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Background Briefing on the President's Energy Independence Executive Order

March 27, 2017

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

6:00 P.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good evening to everyone who is here. Just briefly, I just want to remind everyone that this is on background. It's attributable to a senior White House official and is embargoed until 11:00 p.m. this evening.

With that, I'm going to hand it over to [senior administration official], who many of you have seen up here before, to talk about energy and environmental policy. So I will turn it over. Those in the room will be able to ask questions. The phone line does not take questions, so following the opening remarks, we will take questions at the end.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. So, as was mentioned, I guess we've been waiting for this for a while. We're going to get the executive order on energy independence out tomorrow. The President will sign it. This policy is in keeping with President Trump's desire to make the United States energy independent. He believes that we can serve the twin goals of protecting the environment and providing clean air and clean water, getting the EPA back to its core mission, while at the same time, again, moving forward on energy production in the United States. The United States is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. We have plenty deposits of coal. We want to look at nuclear, renewables, all of it. And again, we can do both to serve the environment and increase energy at the same time.

The policy tomorrow will look back and it will look forward. It will look back in the sense that there are a number of policies from the Obama administration that the President believes should be reviewed. Some of them should be taken off the books immediately, to the extent we can. And it will also look forward to the extent that we will provide the framework, or the beginning framework for a strategy on energy, such that each executive department and agency in the United States government will be responsible for identifying all regulations, all rules, all policies, guidance documents that serve as obstacles or impediments to domestic energy production.

And over the course of about 170 days, there will enter a process with the agencies and various offices within the White House to review the plans that they come up with. And then, after that period, those will serve -- those plans will serve as the blueprint for the administration going forward on energy policy.

Now, kind of going through the order, there will be a number of, as I said, policies that we think should be taken off the books. There will be a number of executive orders related to climate change that the previous President issued. We believe a number of those orders have already kind of run their course. We also believe that those orders simply don't reflect the President's priorities. And when it comes to dealing with climate change, we want to take our own course and do it in our own form and fashion.

There are also policies related to the National Environmental Policy Act. The Council of Environmental Quality, as some of you may know, published guidance last August dealing with climate change. That guidance was widely opposed by a number of different industries. We believe that that guidance goes way beyond what NEPA requires. We will rescind that guidance.

There's also language in there on the social cost of greenhouse gasses, social cost of carbon methane and nitrous oxide. The previous administration put out its own estimates, not in a very transparent fashion, and in a fashion that we believe violates longstanding OMB policy. So, as a matter of federal policy, those estimates will no longer stand. We will also take a look at a number of very major regulations announced by the previous administration or promulgated by the previous administration. Probably the biggest one that I think you all care about the most is the Clean Power Plan, and we will initiate a review of that rule. The new plant rule, as well, under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act will also be reviewed.

The coal moratorium that the Interior Department imposed, that will also be rescinded. We don't have to go through an EPA process on that. And then the regulations affecting methane on oil and gas production both at EPA and the BLM, and then the BLM's hydraulic fracturing all will be reviewed over the course of time to determine whether those actually reflect the policy priority that's outlined at the beginning of the order, as you will read it tomorrow.

So with that, I'm happy to take any questions.

Q: Can you either maybe list, or if you can confirm that the executive orders that you're going to pull back from Obama are in sync with preparing the U.S. for the effects of climate change and the memo on climate and national security?


Q: Okay, great. And then on the social cost of carbon, you said that the Obama -- that won't stand, are you planning to recalculate your own? And if so --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The language says that to the extent that agencies have to monetize the cost of greenhouse gas regulations that they have to follow OMB Circular A-4, which was the longstanding practice of the federal government, prior to the administration -- the previous administration putting out its own estimates.

Q: Will the U.S. still meet its commitments to some of the Paris deal?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In terms of the Paris agreement, whether we stay in or not is still under discussion.

Q: How can you meet your U.S. commitments under the Paris deal if you get rid of the Clean Power Plan?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, the Paris agreement is still under discussion, so you can't really address Paris at this point in time.

Q: But just following on that, is there a way to abide by the Paris agreement without that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, certainly if you look at the previous administration's INDC that they submitted to the U.N., I mean, we have a different view about how you should address climate policies in the United States. So we're going to go in a different direction. I can't get into what ultimately that means from an emissions standpoint. I have no idea.

Q: And just to be clear, he's just signing one single executive order tomorrow?


Q: Do you define "impediment"? So if you're having agencies go in and look for rules and regulations that --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: Yeah, burden -- it's actually burdens that will be defined in the executive order. You'll see how it's defined.

Q: And you're looking (inaudible) with an eye towards getting rid of them or revising them?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: Could be both. Yeah, it could be revising, improving, updating, or if things are illegal or, again, if they don't conform to the President's priorities. It depends -- it runs the gambit. That's what review is for.

Q: Have you set up a time frame for the review of the Clean Power Plan?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: No. There's no time frame in the executive order, but I think Administrator Pruitt is ready to hit the ground running on that one.

