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Trump sworn in as 45th president, kicking off shift in US energy policy

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Trump sworn in as 45th president, kicking off shift in US energy policy

Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th U.S. president on Jan. 20, ushering in a new era of national energy policy that will likely include fewer regulations, especially with regard to climate change, and a more pro-development stance on fossil fuel production from federal lands and waters.

On a rainy day in Washington, D.C., Trump took the oath of office, promising to faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States to the best of his ability. In a speech that ran just under 20 minutes, Trump described the shuttering of factories and struggling American families, promising to return the balance of power back to the people. The broad speech touched briefly on energy and scientific research in both health and space.

"We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow," Trump said.

Trump has promised to eliminate "job-killing restrictions" on energy production in his first 100 days in office, although he has yet to say which policies he will target first. The White House website was updated with an overview of his America First Energy Plan rolled out during the campaign. The plan calls for rolling back "burdensome" regulations, embracing shale oil and gas production, tapping more of the country's energy reserves, and reviving the U.S. coal industry.

Potential executive orders that Trump could immediately sign include a requirement for all Cabinet agencies to disclose and halt work on any Obama administration initiatives to curb carbon emissions, according to a Jan. 19 story from Reuters.

Among other regulations, the new president has vowed to undo the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rule, as well as cancel the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate accord. Republicans in Congress have also introduced legislation to overturn more recent Obama administration rules, including disapproval resolutions to rescind the U.S. Department of the Interior's Stream Protection Rule and the EPA's rule to limit methane emissions from new oil and gas sources.

With Trump in office, GOP lawmakers stand a much better chance of dismembering regulations they oppose. Obama vetoed prior bills to reverse his administration's policies, including those that sought to strike down the Clean Power Plan and carbon emissions standards for new power plants.

In addition to eliminating rules, the Trump administration could seek to open up more federal land and water to energy development. During his campaign, Trump provided estimates that the U.S. contains $50 trillion in untapped oil and gas reserves on federal lands, resources he said can help end reliance on imports from OPEC members and any country hostile to U.S. interests. Trump has also encouraged TransCanada Corp. to resubmit an application to build the Keystone XL crude pipeline after the Obama administration denied a presidential permit for the pipeline in November 2015.

"Energy was a significant piece of Donald Trump's economic pitch to the American people," said Chris Warren, spokesperson for the American Energy Alliance, a group that has fought against Obama administration rules, including the Clean Power Plan and the EPA's ozone standards released in October 2015. "[Trump's] administration recognizes the important role that energy production plays in strengthening the economy, so I expect that reversing President Obama's keep-it-in-the-ground agenda will be a top priority."

Warren said Trump would likely quickly get to work lifting the Department of the Interior's halt on issuing new federal coal leases and making more federal lands available for energy development.

Trump's administration could also seek to pare down federal agencies dealing with energy. The Hill reported on Jan. 19 that the new president may scrap several offices within the U.S. Department of Energy, including the offices of renewable energy and fossil energy, and lower funding for research in a bid to reduce federal spending.

Trump will inherit an EPA with many outstanding environmental initiatives, as well as ongoing court challenges that will shape the new president's plan to roll back Obama's environmental actions.

One major variable is whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rules on the Clean Power Plan before Trump's team has time to get fully assembled at the EPA's headquarters in the William Jefferson Clinton Building that sits just blocks from the White House. Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the administration, and his confirmation hearing was held Jan. 18.

After oral arguments for the Clean Power Plan in September 2016, many experts expected the decision to be released around inauguration day or in early February. The week of inauguration, many EPA-watchers bet the federal appeals court would drop the decision Jan. 17, the last decision day for the court before it shut down for the inauguration.

But the decision never came, which means EPA policy wonks will be tuned to the D.C. Circuit's rulings releases every Tuesday and Friday at 10:30 a.m. ET until a decision is handed down, or the new EPA makes its first move in the case.

Other rules that will now be shaped by Trump include National Ambient Air Quality Standards for other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, the effluent standards for power plants or the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

Another battle facing the Trump administration could be the EPA's social cost of carbon metric, which puts a dollar figure on the climate impacts of rulemakings. Bloomberg reports that Trump is being encouraged to rescind the metric, which currently prices the impact of a tonne of carbon dioxide at nearly $40.

Bloomberg also reports that guidance from Obama's Council on Environmental Quality that says climate change should be factored into government agencies' formal environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act could be an early target of the new administration.