“We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate,” Mr. Pruitt added in a statement Tuesday. “Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule.”
Under the proposed repeal, the bureaucratic process of unraveling the Clean Power Plan could take months, and that is before any court challenges. Separately, the E.P.A. said it would ask the public for ideas about how to write a different, more tapered regulation. It gave no indication, however, of when it would do so or even whether it actually intended to create such a new rule. Moreover, soliciting public comment — in federal jargon, an “advance notice of proposed rule making” — is usually used by an agency to test ideas far in advance of even putting forward a proposed new regulation.
“I think they’re just dragging their feet,” said Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown Law School.
“They’ve had all this time to figure out what it is they would do if they were in charge, and they’ve been in charge since January, and they’ve known since November. So it’s literally been a year and they really don’t have anything to come up with other than kicking the can down the road?” she said. “They’re basically running out the clock.”
Business leaders from the Chamber of Commerce and leading utility companies have urged the E.P.A. in recent months to design a replacement for the Clean Power Plan. The groups, all opponents of the Obama-era plan, have argued that some type of regulation must exist to protect the E.P.A. from lawsuits. Even if the Trump administration succeeds in killing the Clean Power Plan, a 2009 agency determination known as the endangerment finding still compels the agency to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
“When they finalize the repeal, there will certainly be a lawsuit. And separate and apart from that, if they don’t move forward with a replacement rule they will also have a lawsuit,” said Jeff Holmstead, a lawyer with Bracewell LLP, a firm representing energy companies that sued to overturn the Clean Power Plan.
Mr. Holmstead said challenging the E.P.A. will not be easy because there is no specific deadline for the agency to move forward with a replacement. But, he added, “I think there will be pressure from the business community for the E.P.A. to do something so there is a regulation in place.”
“We are concerned legally that not having a replacement regulation in place opens them up to liability,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, which applauded Tuesday’s repeal. Mr. Eisenberg said he was not concerned that the agency appears to want some time to consider a replacement. But, he said, companies are eager to see that effort move forward.
Industry isn’t all on the same page. Mr. Murray said he didn’t believe a replacement was necessary. “Right now, there’s no urgency to do anything in my opinion,” he said.
Supporters and opponents alike point out that the E.P.A. may not have enough senior officials in place to design a new rule. President Trump only last week nominated a deputy administrator to the agency, and other key appointees are awaiting senate confirmation. Another factor is Mr. Pruitt himself, a vocal denier of the scientific consensus that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of climate change. Policy analysts said they did not believe Mr. Pruitt wanted his name attached to any greenhouse gas regulation, even a weak one.
“It’s very clear that this administration has no interest in seriously taking on climate change, be it in the power sector or other sources of emissions,” said David Konisky, an associate professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. “Delaying is the policy.”
But where some see cynical strategy, Mr. Pruitt’s supporters see considered reasoning. David T. Stevenson, policy director at the Center for Energy Competitiveness at the Caesar Rodney Institute in Delaware and a member of Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. transition team, said smart policy takes time. Designing and moving forward a replacement for the Clean Power Plan could take as long as two years, he said.
“If you do it right that’s how long it takes,” he said. “These kinds of rules were put in place for a reason, so you couldn’t just willy-nilly regulate the heck out of things.”
Continue reading the main story