Q: -- it took about two years to put in place because they had the whole process with consultation, comments -- responding to comments. Is that true in terms of undoing it as well, that it could take a couple years?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: We will absolutely have to go through the Administrator Procedure Act on that one. There will be notice and comment. I suspect -- I would bet a good deal, I'm sure there will be litigation once the final review is undertaken. So whether that's two years, three years, or one year, I don't know. It's going to take some time.

Q: For those of us who don't have a factsheet, would you mind going through the list? You said a number of executive orders. Justin just asked a question about how many will he sign. Can you just walk through the number of executive orders, and then number of guidance -- whatever it will indicate are under review?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: So he mentioned two of them. There was a climate change executive order, I think, on adaptation. There was a climate change executive order on national security. And then I think the other documents that we're going to rescind are the presidential memorandums on the Climate Action Plan, for example, which laid out, kind of, the -- this was 2013, where President Obama laid out a whole series of actions. So that, obviously, will be going away.

There's also a presidential memorandum on mitigation that came out in 2015 that affects a number of different departments, which we think is sort of additive to what is required under law, so that would be rescinded. I think there's also a document on reducing methane emissions. I believe there's something EPA put out, or maybe it was President Obama put that out as well. That's another document that we will rescind as well. So probably in total, about six of those in the order.

So it's both executive orders and presidential memorandum. And then there's also -- you mentioned guidance. So the CEQ: climate change guidance, that will be rescinded as well. That was finalized in August of last year.

Q: Can I ask you what's the status of (inaudible.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: All in process. We're definitely interviewing candidates as we speak.

Q: Do you have any --


Q: What about the report that if repeals in Obama-era guidance on how federal agencies should take global warming into account when doing any EPA permitting? Can you confirm that that's being --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: Yeah, that's what I just said. That's -- yes, it will.

Q: Does it cover the Obama-era flood hazard standard that he implemented in 2015?


Q: And are you -- there's been some arguments around electricity prices and how rescinding the Clean Power Plan could reduce electricity prices. Are you looking specifically at studies or research that shows that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: Well, certainly -- our economic consulting (inaudible) Clean Power Plan, the final Clean Power Plan, in their view, was, if the Clean Power Plan goes into effect, I believe that you would see, on average, electricity price increases of 10 percent or more in 41 states.

Q: Any available finding is not --


Q: Just a question -- (inaudible) -- able to achieve?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: Energy independence. That's the goal.

Q: What would be your policy on carbon taxation?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: We don't have a policy on carbon taxation.

Q: So do you plan to apply it in the future?


Q: No carbon taxation?


Q: During the campaign, President Trump -- then candidate Trump promised coal workers their coal jobs would come back. Is it the White House's view that this executive order plans to make good on that promise, or attempt to make good on that promise?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you look at what the previous administration did -- some called it the "war on coal" -- we're going to -- I think the President believes that a lot of those regulations were not helpful to the coal industry. And so I think he's going to do his part to try to take a review, and if we need to rescind them, we will. But, yeah, absolutely, I think he made a pledge to the coal industry, and he's going to do whatever he can to help those workers.

Q: And a number of coal executives came to the White House and afterwards they told reporters that they don't think he can make good on that promise. What's the White House --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: Yeah, a lot of different -- I mean, it's certainly true that there a lot of different forces that conspire to affect the coal industry, the gas industry, a lot of industries. Certainly, government policy has a role. So to the extent the President can have a beneficial effect on that policy, he's going to take it.

Q: What about -- keeping on coal -- about the Interior Department's moratorium on the new coal mining leases on federal land?


Q: Will that be rescinded too?


Q: Can you just talk us through a little bit of the timing? Was there any component of this that was just a little bit tricky or took a little bit more time to finalize?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we just -- we wanted to get it right. As I had laid out, there's a lot of pieces to this and it is legally complex, and there is litigation going on with some of these rules. So you just got to be very careful on how you do it. And so we were careful, and I think maybe that's why it took a little bit longer than maybe you all wanted to see it.

Q: Regarding the legal challenges, does it still require DOJ to ask the D.C. Circuit --


Q: Yes.


Q: -- in the past the President called climate change being a hoax and questioned whether carbon is the main cause. What is the White House position? Does the scientific view of what was climate change -- is that something (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. Yes, I think the President understands the disagreement over the policy response, and that's clear. You'll see that in the order tomorrow. We're taking a different path.

Q: But he said manmade climate change?


Q: So this is a different policy response, but do you still feel like you're protecting the environment? And if so, how do you feel you're doing it better -- if you think that you are?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, because the Clean Power Plan is designed to address climate change -- you look at EPA's own numbers, they even admitted that in terms of how it's going to impact global temperatures, it's not. So I think there are plenty of rules on the books already we will continue to enforce that provide for clean air and clean water. And that's what we're going to do. I think the President has been very clear that he wants the EPA to stick to that basic core mission that Congress set out for it.

Q: So if it doesn't include -- if it includes a potential repeal of the Clean Power Plan, for example, which, as you know is, the answer to the Supreme Court in 2007 and the (inaudible) in 2009, does the administration feel that it's legally obligated to regulate greenhouse gases?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, certainly, there is an endangerment fine -- that endangerment fine was made for -- under Section 202 for vehicles. But I don't believe that there is an obligation under Section 111-B or 111-D to regulate to a different section of the Clean Air Act. I'm sure there plenty who disagree with that, but that's not something we're thinking about right now. We have a massive rule in front of us that was stayed by the Supreme Court, and we need to act on it.

