on the cutting edge of the American renewable energy revolution.”
There was obvious disappointment among clean energy advocates last Friday when the White House published on its website “An America First Energy Plan” that makes no mention of renewable energy or energy efficiency. President Donald Trump has made it clear since his announcement to seek the presidency in June 2015 that his top energy priority is to boost oil and gas development in this country, and that is what his energy statement emphasizes. It vows to “embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans.” It also calls for “reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.”
Rob Gramlich, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), is leaving the association to start a firm that will focus on power grid issues. According to AWEA, Grid Strategies LLC will launch on Feb. 15 to provide strategic advice and advocacy services for clients, including AWEA, in the areas of integrating clean energy into the grid; transmission infrastructure policy; and helping renewable energy, storage and transmission interests with grid challenges with the U.S. Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and grid operators.
Last week, the U.S. inaugurated a new president who has vowed to abandon the landmark Paris climate agreement and roll back bedrock American environmental protections. But turn to the states and you’ll find a different story, even in the red states that elected President Trump. In fact, Republican governors in the Midwest are prioritizing economic growth and job creation by accelerating investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. In the few weeks after the election, leaders in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan have adopted new policies that help tackle climate change and grow the clean energy economy.
There have been no executive orders yet to undo President Barack Obama’s signature climate plan, but many officials and environmental groups consider it as good as dead. The Clean Power Plan is on hold while a legal battle plays out, and even if an appeals court upholds it — a decision could come any day — the Trump administration is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court. The state of New York decided to forge ahead anyway. Like a number of other mostly liberal states, it is continuing with efforts to drive down the carbon emissions that drive climate change.