Update: Declaring "the start of a new era" in energy production, President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that he said would revive the coal industry and create jobs. The move makes good on his campaign pledge to unravel former President Barack Obama's plan to curb global warming.
Environmental activists, including former Vice President Al Gore, denounced the plan. But Trump said the effort would allow workers to "succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time."
"That is what this is all about: bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams and making America wealthy again," Trump said, during a ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, attended by a number of coal miners.
This story was originally published on March 28, 2017, at 10:30 a.m.
President Trump is expected to sign an executive order Tuesday that marks the first step toward unraveling the Obama administration's policies on climate change.
The order will suspend, rescind, or flag for review more than half a dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.
As part of the roll-back, Trump will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The regulation, which was President Obama's signature effort to curb carbon emissions, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal, and gas.
Trump, who called global warming a "hoax" invented by the Chinese in a 2012 tweet that has yet to be taken down, has repeatedly criticised the power-plant and other rules as an attack on American workers and the struggling U.S. coal industry. The content of the order was outlined to reporters in a sometimes tense briefing with a senior White House official, whom aides insisted speak without attribution despite President Trump's criticism of the use of unnamed sources in the news media.
The official at one point appeared to break with mainstream climate science, denying familiarity with widely publicised concerns about the potential adverse economic impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather.
In addition to pulling back from the Clean Power Plan, the administration will also lift a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.
The Obama administration had imposed a three-year moratorium on new federal coal leases in January 2016, arguing that the $1 billion-a-year program must be modernised to ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers and address climate change.
Trump accused his predecessor of waging a "war on coal" and boasted in a speech to Congress that he has made "a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations," including some that threaten "the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners."
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 will also 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. But the moves to be announced Tuesday will undoubtedly make it more difficult for the U.S. to achieve its goals.
Trump's Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, alarmed environmental groups and scientists earlier this month when he said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. The statement is at odds with mainstream scientific consensus and Pruitt's own agency.
The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, mostly due to man-made sources, including carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons, and nitrogen oxide.
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 as a result of increasing automation and competition from cheaper natural gas. Another factor is the plummeting cost of solar panels and wind turbines, which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.
According to an Energy Department analysis released in January, coal mining now accounts for fewer than 70,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.
Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy accused the Trump administration of wanting "us to travel back to when smokestacks damaged our health and polluted our air, instead of taking every opportunity to support clean jobs of the future."
"This is not just dangerous; it's embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth, and U.S. leadership," she said in a statement.