Trump's Approach to Energy and the Environment: A Texas State of Mind
A Trump approach to environment and energy will be so very Texas. And that may not be a good thing.
Photo by Mikel Galicia
Donald Trump has called climate change science a hoax, has promised to eliminate the federal Environmental Protection Agency and will be so into the U.S. energy industry as president that it'll almost feel awkward to see that kind of love play out in public, outside of pornography.
So what will that mean for Texas, land of energy and as little environmental protection as we can get away with and still claim that we technically have it? Well, imagine if the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission — the two state entities that oversee the environment and energy, respectively — actually set policy for the whole United States. As we've noted before, neither of these agencies has what can even jokingly be called stringent rules.
In other words, energy executives would love it and environmentalists in the Lone Star State may find themselves doing a lot of deep-healing breaths to deal with what is about to happen.
Trump stated in his victory speech that he's supposed to do all of that "Make America Great Again" business by cutting taxes, starting a ton of infrastructure programs and having policies that are so pro-business that you'll wonder if these policies are on steroids.
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Anyway, this is likely to be awesome for the fossil fuel industries and thus for Texas oil. Texas energy industry types should be thrilled by this because Trump's administration isn't likely to have much interest in regulating hydraulic fracturing. (The Bureau of Land Management has been trying to get control of fracking on federal lands, but those efforts will almost certainly end when Trump takes the reins.) Thus, fracking and oil production in general are expected to be booming.
Plus, Trump has already said he wants to revisit TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline, a controversial project toting bitumen, a sticky, black-tar-like type of crude, from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Under Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Justice ultimately kiboshed the pipeline, but under Trump the federal government is likely to sign off, and TransCanada has already stated the company is still interested in getting the pipeline built. Trump has made promises about reviving the U.S. coal industry, but either way, oil is going to come roaring to new life in this brave new world under the Trump administration.
The renewable energy industry Obama has supported throughout his eight years in office is also not a Trump favorite. But in this case, at least the fact that wind and solar energy have become more profitable may get Trump to hold off on killing government subsidies for the industry.
But when it comes to the rest of Obama's energy and environmental policies, chances are Trump is going to be shedding them like snakeskin.
He's already proving he wasn't joking about being a climate change denier — last week, Trump announced that Myron Ebell, the head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who is known as an oil industry mouthpiece and does not support climate science, will head up Trump's EPA transition team. Ebell is a true "Global warming is just God hugging us closer" type. He thinks global warming has not been that bad and may ultimately be good for the Earth.
Next up on the chopping block will be the Paris climate agreement that Obama signed last year, under which more than 190 countries agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. If the United States doesn't follow through on this one, the odds are good other countries will also be less inclined to do what they promised, and from there the whole thing will fall apart, as the New York Times observed.
On the domestic front, Trump will also probably work to gut Obama's Clean Power Plan, the main portion of which is a set of EPA regulations aimed at cutting back on pollution from coal-fired power plants. The regulations have garnered lawsuits in 28 states, including Texas, and are expected to go before the U.S. Supreme Court early next year.
Under Trump, the odds are good these emissions rules will never be enacted. Since the United States can't hope to meet its obligations to reduce emissions as outlined in the Paris accords without these regulations, Obama's big climate change legacy may not survive for long after he leaves office.
Since Texas lawmakers have been stridently against all of this, they'll likely be thrilled, as will the power plants in the state, since the Clean Power Plan regulations would have transformed the electricity industry in a huge way. The state officials must also be psyched to realize that their days of suing the EPA for so much as glancing in this direction may be long gone.
Under Trump, the EPA will likely be defanged to a point that we'll all probably have a hard time remembering the federal agency ever had any teeth. In fact, Trump has also said he intends to abolish the EPA entirely.
For Texas this means that most of the environmental regulation we've seen from the feds will become a thing of the past, and the TCEQ and "conscientious" industry will be our main safeguards against dioxin contamination, oil spills, tainted water, polluted air and the myriad other factors that can mess with the environment.
On the upside, this means a significant drop in Texas lawsuits against the federal government. Texas has sued the Obama administration 40 times over the past eight years, and 25 of those lawsuits have been over climate change or air and water quality. Now it looks as if Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will finally be able to kick back since he won't have to be trying to block the EPA from doing any actual regulating in Texas.
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