October 17, 2016
While most of the analysts predict a Clinton victory and Democratic administration, here are some thoughts about what a Trump administration might look like when it comes to energy/environmental policy and what may change in a Clinton Administration. As I have written in other blog articles, nothing here represents writing in favor or against a candidate or policies, but instead addresses future issues facing the energy/environmental professional.
Should There Be a Trump Administration.
Energy: Donald Trump has been severely critical of current energy and environmental policy and has stated he will reverse many of President Obama’s initiatives. During a May 26 speech, Trump reflected a desire to achieve US energy independence by reducing federal regulations on the energy industry, increase investments in fossil fuel development and infrastructure to bring it to market (such as supporting the Keystone Pipeline), and reduce federal investment in renewable energy, as he has criticized both solar and wind power. Trump also supports increased use of nuclear power.
Environment: Trump has stated he would rescind a number of President Obama’s cornerstone environmental and energy achievements, such as the Clean Power Plan. Trump has also specifically pointed to the Clean Water Act as another regulation he would greatly weaken if he were elected. Reversing or weakening these and other EPA rules would require EPA rulemaking, requiring a public notice process. A Trump Justice Department could just not defend these and other environmental rules as they are challenged in court by industry. Neither approach would ensure success, as environmental and other groups would surely marshal forces in defense of the rules. Furthermore, courts could rule that these regulations are valid, legal, and necessary.
Climate Change: Trump has stated on the campaign trail that climate change has not been proven. In a recent speech, he was more neutral about the topic, but has expressed the feeling that this is not a high priority. He has expressed his intention to withdraw the US from the recent Paris Climate Agreement. With the Paris Agreement officially ratified, it would be difficult to withdraw, although Trump could likely do as little as possible to implement the Agreement, which has flexible objectives and no enforcement mechanism.
Should There Be a Clinton Administration.
Energy: To enable energy independence, Hillary Clinton has outlined a wide ranging list of investments by the federal government, such as clean energy, upgrading energy infrastructure, promoting responsible domestic drilling for oil and natural gas, and building on many of the core energy and environmental programs of the Obama Administration, such as the Clean Power Plan and Paris Climate Agreement. Clinton has spoken out in favor of natural gas development, citing it as a bridge fuel in the transition away from coal, including supports for fracking, although she has stated that deference should be given to localities who wish to ban it in their communities. Despite the “all of the above” approach in energy development, Clinton has stated policies that would discourage coal as an energy source, unless acceptable environmental levels are met. Clinton issued an infrastructure plan, prioritizing the development and repair of large-scale energy infrastructure across the country. Clinton would likely seek to continue the current Administration’s strong support for renewable energy development, call the US a future clean energy “superpower.” Clinton’s specific plan increases the percentage of renewable generation to 25% of total national energy mix by 2025.
Environment: Clinton supports the Clean Power Plan and wants to expand it in other industries in order to implement “smart” pollution and efficiency standards. Clinton has given no specifics, but states she supports additional policies to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate Change: A Clinton Administration has committed to continue to abide by the Paris Climate Agreement. The Democratic Party platform stated: “Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.”
Control of Congress.
Remember that while the President wields considerable power through the EPA and DOE, control of Congress is certainly important, too, in “setting the tone”, promulgating new rules and funding existing agencies. Republican control of the Senate and perhaps the House is in play in the upcoming election. A Democratic control could dramatically change the policies of several related committees in the Senate and House.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, the current chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has been a strong advocate of the “all of the above” approach to energy. She supports energy exploration on federal land, such as in her home state of Alaska. Senator Maria Cantwell is the ranking Democrat on this committee and would likely chair it if the Democrats take control of the Senate. She has billed herself as a champion of “smarter” energy policies to diversify energy sources and lower costs for consumers. Senator James Inhofe, the current chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is a noted climate change skeptic and strongly supports scaling back environmental regulations and promoting greater domestic energy production. If the Senate flips to Democratic control, Senator Tom Carper is expected to chair this committee.
CCES can help you evaluate your company’s energy use and environmental impacts and can perform the technical aspects to determine compliance with current rules and develop opportunities to reduce your energy usage and diversifying sources, saving you money and decreasing business risk. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.