Although one month remains before President Obama’s administration ends and President-elect Trump’s begins, the federal government has now formally begun to withdraw from its efforts to curb climate change.
On December 19, 2016—the same day that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule designed to protect streams and groundwater from the effects of coal mining (the so-called “stream protection rule,” 81 Fed. Reg. 92666)—EPA formally withdrew its draft Clean Power Plan rules containing guidance for states on model power plant emissions trading programs. Simultaneously with withdrawing the draft Clean Power Plan rules, EPA published them on its website, a step openly described by EPA as being intended to assist states and members of the public wanting to see the fruits of EPA’s rulemaking efforts shared while such sharing is “allowed.”
It would appear that finalization and promulgation, rather than withdrawal, of the “stream protection rule”—which, like the Clean Power Plan draft rules, targets the coal industry and has been slated by President-elect Trump for immediate repeal—reflects a desire by the current administration to force congressional Republicans to affirmatively vote to repeal rules targeting traditional pollution. To date, the existence of traditional pollution (e.g., muddy stream water) has not been the subject of any scientific debate (i.e., the debate over the “stream protection rule” is fundamentally one concerning costs, not environmental protection benefits).