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Environment Groups Vow to Fight Actions03/29 05:59

   Environmental groups that have hired scores of new lawyers in recent months 
are prepared to go to court to fight a sweeping executive order from President 
Donald Trump that eliminates many restrictions on fossil fuel production and 
would roll back his predecessor's plans to curb global warming. But they said 
they'll take their first battle to the court of public opinion.

   CHICAGO (AP) -- Environmental groups that have hired scores of new lawyers 
in recent months are prepared to go to court to fight a sweeping executive 
order from President Donald Trump that eliminates many restrictions on fossil 
fuel production and would roll back his predecessor's plans to curb global 
warming. But they said they'll take their first battle to the court of public 
opinion.

   Advocates said they plan to work together to mobilize a public backlash 
against an executive order signed by Trump on Tuesday that includes initiating 
a review of former President Barack Obama's signature plan to restrict 
greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and lifting a 
14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. Trump, who has 
called global warming a "hoax" invented by the Chinese, said during his 
campaign that he would kill Obama's climate plans and bring back coal jobs.

   Even so, "this is not what most people elected Trump to do; people support 
climate action," said David Goldston, director of government affairs at the 
Natural Resources Defense Council, who said Trump's actions are short-sighted 
and won't bring back the jobs he promised.

   The White House did not immediately respond to an Associated Press email 
looking for comment.

   While Republicans have blamed Obama-era environmental regulations for the 
loss of coal jobs, federal data shows that U.S. mines have been shedding jobs 
for decades under presidents from both parties because of automation and 
competition from natural gas and because of solar panels and wind turbines, 
which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.

   But many people in coal country are counting on the jobs that Trump has 
promised, and industry advocates praised his orders.

   "These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous 
administration's strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, 
job-killing regulations that choked our economy," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce 
President Thomas J. Donohue.

   The order will also chip away at other regulations, including scrapping 
language on the "social cost" of greenhouse gases. It will initiate a review of 
efforts to reduce the emission of methane in oil and natural gas production as 
well as a Bureau of Land Management hydraulic fracturing rule, to determine 
whether those reflect the president's policy priorities.

   It also will rescind Obama-era executive orders and memoranda, including one 
that addressed climate change and national security and one that sought to 
prepare the country for the impacts of climate change. The administration is 
still in discussion about whether it intends to withdraw from the Paris 
Agreement on climate change.

   Environmentalists say clean energy would create thousands of new jobs and 
fear that Trump's actions will put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage to 
other countries that are embracing it.

   But they believe efforts to revive fossil fuels ultimately will fail because 
many states and industries already have been embracing renewable energy and 
natural gas.

   "Those decisions are being made at the state level and plant by plant," said 
Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen, who said his group is "continuing to 
work aggressively to retire dirty coal plants.

   "Coal is not coming back," Van Noppen added. "While the president is taking 
big splashy action, he is actually doomed to fail."

   A coalition of 16 states and the District of Columbia said they will oppose 
any effort by the Trump administration to withdraw the Clean Power Plan or seek 
dismissal of a pending legal case before a federal appeals court in Washington.

   Environmental advocates also are ready to go to court on a moment's notice, 
and will carefully watch the administration's actions, said the NRDC's Goldston.

   "The president doesn't get to simply rewrite safeguards; they have to ... 
prove the changes are in line with the law and science," Goldston said. "I 
think that's going to be a high hurdle for them."

   Jeremy Symons, associate vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, 
said advocates will work to build support among lawmakers along with the public.

   "In terms of the big picture, our strategy is simple: Shine a spotlight on 
what is going on and mobilize the public against these rollbacks that threaten 
our children's health" and the climate, he said.


(KA)

 
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