Energy and Environment – The Biggest Moments of 2017.

When the Trump Administration took office last January, its energy and environment agenda was clear and the objectives stayed consistent throughout 2017. Perhaps more than any other arena, these issues have seen the greatest policy changes over the past 12 months. Here are the biggest energy and environment moments from 2017:

  1. Clean Power Plan. During his campaign, the President said that he would repeal the Clean Power Plan, the rule that governed emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants. Upon taking office, he asked for a review of all energy-related rules, including this one. Then in October, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the Administration would propose a repeal of and replacement for the CPP. This unwinds one of the most fundamental environmental rule-making initiatives of the Obama Administration. Fighting climate change was a core principal of the previous Administration and this change is a significant headline in 2017 because it substantially changes the regulatory framework for electric utilities and their approach to the regulation of carbon dioxide.
  2. The Paris Accords. Another key part of the Obama legacy on the environment was the United States’ participation in the Paris Accords. This international agreement set out country specific targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions. In May, the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of that agreement. America’s withdrawal from this agreement was also a campaign promise during the presidential race. The action is mostly symbolic, but it was still an impactful moment because it reduces the country’s global leadership on climate change goals and efforts. This was another major shift in policy that diverged sharply from the Obama Administration.
  3. ANWR. The oil and gas industry and its supporters have tried to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for energy development for decades. All signs indicate that opening this new region may actually succeed during this presidency. Opening a portion of ANWR for energy development is included in the tax bill that is racing to the President’s desk before the Holiday. While still controversial in the environmental community, the provision has attracted much less national attention than in it has in previous attempts.
  4. Congressional Roll back of Rules. The Republican Congress used the Congressional Review Act to statutorily overturn more than a dozen rules that were put in place during the Obama Administration. Three of those rules were regulations from the Department of the Interior governing energy development and public land use. Most notably, the process was used to block the “stream buffer rule” which would have imposed limits on coal mining companies disposal of spoil into streams and rivers. The successful use of the rarely used Congressional Review Act adds it to our list as a key moment of 2017.

While the Trump Administration’s agenda has stalled in some areas, the key agencies in the energy and environment space have made a dramatic shift in policy through a mix of Administrative actions, legislation, and rule making. In terms of results, the Administration can point to these actions as evidence of successfully fulfilling campaign promises since the start of the year.

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