The Trump administration rolled out its proposal for gutting former President Barack Obama’s most sweeping climate change regulation Tuesday — a move that could also block any future Democratic president from trying to put it back together.
The proposal from the EPA goes to the core of the criticisms that the coal industry and conservatives lodged against Obama’s 2015 regulation, which used a novel reading of the Clean Air Act to require states to cut greenhouse gas pollution from the power sector. The replacement from President Donald Trump’s EPA would give states far more leeway to meet more modest climate goals — or even to opt of the program entirely.
But the new rule’s biggest impact could come from the inevitable lawsuits that environmental groups and Democratic-leaning states will file against Trump’s proposal. If they lose, the result could be a court decision enshrining the Trump administration’s hobbled approach to climate regulation as the only reasonable approach under the law — slamming the door shut on any later attempts to recreate Obama’s handiwork.
At the very least, experts say, the proposal from Trump’s regulators would mean years of delay in curbing one of the world’s most dire problems — the greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change.
“They’re trying to put in place approaches that would undermine in the long term EPA’s ability to do what many of us think is its responsibility under environmental laws to protect the public health,” said Janet McCabe, the EPA air chief under Obama who oversaw the 2015 rule’s development.
EPA said the proposed rule would “more appropriately balance federal and state responsibilities” to regulate air pollution.