Following CPP repeal, will the latest EDA reform provide a greener future?

Yiwei Wang, Staff Writer

The world was aghast by the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement back on June 1, 2017. It was a moment when many had believed the United States would limit their carbon consumption and champion the world into a greener future. Moreover, the Trump Administration also scaled back on extensive environmental regulation efforts achieved throughout the Obama era. It is, therefore, no surprise that the Trump Administration pressed on to repeal one of Barack Obama’s signature policies, the Clean Power Plan (CPP) which was considered “a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change.”

The effort to repeal the CPP was initiated by President Donald Trump back in March of last year, as he reviewed 27 states’ implementation of the plan. A concerted effort against the CPP was also made by then Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July this year amid a series of spending scandals. Pruitt was a long-time skeptic of the EPA. In fact, he sued the EPA 14 times when he was the Oklahoma Attorney General. Trump supporters hailed Pruitt as the ideal candidate to implement Trump’s environmental philosophy in the EPA.

In June, after taking public input, the EPA detailed agency reform including making large-scale organizational and structural changes. According to the Wall Street Journal, “by introducing ‘social costs’ and ‘social benefits,’ the EPA began factoring in speculation about how regulatory inaction would affect everything from rising sea levels to pediatric asthma.” The agency’s new goal has been proven to be “as politically useful as it was scientifically imprecise.” The cost-benefit analysis was calculated with the goal of rolling back regulation in mind. For example, the EPA is currently considering a switch from the “flat approach” on emission level advocated by Obama by freezing the emission limit in automobile industry and stopping states like California from setting a more rigorous emission limit than the current government.

According to Reuters, “Obama’s greenhouse gas regulations were based on the broad scientific consensus that carbon dioxide and other emissions from burning fossil fuels are driving global climate change, triggering flooding and droughts while making powerful storms more frequent.” The economic incentive of dialing back the EPA’s regulation on the environment remains largely consistent with Trump’s goal of revitalizing the coal industry. However, the coal industry is floundering as it has been facing a rising rate of unemployment as renewable energy companies keep pushing them to the margins. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Trump tiptoed around the issue of whether or not global warming is real.

“Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax, I think there’s probably a difference, but I don’t know that it’s man-made. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs. I don’t want to be put at a disadvantage,” Trump said.

In the backdrop of the global spread of economic protectionism, the EPA reform signals a change in its role as a regulatory body. Only time will tell if we are correct about our cost-benefit analysis.

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