This is what ran through my head as I thought of Pruitt going back to ask for a $7-billion budget—and promptly getting rebuffed. Trump may be fine with superficially damaging the administrative state until fiscal year 2022. But if Pruitt wants to permanently hinder it, he needs money.
For Gang that Can’t Shoot Straight: Unwinding Climate Law not a Slam Dunk
March 27, 2017
Above, Pollster Ed Maibach: “The average American, while concerned about climate change, rarely, if ever, talks about it.
And the reason they don’t talk about it, is because they think they’re in the minority.”
Below: polling shows otherwise.
But First: New Trump budget proposal makes draconian cuts in Environmental and climate related programs.
His party holds seemingly unchecked power.
It’s not like they haven’t eff’d up something like this before.
But a skinny budget proposal is still just a proposal—and a funny one at that. While this proposal hints at President Trump’s governance priorities, and serves as an initial negotiating position, it mostly markets his ideological bonafides to other Republicans. It’s fiduciary fan fiction for conservatives, basically, with little chance of becoming law. Not only will a tiny EPA be politically difficult to enact, but there are also sticky legal limits on the extent to which the non-military side of the government can be defunded.
It can hint at other negotiations, though: how much Cabinet secretaries are able to wrangle for their agencies. And on that front, there was a curious anecdote in Coral Davenport and Glenn Thrush’s New York Times story about how the Trump skinny budget came together. As you read it, remember that Obama left the EPA with a budget of $8.2 billion:
The E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, who has himself spoken out against some of the core missions of the agency he leads, went to the White House to request a smaller cut after the White House budget office first presented him its preferred spending level. He pressed for about $7 billion, according to the person. Instead, the White House slashed his budget down even further, to about $5.7 billion.
The Times is right: Scott Pruitt does seem to be “against some of the core missions of the agency.” He’s no environmentalist, either: He recently told CNBC that he doubted some of the most basic premises of climate science.
So if he hates the EPA so much, why is he fighting for more funding for it?
Pruitt is a savvy attorney who knows the EPA’s guiding statutes well. His statements and behavior suggest that he doesn’t want to temporarily injure the agency by defunding it. Instead, he wants to permanently hobble it by inscribing weak rules that will outlast his term as administrator and the Trump presidency.
But that will take a lot of employees and a lot of time.
“It’s really staff intensive to rescind a rule and then replace it,” says Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at the University of California Los Angeles. “To the degree that you have a vision about how the agency should operate, you need a staff and leadership.”
And Pruitt will have to rescind and replace a lot of rules. President Trump has already asked him to replace car fuel-efficiency standards and the Waters of the United States rule, which sets the legal authority of the Clean Water Act. The EPA is also expected to withdraw Obama’s Clean Power Plan soon, which limits greenhouse-gas emissions from the power sector.
Every one of these revisions or revocations will set an onerous bureaucratic process in motion that will last for years
But Pruitt won’t be able to get what he wants out of a denuded agency, either. A tiny budget will unleash internal disorder that could last for years. A smaller staff of EPA bureaucrats may struggle to process four or five major rule changes at once, like writing a replacement Waters of the United States rule while issuing a replacement Clean Power Plan (or justifying the lack of one). Other work simply can’t be avoided: Even though Trump rescinded car fuel-efficiency requirements last week, the EPA and Department of Transportation must re-issue new and final versions by 2020.
See Yale School of Forestry website for rich documentation of polling.
A new study finds that majorities of Americans in all 50 states and all 435 Congressional Districts support setting strict carbon dioxide emissions limits on coal-fired power plants.
“The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is designed to reduce global warming pollution from electric power plants. News reports suggest that President Trump plans to soon sign an executive order rescinding the plan,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the F&ES-based Program on Climate Change Communication. “Yet setting strict carbon dioxide emission limits on coal-fired power plants is supported by a majority of the constituents of every U.S. Senator and Representative.”
This and many other results are found in a new version of the Yale Climate Opinion Maps (YCOM 2.0), based on a statistical model that estimates public climate change opinion and policy support in all 50 states, 435 Congressional districts, 3,000+ counties, and 916 metro areas across the nation.
