‘Virtually certain’ that Trump will squelch Clean Power Plan, Holmstead said

With the surprising election of Republican Donald Trump, a leading attorney for coal-fired utilities thinks it is “virtually certain” that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan will not survive in the new administration.

“With the Trump presidency, I think it is virtually certain that the Clean Power Plan will be revoked. The question is how?” Jeffrey Holmstead, the head of the Environmental Strategies Group at the Bracewell law firm said the day after the election.

Holmstead, former Assistant Administrator of the EPA for Air and Radiation, during the George W. Bush administration, made his comments during a day-after election webinar by Bracewell.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments on the Obama administration’s controversial carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction rule on Oct. 4.

Holmstead said he wouldn’t be surprised if the appeals court will issue its ruling not long after President-elect Trump assume office in January.

“If the D.C. Circuit were to strike down the rule there is no administrative process necessary,” Holmstead said. As he has in the past, Holmstead said that even if a version of the CPP survives legal challenge, it should be fairly simple for a new president to greatly revise or revoke the program.

“Mr. Trump is not a fan of the United States Environmental Protection Agency,” said Bracewell Partner Scott Segal, who heads the firm’s policy resolution group.

“It’s difficult to guess what Donald Trump will do,” in some areas, Segal said. Energy was not a central issue in the campaign. That was perhaps due to “climate fatigue” and the fact that gasoline prices are low, Segal said.

But Trump has expressed been skeptical of the Paris Climate Agreement. While it’s not exactly clear how Trump might proceed on the Paris agreement, the agreement itself does not impose any legal obligations on the United States, Holmstead said.

“Greenhouse gas emissions will probably continue to fall for a lot of other reasons,” Holmstead said during the call.

Trump has said he opposes “counter-productive” regulation and he would support a “moratorium” on new regulations, which isn’t too unusual when new administrations come in, Segal said.

Bracewell officials said during the call that the Trump campaign was closed to the oil and natural gas industry. Trump could loosen or try to block any new regulations on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” as well as the “Waters of the United States” rule and many standards on energy efficiency being handed down by the Department of Energy (DOE).

Also Trump will likely oppose measures to place more natural resources on public lands off-limits, officials said.

It was a political year for outsiders

“The Trump campaign was a very interesting campaign,” Segal said. In many aspects, it ran outside of the usual Republican Party apparatus. So Trump perhaps has freedom to step outside of traditional positions, Segal said.

Bracewell officials said during the call that Trump could move to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement unless Mexico agree to renegotiate certain aspects of it.

Bracewell speakers said during the call that the recent election season was dominated by outsiders such as Trump and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders. The establishment credentials of Democrat Hillary Clinton did little to benefit her in the current political environment, officials said during the call.

Likewise former Democratic governor and senator from Indiana, Evan Bayh III, lost his election race, perhaps being viewed as too much of a “retread” this year. Bayh has also been a pro-nuclear energy advocate for the organization, Nuclear Matters.

It should be noted that one maverick Democrat, billionaire coal and resort businessman Jim Justice Jr., was elected governor in West Virginia.

During the call Bracewell officials noted that a few things could get done during the upcoming “lame duck” session in Congress, including “tax extenders” and some funding for carbon capture and storage.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.