The New York Times offers a good rundown of the various environmental laws and regulations that Trump’s administration will likely attempt to roll back. The upside: many of these agency actions could take years to unwind, likely leaving the final call for efforts like the Clean Power Plan in the hands of the 2020 presidential election winner.
The downside: a number of executive orders, such as preventing coal mining on public lands, can be undone right away. Other rules, like the methane limits on oil extraction, can also be undone by Congress through the Congressional Review Act. And perhaps most significantly, the Trump administration can try to weaken fuel economy standards for automakers, although that too will take time and litigation.
Of course, if Congress can act to weaken the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws, all bets are off. But as long as the filibuster remains in the Senate, that may be hard to do.
Meanwhile, there may be some glimmer of hope on clean technology with the new administration. Trump’s nominee for Treasury secretary backed the production tax credit for wind power (the solar tax credit’s fate may be less certain, and both tax credits could be undermined by broader corporate tax reductions, but still). Tesla/SolarCity CEO Elon Musk also apparently has the ear of Trump on EV manufacturing, which can’t hurt. And while it’s been only a week since the inauguration, Trump hasn’t yet withdrawn the U.S. from the landmark Paris agreement on climate change, while Exxon, incoming Secretary of State Tillerson’s former company, just praised the agreement.
There is still little reason for environmentalists to get their hopes up, and the idea of actually proactively tackling our environmental challenges at the federal level is all but dead for the next four years. But the current legal environment on the environment may be a bit more stable than we might otherwise assume.