A Banner Year for Deregulation on Energy, Climate, and Environment

After thirty years of mostly disappointments and defeats, 2017 has been a banner year for advancing free market policies across the board on energy, climate, and environmental issues. We at CEI are proud to have played an important role in promoting many of these decisions.

The single biggest step forward occurred on June 1st when President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate treaty. CEI worked furiously to help achieve this result. Staying in Paris would obligate the U.S. to undertake domestic policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions costing consumers and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and restricting our freedom.

The Trump Administration also made great progress in undoing the domestic climate policies already undertaken by the Obama Administration through regulation and executive fiat. The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of withdrawing the so-called Clean Power Plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal and natural gas power plants and the New Source Performance Standards greenhouse gas emissions rule for new power plants. It has re-opened the review of the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks.

Climate rules, policies, programs, and offices are disappearing across the federal government. Most notably, President Trump suspended the use of the Social Cost of Carbon guidance document. The new National Security Strategy drops climate change as a national security threat and instead focuses on the national and global security benefits of increased domestic fossil fuel production.

On energy production, the Department of the Interior ended the moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands and has moved aggressively to increase oil and gas production on federal lands and offshore areas after declining production during the Obama years. Congress even did something laudable when it included a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to open 2,000 acres of the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas production, thereby concluding thirty years of intense political debate.

The deregulatory successes go beyond climate and energy. To take just two notable examples, the EPA scrapped the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which would have vastly expanded federal jurisdiction over wetlands, and it denied a junk-science driven petition to ban valuable agricultural uses of the pesticide known as chlorpyrifos.

There were, of course, also disappointments in 2017. Under pressure from several senators representing the interests of corn ethanol producers, the EPA abandoned modest reductions in the Renewable Fuels Standard. Modest reforms of wind, solar, and electric vehicle subsidies passed by the House of Representatives were dropped from the final Tax Cuts and Jobs Act conference report.

But our biggest disappointment was the continuing dissemination by the federal government of junk climate science. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released the final version of the Climate Science Special Report and the final draft of the fourth National Assessment on the Impacts of Climate Change. The climate consensus keeps rolling along despite the continuing publication of major research undermining the so-called consensus. We hope that the red-team/blue-team review of climate science that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has talked about is conducted in 2018. It would also help if the President would get around to nominating a chief scientific adviser to head the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Our other big goals we hope to see accomplished in 2018 include:

  • reform of the use of science in the regulatory process that will prohibit the use of secret science and science that does not meet the minimal standards of the federal Information Quality Act
  • review non-public records at EPA, Interior, Energy, etc. to see what documents are available to support review of regulatory over-reaches by the previous administration
  • regulatory reforms of the Endangered Species Act and the Environmental Impact Statement permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act
  • granting CEI’s petition to re-open the 2009 Endangerment Finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health and safety and therefore must be regulated.

The Senate’s continuing dysfunction makes prospects for significant legislation unlikely, but the Congress could at least decide to make bigger spending cuts in regulatory budgets. Fewer regulators means less over-regulation.