Climate change opponents are joining environmentalists in criticizing President Trump for not mentioning climate change in his State of the Union address last week, but for a different reason.
While green groups and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., say the president has his head in the sand, anti-climate change hawks are looking for new steps to help the energy industry, particularly getting rid of a finding that gives the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
Some of the most ardent proponents of reversing course on climate change have not heard back from the administration on when to expect follow-up steps to Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement and reverse Obama-era climate rules such as the Clean Power Plan.
That includes addressing EPA's "endangerment finding" on carbon dioxide, which gives the agency its underlying authority to regulate emissions.
The finding says carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and therefore must be regulated as a pollutant. Increased levels of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is the principal cause of climate change, according to most climate scientists.
As long as the finding is in place, it would be easy for a more climate-friendly administration to reverse all of Trump's actions.
"To ensure the longevity of these plans, the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas endangerment finding must also be repealed," said Tom Harris, executive director for the International Climate Science Coalition and policy adviser at the free-market and anti-climate change Heartland Institute. "It is only when there is no credible basis to label carbon dioxide a pollutant, that the war on coal will not be easily revived by a future administration.”
But the administration hasn't made any commitment to reverse the endangerment finding.
Myron Ebell, Trump's EPA transition chief, and an avid opponent of climate regulation, has petitioned "the EPA to re-open the endangerment finding," he told the Washington Examiner in an email. "EPA has not responded to our petition." He is the director of the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute's energy and environment office.
Ebell also wants strict prohibitions placed on a calculation developed by the Obama administration to justify regulations based on the Social Cost of Carbon.
"We also favor prohibiting the use of the Social Cost of Carbon guidance document rather than reforming it," Ebell said.
The EPA is reducing the carbon cost metric by more than 80 percent in documents used to justify scrapping such rules as the Clean Power Plan. The agency isn't prohibiting its use, but is restructuring it in a way that doesn't help to justify new regulations.
Ebell said he also would like to see the president send the Paris Agreement to the GOP-controlled Senate for a vote, where it most likely would fail. That would help to ensure it cannot easily be resurrected by the next administration.
The Heartland Institute said it was pleased that Trump took some of its advice on healthcare initiatives in the State of the Union, but it was not as thrilled about the lack of next steps on climate change regulation.
"To fully end President Barack Obama’s devastating ‘war on coal,’ Trump is taking many critical steps, with his plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan among the most important," Harris said. But Trump still needs to eliminate the Obama administration's 2015 climate rules for new coal-fired power plants, saying "as long as that rule exists, the United States cannot build modern, clean and efficient coal plants to replace older, dirtier stations as is happening in Europe, China and India," Harris said.
The Clean Power Plan targeted the existing fleet of fossil fuel power plants. The New Source climate rules would make new coal power plants so expensive to build that it is often referred to as a de facto ban.