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Trump signs order to rollback Clean Power Plan; industry skepticism remains

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Trump signs order to rollback Clean Power Plan; industry skepticism remains

Trump kicks off potentially long, slow death of Clean Power Plan

The long-delayed, much maligned Clean Power Plan is now heading back to the drawing board under an administration that has pledged to withdraw it following an executive order issued by the president.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order March 28 ordering the U.S. EPA to begin a review of the carbon-cutting rule for existing fossil fuel power plants. Trump's order itself does not rescind the Clean Power Plan. Instead, [Scott] Pruitt and his staff will initiate a traditional notice and comment rulemaking process seeking to revoke the regulation in its current form.

"Trump can't reverse our clean energy and climate progress with the stroke of a pen, and we'll fight Trump in the courts, in the streets, and at the state and local level across America to protect the health of every community," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said.

Coal pleased by Trump order, but skepticism on comeback remains

The coal industry is applauding sweeping changes to U.S. energy policy that the sector hopes will allow President Donald Trump to unwind the regulatory restraints of the Obama administration, though its exact benefits are unclear.

Murray Energy Corp., the largest private-sector coal company in the U.S., issued a statement saying the employees, management and ownership were "extremely pleased" with the announcement of the executive order. While there is optimism that Trump's actions will prevent further deterioration of the coal industry, Murray has said repeatedly there is little room for the coal industry to recover to prior levels. In an interview the week before the executive order was officially announced, Murray said he does not foresee a comeback for the industry in terms of production or jobs.

"I see no fundamentals that tell me that the markets are going to be any better in 2017, 2018 than what they have been," Murray said. "They'll be flat or slightly worse."

Democratic lawmaker: Battle to protect climate policies will be in courts

The courts, not Congress, will be the primary venue for challenging the Trump administration's plan to undo Obama-era climate policies, a leading Democratic lawmaker said.

Despite heavy Democratic opposition to President Donald Trump's executive order to repeal several Obama administration efforts to reduce carbon emissions, one prominent Democrat acknowledged that GOP control of the White House and Congress will make it all but impossible to reverse Trump's plans through legislative action, leaving challenges to the courts.

"The heart of the battle is going to be litigation," U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., told reporters at a March 28 briefing.

Despite optimism, GOP will have tough time negating EPA's carbon authority

An executive order to overturn many of former President Barack Obama's signature climate rules and policies drew praise from Republicans in Congress and questions about how much further the GOP can go to reverse that legacy. President Donald Trump's March 28 order is a major victory in the GOP's fight against federal carbon limits, but Republicans will have a harder time winning the war against EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.

Even if the House managed to pass legislation to undo the endangerment finding or remove EPA's authority to regulate carbon under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, those proposals would be "hard to see as politically feasible" in the Senate, said Jon Sohn, an energy policy counsel at the law firm Dentons. Although Republicans control both the House and Senate, any bill to remove EPA authority over carbon would need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster, and the GOP only has 52 seats in the Senate.

Trump reverses federal coal lease moratorium; calls for reform remain

Taking another step toward a campaign pledge to reverse Obama administration policies deemed detrimental to the coal industry, President Donald Trump signed an executive order March 28 halting a moratorium on the federal coal lease program. However, congressional and environmental critics are still calling for the program to be reformed. The order also targeted Obama administration environmental guidance and the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan.

The Sierra Club criticized the order, arguing that market demand is not strong enough to initiate new or expanded coal production on federal land.

"Why would we sacrifice our public lands to a commodity that the free market doesn't even value?" asked Lindsay Beebe, organizing representative for the Sierra Club's Utah Beyond Coal campaign. "By lifting this sensible moratorium on new coal leases, President Trump has demonstrated that he is more interested in playing politics with our public lands than doing what's right for the people of Utah."

Va. governor proposes moratorium on coal ash closure permits

The Virginia senator behind legislation that requires more scrutiny of coal ash closures is encouraged by the governor's proposed moratorium on permitting. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has proposed several amendments to S.B. 1398, including a temporary halt to the state permitting process for coal ash impoundments to address "tremendous public concern."

Sen. Scott Surovell, the chief patron of the bill, said he supports the amendments proposed by the governor. "They go about 80% of the way that I was looking for him to go," Surovell said in a March 23 phone interview. "The most important thing is that if they're enacted, it would impose an 18-month moratorium on any coal ash impoundment [or pond] closure permitting in Virginia."