1. Statement
  2. Environment & Energy

“Energy Independence” Executive Order Dismantles Climate Action

By Emily Wirzba, March 28, 2017

Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) that rolls back public health protections and climate action put in place by President Obama.

The EO’s shortsighted focus on fossil fuel energy supply ignores the long-term threats of climate change, smog, contaminated air and water, and nuclear waste.

Trump’s EO mandates that federal agencies identify, revise, and potentially rescind any policies or regulations that could burden the production or use of domestic energy resources – specifically oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy.

This Executive Order takes our nation in a destructive direction on climate change.

“This Executive Order takes our nation in a destructive direction on climate change,” said Emily Wirzba, Policy Associate for Sustainable Energy and Environment at FCNL. “As a global leader, the US must meaningfully address climate change, protect vulnerable communities, and preserve God’s creation. Instead of dismantling vital climate infrastructure, the President should work with the bipartisan group of legislators in Congress that are eager to address climate change through economically viable solutions.”

FCNL is deeply concerned that this EO will undermine the U.S.’s leadership on climate change, and make it difficult to meet the U.S. commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26-28% by 2025 under the international Paris agreement.

What the Executive Order Will Do

Specifically, this EO will begin the process of dismantling many climate regulations and federal directives, and will:

  • Rewrite the Clean Power Plan (CPP) – Obama’s signature rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing and future power plants – and the new source performance standard, which makes it difficult for new coal-fired power plants to be built unless they can capture their carbon emissions and sequester them under the ground. The EO also asks the federal courts to put their review of the CPP on hold, effectively ending the government’s legal defense of the CPP in the courts and beginning the process to dismantle and rewrite the rule.

  • Rescind an Obama-era guidance that asks federal agencies to consider climate change as they conduct environmental reviews. Specifically, this guidance requires that agencies quantify projected greenhouse gas emissions of proposed federal actions, and counsels agencies to consider alternatives that would make communities more resilient to the effects of climate change.

  • Dismantle the newest “social cost of carbon” metric, which quantifies potential economic damage from climate change and is often used to justify environmental regulations, and direct agencies to return to a 2003 approach to calculate the benefits/costs of proposed rules.

  • Rescind Obama’s Memorandum on Climate Change and National Security, which directs federal agencies to ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policy, and plans.

  • Re-examine Obama’s strategy to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Under Obama, the goal was to reduce methane emissions 40% below 2012 levels by 2025 through rules from the EPA and the Bureau of Land Management.

  • End the moratorium on federal-land coal mining and rescind the hydraulic fracturing rule that limits fracking for natural gas on federal and tribal lands.

What's Next

Trump cannot immediately cancel or invalidate all Obama-era climate rules, but he can direct federal agencies to begin rewriting the rules. The federal rule-making process can take years to complete, so rewriting regulations in many cases will also take several years. We expect a series of lawsuits and legal challenges to ensue, especially since many of these regulations were initially written because the federal government was required to by law. For example, if Trump dismantles the Clean Power Plan, he is legally required to come up with another plan for reducing emissions.

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Importantly, while this EO seeks to undermine the Clean Power Plan, it says nothing about staying in or leaving the international Paris climate deal. This is a good sign, and the administration says it is still deliberating internally about the merits and drawbacks of leaving the deal. The EO also keeps the EPA’s “endangerment finding” in place, which is the policy that allows the U.S. to regulate carbon emissions as a pollutant, and legally undergirds most major climate policy.

While FCNL is deeply concerned about today’s EO, we know that there is a bipartisan group of legislators in Congress excited to discuss and act on climate change. Their leadership, and the voices of people across the country, is more important now than ever.

Press Release FCNL Welcomes Pivotal Republican Climate Resolution  

The partisan narrative on climate change was disrupted today when 17 House Republicans re-introduced a resolution that affirms that climate change is real, human-caused, and needs to be addressed by Congress.

Background FCNL's Climate Work in the 115th Congress 

A Faithful and Moral Call to Conscience

The U.S. Congress is pivotal to national and global efforts to meet the challenge of climate disruption. However, for Congress to be part of the solution, leadership is needed from members of both political parties.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, the oldest registered religious lobby in Washington, is a nonpartisan Quaker lobby in the public interest. FCNL works with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from every state in the U.S. to advocate for social and economic justice, peace, and good government. Join us.

Emily Wirzba

  • Former Legislative Manager, Sustainable Energy and Environment

Emily Wirzba led FCNL’s lobbying work to achieve bipartisan recognition of climate change and action in Congress. She served as co-chair of the Washington Interreligious Staff Community's Energy and Ecology Working Group.