Energy Blog

Energy Blog

US Chamber of Commerce Blog

Thomas J. Donohue Energy independence

Thanks to a sweeping new executive order last week, the United States took a large and long-overdue step toward achieving energy independence. President Trump declared the promotion of U.S. energy resources a strategic national objective; ordered a review of all energy regulations, including the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP); and reversed multiple other misguided Obama-era policies restricting our energy sector. Together these actions will unleash domestic energy production and support large-scale economic growth and job creation.

America has a diverse and unparalleled supply of energy resources, giving us a massive economic advantage over other nations. The previous administration chose to restrict access to these resources under the guise of protecting the environment—even though many of its measures would have done little to advance this goal, instead merely shifting jobs and growth to other countries. The Trump administration’s actions last week reflect an understanding that the environment and the economy do not need to be at odds. America’s energy innovators are able to safely and cleanly leverage our resources when government supports, rather than opposes, their efforts.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has led the fight against many of the restrictive Obama-era regulations that will be reviewed or rescinded under President Trump’s order, including the CPP. The plan is the poster child of ill-advised regulations, aiming to radically transform the electricity sector through rules that impose tens of billions of dollars in costs on businesses and consumers. That is why more than 160 challengers took legal action against EPA to block the CPP, including 28 states and a Chamber-led coalition of 16 national business groups.

The Chamber is confident that the Trump administration’s review of the CPP will reveal the plan’s damaging impact and result in it being fully rescinded. We also expect that the administration’s stated goal of identifying “all regulations, all rules, all policies ... that serve as obstacles and impediments to American energy independence” will lead to additional badly needed policy reversals in the federal agencies.

All the measures included in the executive order represent a long-awaited realignment of the federal government’s approach to the energy sector. Our nation’s natural resources belong to the American people, and it’s up to our free enterprise economy to convert these resources not only into energy but into jobs, growth, and prosperity for all. The Chamber is prepared to help the administration and Congress continue to advance this mission in the months and years to come. 

Sean Hackbarth President Donald Trump speaks in Louisville, Kentucky. President Donald Trump speaks in Louisville, Kentucky.Photo credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg.

“We’re going to start a new energy revolution,” President Donald Trump declared at EPA headquarters.

His energy Executive Order (EO) begins reversing the many anti-energy policies advanced by President Obama’s administration.

“The action I’m taking will eliminate executive overreach, restore economic freedom, and allow our companies and our workers to thrive, compete, and succeed,” President Trump insisted. “We’re going to expand energy production, and we will also create more jobs in infrastructure, trucking, and manufacturing.”

CNN reports on what the EO does:

Tuesday's order initiates a review of the Clean Power Plan, rescinds the moratorium on coal mining on US federal lands and urges federal agencies to "identify all regulations, all rules, all policies ... that serve as obstacles and impediments to American energy independence," the official said.

Specifically, the order rescinds at least six Obama-era executive orders aimed at curbing climate change and regulating carbon emissions, including Obama's November 2013 executive order instructing the federal government to prepare for the impact of climate change and the September 2016 presidential memorandum that outlined the "growing threat to national security" that climate change poses.

Dan Byers of the Institute for 21st Century Energy gets into more detail on what the EO does in this blog post.

The pieces that grab the headlines are the reviews of President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) and New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) rule for new power plants. The CPP would have forced closure of approximately 20% of the country’s existing coal-fired power, and the NSPS would have effectively made it illegal to build new coal plants anywhere in the U.S.

The CPP has been put on hold by the federal courts since 2016, and the NSPS awaits a hearing in April.

Note, a president can’t simply declare a set of regulations on the books null and void. As Byers explains:

[I]t’s important to remember that President Trump’s action on CPP and NSPS is only the first step in what will be an involved deregulatory process, complete with a proposal, public comment period, and inevitable follow-on litigation. But once that process is completed, there is every reason to believe that the Trump Administration will successfully send the CPP and NSPS to the regulatory ash heap.

One provision that deserves more notice is one that rescinds an Obama administration requirement that agencies consider greenhouse gas emissions when issuing federal environmental permits. This order was an obstacle to building needed energy infrastructure as well as to the construction of highways, bridges, and railroads.

President Trump’s EO also lifts the Obama administration moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. This was a generous gift to President Obama’s anti-energy allies. Forty percent of coal mined in the United States comes from federal lands. An affordable fuel for generating electricity can be tapped once again.

Overall, this EO is a total reversal from President Obama’s approach to energy. Our previous president talked a lot about an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, only to make decisions that held American energy producers back.

Now, with President Trump, we have someone in the White House who has aligned words with actions in a pro-growth way. Instead of energy policies that favor radical “Keep it in the ground” proponents, we’re seeing policies that in President Trump words, “celebrates American production on American soil.”

Christopher Guith Nuclear Power, Byron IL

Ever since the “Shale Gale” put the brakes on the nuclear renaissance, much of the nuclear world has focused on Small Modular Reactor (SMRs) as the future of fission. SMRs are smaller, and therefore more versatile than their full sized Light Water Reactor brethren, and could be deployed in a wider array of situations ranging from secluded communities to industrial parks.

Last week witnessed the first tangible step, at least from a regulatory perspective, in the march towards advanced nuclear. On March 15th, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepted the design certification application for review from NuScale Power. This makes NuScale the first company to have its advanced SMR design docketed by the NRC.

As the CEO for NuScale and Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted:

This is a great next step for a new American nuclear technology and a step we see as affirming NuScale as a true leader in SMR technology development.

Merely “accepting” an application may not sound like a big deal, but it is. It represents more than seven years of design work and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. The NRC is nothing if it’s not zealous in its pursuit of safety, and NuScale’s application consisted of nearly 12,000 pages of technical information, supported by some 40,000 man-hours of pre-application discussions and interactions with NRC staff to get to this point. From here, the review process may last up to 40 months, but this necessary step is a milestone.

This also means it is time for the NRC, the Trump administration, and Congress to get busy on creating the regulatory structure that will be used for a future applicant, like NuScale, to license the construction and operation of an SMR in the U.S.