President Donald Trump signed an order to undo Obama-era regulations to curb climate change, keeping a campaign promise to support the coal industry while calling into question US support for an international deal to fight global warming.
Flanked by coal miners, Trump enacted his “Energy Independence” executive order at the Environmental Protection Agency. A coalition of 23 states and local governments vowed to fight the order in court.
The order’s main target is former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants – a key factor in the United States’ ability to meet its commitments under a climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015.
Trump’s decree also reverses a ban on coal leasing on federal lands, undoes rules to curb methane emissions from oil and gas production and reduces the weight of climate change and carbon emissions in policy and infrastructure permitting decisions.
Carbon dioxide and methane are two of the main greenhouse gases blamed by scientists for heating the earth.
“I am taking historic steps to lift restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump said at the EPA.
The room was filled with miners, coal company executives and staff from industry groups, who applauded loudly as Trump spoke. Shares in U.S. coal companies edged higher in response.
The wide-ranging order is the boldest yet in Trump’s broader push to cut environmental regulation to revive the drilling and mining industries, a promise he made repeatedly during the 2016 presidential campaign. Energy analysts and executives have questioned whether the moves will have a big effect on their industries, and environmentalists have called them reckless.
“I cannot tell you how many jobs the executive order is going to create, but I can tell you that it provides confidence in this administration’s commitment to the coal industry,” Kentucky Coal Association president Tyler White said.
Environmental groups hurled scorn on Trump’s order, arguing it was dangerous and went against the broader global trend toward cleaner energy technologies.
“These actions are an assault on American values and they endanger the health, safety and prosperity of every American,” said billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, the head of activist group NextGen Climate.
Trump signed the order with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Vice President Mike Pence by his side.