Economy

States want Trump to scrap Obama carbon plan on day one. It might make no difference.

President-elect Donald Trump arrives to speak during a rally at the Orlando Amphitheater at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.
President-elect Donald Trump arrives to speak during a rally at the Orlando Amphitheater at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. AP

Though 24 states have asked President-elect Donald Trump to withdraw President Barack Obama’s plan to cut carbon emissions on his first day in office, the U.S. power sector is on track to meet 83 percent of its goal this year.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would require a one-third reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, is on hold in the courts.

But according to an analysis by the Carbon Tax Center, a combination of cleaner-burning natural gas, wind and solar energy and more efficient use of electricity have moved the country most of the way toward meeting the Clean Power Plan’s target.

Still, attorneys general from Texas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina, among others, asked Trump last week to withdraw the rule on day one and instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to take no further action to enforce or implement it.

“An executive order on day one is critical,” the state officials wrote. “The order should explain that it is the administration’s view that the rule is unlawful and that EPA lacks authority to enforce it.”

Reflecting their view that states should reserve the power to set their own emissions goals, the officials also encouraged Congress to address the issues raised by the EPA rules.

“We believe it is important to provide a longer-term legislative response to the rule to ensure that similar or more extreme unlawful steps are not attempted by a future EPA,” they wrote. “Any such legislation should recognize the rights of states to develop their own energy strategies, so that energy can be generated in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner.”

Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has been one of the leading opponents of the Clean Power Plan.

In testimony before a House of Representatives subcommittee earlier this year, Pruitt said states deserved the credit for reducing carbon emissions through market-based changes that had displaced coal as the country’s mainstay power source.

Oklahoma, for example, has filled the void with two resources it has in abundance, natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing and wind-generated power.

“This didn’t happen as a result of the heavy hand of the EPA,” Pruitt testified. “Rather, it happened because of fracking and the positive market forces that those sorts of Oklahoma innovations create.”

Nationally, the switch to natural gas and renewables accounted for more than 60 percent of the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 to 2016, according to the Carbon Tax Center. Natural gas alone accounted for 42 percent of the reduction, while wind and solar accounted for a combined 20 percent. Energy efficiency accounted for the balance.

Curtis Tate: 202-383-6018, @tatecurtis

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