YCOM 2.0 reveals the rich geographic diversity of Americans’ opinions about global warming. A new spatial layer — Metro Areas — provides estimates of public opinions in urban areas. Version 2.0 also adds new questions, including trust in climate scientists, the belief that global warming will harm plants and animals, how often Americans discuss global warming with their friends and family, and how often they hear about global warming in the media (available at the state level).
Coalmining employed 98,505 people in 2015, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, down from 127,745 in 2008, the year Obama was elected president, and about 250,000 in the 1970s. Trump has consistently pledged to restore mining jobs, but many of those jobs were lost to technology rather than regulation and to competition from natural gas and renewables, which makes it unlikely that he can do much to significantly grow the number of jobs in the industry, said Murray.
“I suggested that he temper his expectations. Those are my exact words,” said Murray. “He can’t bring them back.”
But Murray is confident that Trump will move to “level the playing field” with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by eliminating subsidies. “Get the government out of picking winners and losers,” he said. “We have to get the government out of the manipulation of the energy markets.”
Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said Murray was right to think coal had a champion in Trump, but she said she doubts the industry can overturn all the regulations Obama has put in place, or that Trump can significantly revive the industry.
“I live in West Virginia and I understand that there is a lot of optimism among some that coal will make a comeback,” Hitt said. But she added that Trump would be unable to turn the tide for coal. “The industry likes to point to pollution standards for the decline in jobs, but the reality is the market has markedly changed.
First, the stronger emerging economies are already becoming leaders in clean energy and sustainable technologies. China alone plans to spend at least $360 billion on renewable energy by 2020.
(The emerging economies are not alone in investing in clean solutions, of course. The IEA says that it expects at least $24 trillion in additional investment in renewables from 2020–2040. The bursting of the Carbon Bubble, though, could easily push trillions of dollars into new solutions over the course of just a few years, as investors adjust to new economic realities and see that these solutions are currently profoundly under-capitalized compared to the eventual size of these markets.)
Second, emerging economies (again, especially China) are home to some of the world leaders in low-carbon, disruptive technologies, from electric cars to rapid building to bullet trains. These are the multi-billion dollar businesses of a low-carbon future.
Third, many emerging regions have a built in advantage: They’re not already as deeply committed to a high-carbon path as the Global North is. They don’t stand to lose as much when high-carbon assets are abandoned, and they don’t have the same sunk costs warping their economic policies. As a result, they have the capacity to leapfrog over fossil fuels to low-carbon models, just as many countries have skipped past landline phones and gone straight to mobile phones.
Here – sensible Ohioans have had it with “knuckle draggers” trying to slow down clean energy.
Five strikes and you’re more than out, you’re living in denial. And that’s where backers of House Bill 114 now reside — in denial of the jobs, investment, growth and future economic stability that come from a broad energy portfolio in Ohio.
HB 114 not only would gut a bipartisan and virtually unanimous 2008 Ohio law that set energy efficiency and alternative energy requirements on Ohio’s electricity supply, it also represents the “fifth attempt” to roll back the standards, according to the Ohio Environmental Council.
That’s more attempts than the small but vocal chorus of Statehouse knuckle-draggers opposed to energy jobs and progress deserve.
In 2014, opponents of Ohio’s energy future delayed full implementation of the energy standards through a temporary freeze — driving dollars and jobs to other states, a number of which were expanding their energy mandates, not rolling them back.
Amid talk last year of extending Ohio’s freeze or eliminating the standards, alternative-energy firms in Ohio began to consider moving operations out of the state or halting planned investments.
That awoke the attention of Gov. John Kasich, who last year wisely vetoed the legislature’s last major rollback attempt.
In his Dec. 22 veto message, Kasich said that, from 2009 to 2012, energy efficiency standards had produced $1.03 billion in savings and would produce an estimated $4.15 billion in lifetime savings.
The response: an even more draconian attempt this year in HB 114, a bill goosed by utility lobbies, to dump the standards in favor of “goals and incentives” that the bill’s sponsor, Cincinnati-area Republican Rep. Louis Blessing, said would work just fine.
Is it any wonder that among the groups testifying in favor of HB 114 have been the Ohio Coal Association and the American Petroleum Institute of Ohio?