On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order titled "Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth" that reverses or materially alters many of the actions that the federal government undertook during the Obama Administration to address climate change. According to the Executive Order, President Trump is mandating these actions to promote development of the nation's natural resources, ensure that electricity is affordable, reduce regulatory burdens on companies and respect the role of states in environmental regulation. The Executive Order requires "particular attention to [the burdens on] oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy."
The Executive Order includes a general review of all agency actions that could burden domestic energy production and requires reviews or repeals of specific federal regulations. The most immediate effects relate to review of projects by federal agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), coal leasing on federal lands and climate change initiatives within federal agencies. Longer-term impacts relate to regulation of air emissions from new and existing fossil fuel-fired power plants and regulation of oil and gas development, as well as other programs to be identified that burden domestic energy industries. The range of actions could reduce burdens on renewable energy development as well.
The Executive Order broadly mandates that all federal agencies "review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions . . . that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources." By July 26, 2017, agencies must submit a draft report identifying regulations and policies that the agency could "suspend, revise, or rescind" to "alleviate or eliminate aspects of agency actions that burden domestic energy production." By September 24, 2017, agencies are required to finalize their proposed actions and then implement the revocations, modifications or other changes as soon as "practicable" thereafter. The private sector will likely assist agencies in identifying burdens to domestic energy development and recommend suspension, revision or rescission of specific regulations prior to the July 26, 2017, draft due date.
Revocation of Executive Orders, Policies and Reports
President Trump's Executive Order rescinds prior policy statements, executive orders and reports that established climate change objectives, including the following:
Generally speaking, these documents established federal policies governing federal agencies in their regulatory and procurement activities, and all relate to climate change issues. The rescission of these orders, memoranda and reports does not directly affect the private sector, except with respect to coal leases on federal land or projects subject to ongoing or future review under NEPA.
Action on Specific Regulations
President Trump's Executive Order also directs the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior to "immediately take all steps necessary to review the [following] final rules . . . and, if appropriate . . . publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding those rules":
The scope of the Executive Order is so broad, and its ultimate effects so undefined, that the primary result of the Executive Order is likely to be regulatory uncertainty for the duration of President Trump's current term, and potentially beyond.
Renewable Energy: The initial analysis of the Executive Order suggests that more liberal regulation of the fossil fuel sector will reduce the costs of conventional energy and provide additional cost or competitive pressures on development of renewables. But the Executive Order could benefit renewables, as well, by reducing other regulatory burdens imposed by agencies (such as enforcement of wildlife protection laws applicable to wind energy facilities) or reducing the time required for NEPA review of renewable facilities subject to such review. Other Trump Administration policies, like its proposals for tax reform that could affect tax incentives for renewable energy, could also greatly impact renewable development. Accordingly, it is uncertain whether the Trump Administration's actions will have an overall positive or negative impact on renewable energy development.