A Look at the Future of the EPA Under a Trump Presidency

“No matter what happens tonight, the sun will rise in the morning and America will still be the greatest nation on Earth.” – President Barack Obama

Donald J. Trump is now President-elect of the United States, which has many environmentalists and people concerned about climate change worried that while the sun will indeed continue to rise, the Earth that it warms may fall victim to hurtful policies carried out by a leader who once tweeted that climate change is a hoax orchestrated by the Chinese.

The environment was never a priority for the Trump campaign, there isn’t even a section dedicated to it on his website.

In Georgia, Trump garnered 51% of the vote.


Georgia politicians victorious in the state elections have more of a stance on the environment.

For example, Senator Johnny Isakson, who won re-election, has a page on his website containing brief statements on his attitude towards water, air and land, which can be read here.

On the local level, Jody Hice won a seat in Congress representing the state’s 10th District, which encompasses the Athens area. Hice supports initiatives like the Keystone XL pipeline, but also states via his website that he is, “committed to making sure that our true national treasures – our parks and forests – remain vibrant so that our children and grandchildren can have the same opportunities to enjoy our beautiful country as we currently have.”

Pre-election, Trump made his distaste for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clear, and vowed to scrap the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan as one of his first moves in office.

Post-election, Myron Ebell has now been tapped to lead the EPA transition team, and as a long time climate change denier, he represents a prominent threat to the Clean Power Plan and the Obama administration’s hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 2025.

Signs of Myron Ebell and fellow climate change deniers posted in Paris during discussions on the Paris Agreement
Sign of Myron Ebell and fellow climate change deniers posted in Paris during discussions on the Paris Agreement

Ebell is currently employed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a D.C. think tank opposing regulation on greenhouse gas emissions. He also chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition, which focuses on dispelling what they believe to be the myth of climate change.

Ebell is not a scientist, but has clearly stated his opposition to the Paris Agreement, which was ratified at the beginning of this month. He has also expressed criticism towards the Clean Power Plan, claiming that it would hurt the American economy in its attempts to regulate coal-burning and energy inefficient power plants.

Coal-burning power plant.
Coal-burning power plant.

Ebell’s organization is partly financed by the coal industry.

In examining the implications of Trump and Ebell’s sentiments, the question still remains about whether or not they will be able to completely dismantle the Clean Power Plan.

Currently the Clean Power Plan is tied up in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Due to pressure from the coal industry and some utility companies, more than 24 states, including Georgia, have sued the EPA citing the illegality of the Clean Power Plan. It is unlikely the court battle will be resolved before the Trump presidency begins in January. For more information on the specifics of the lawsuit click here.

One option Trump has after taking office would be to just stop defending the case. According to experts, this approach would not kill the suit because other parties such as environmental and public health organizations have standing to defend the case.

Another potential method is filing a voluntary remand. This would give the EPA the ability to revise the rules based on the plaintiffs’ complaints. The issue with this is that it would entail another lengthy notice and comment rule-making process, ultimately leading to more litigation.

Jack Lienke, a senior attorney with NYU Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity, explains what could perhaps be the most lethal method of attack for the Clean Power Plan, saying, “Presumably if both chambers of Congress were to pass some sort of [bill] blocking the Clean Power Plan, and a President Trump wanted to sign it, that would be law, and that would render the litigation over the rule moot.”

Among experts and activists, there is undeniable concern for the future of the environment under a Trump presidency. But these experts have varying levels of apprehension.

Jason Bordoff, the director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and a former energy advisor to Obama, says of the Obama administration’s environmental initiatives, “Because they were done with existing authority, not through Congress, it’s easier for another administration that has another view to roll all those things back and I worry that that’s what’s about to happen.”

On the other hand, while still grim, K.C. Golden, chairman of 350.org, a website that focuses on climate change, stated that while the fight against climate change will be much slower with a leader who does not recognize the problem, “the lack of American leadership won’t stop the transition.”

(Analysis and Commentary by Eliza Edich)

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