Q: But so the Supreme Court -- the endangerment finding then was upheld --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there's a separate endangerment finding under 111-D, as you know, correct? And I don't think the previous administration made one, if memory serves. So, again, we're talking about different sections of the Clean Air Act, and the Supreme Court actually spoke to that in the UARG Case. Go back and read the UARG Case in terms of PSD and what the Court thought of that. So different sections of the Clean Air Act require different sets of actions. And I think the previous administration had a view about their 202-A finding. I think our view may be different on that.

Q: And just one more. So what is -- you mentioned clean air, clean water, and you mentioned that President Trump agrees that climate change is manmade. So what is the administration's answer to climate change?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think there are a number of different answers. I think, one, you got to make sure you have a strong economy. You got to make sure you got people who are actually working. To the extent that the economy is strong and growing and you have prosperity -- that's the best way to protect the environment.

Certainly, natural gas is important. Clean coal is important. Nuclear is important; renewables are important. There are a number of different ways that you can address this issue. You can address environmental protection, and that's what we're going to do. I think he's laid that out very clearly. Tomorrow in the order, you'll see that, as well.

Q: What do you mean if there's a strong economy and people are working, that that's the best way to protect the --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because -- well, look, globally, I think the more prosperous the economies -- compare the United States to other economies, we have a cleaner, healthier environment than other countries that don't. Look at China.

Q: Is it fair to say that economic reasons are the main guiding factor in shaping your energy policies? Is that the main consideration, helping American workers?


Q: Okay, so is it fair to say that the American workers are more important in your mind than the environment?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I think what we're saying is that the previous administration devalued workers by the policies. We're saying we can do both. We can protect the environment and provide people with work and keep the economy growing. And that's the policy agenda we're going to try to focus on.

Q: You mentioned clean air and clean water. Will the executive order mention climate change at the --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, climate change will be mentioned because there will be orders that we'll have to address from the previous administration.

Q: So how would you describe the fight against climate change then for you? Is it a priority? Is it irrelevant? Is it somewhere in the picture?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's an issue that deserves attention, but, again, I think the President has been very clear that he's not going to pursue climate or environmental policies that put the U.S. economy at risk. It's very simple.

Q: What about all the scientists who are saying climate change is going to have adverse economic consequences -- things like rising sea levels, more hazardous hurricanes -- how do you address those economic arguments?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, you'll have to talk to those scientists. Maybe I can talk to you afterward. I'm not familiar with what you're talking about. But again, the President's policy is very clear about addressing -- making sure we're addressing the economy, providing people with jobs, and we're making sure that EPA is sticking to its core mission.

Q: Are you saying you're not aware that scientists are concerned about rising sea levels or more violent storms might impact the economy --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would want to see the research. Sure, that would be good. Show it to me.

Q: What about environmentalists threatening to sue the Trump administration to defend the CPP? Does the White House have a --


Q: Environmentalists threatening to sue the Trump administration to defend the CPP.

Q: I mean, if we review the CPP I'm sure they will disagree with that. But what's your point?

Q: What is the White House response if they threaten --


Q: So are you saying -- back to the previous line of questioning -- are you saying that you don't believe that there are rising sea levels --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I didn't say that at all. I'm just -- I want to see --

Q: You said you want to see --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I want to see the studies.

Q: So is there a question?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it's not a question. I'd like to see it. Send it to me.

Q: -- sea levels rise, there are a lot of major coastal cities, like New York and Miami -- decrease our GDP --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It certainly could. It certainly could. Absolutely.

Q: But you said the White House is interested in ways it could protect the environment without harming the American worker. And I realize that's still under progress. (Inaudible) is the type of thing that you're thinking of or interested in pursuing?


Q: -- the type of ways in which the administration thinks that it could both address environmental concerns and protect the American worker.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, there are -- you know, there are clean air laws on the books that we will enforce, and we will do that. And when it comes to the policies like the Clean Power Plan, which we don't believe provide environmental protections, we'll make sure we review those to protect the jobs that all the analysis shows it will definitely destroy jobs over the long term. So, again, there are laws on the books. We're going to enforce those laws. But when it comes to laws or regulation like the Clean Power Plan, we're going to go in a different direction.

Q: Is there anything the administration could do to address climate change that doesn't harm American workers?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I mean, I was just talking about it -- whether it's clean coal, whether it's nuclear power, or whether it's renewables, allowing all those to flourish, that's a good way to address the issue.

Q: What is the messages you want to send to countries like India and China on clean energy and climate change? Those are two major --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, I think the United States is going to continue to pursue its interests as it sees fit. I mean, I think the President has been very clear about having an America First energy policy. We have a lot of energy in this country and the President wants to continue to remove any obstacles so we can produce it. I mean, that's --

Q: That's fine, but something is happening climate-wise in China also has an impact on the United States, too, right?


Q: Are you saying that all the countries should pursue this as they see fit and --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think they do. I mean, I think they already do.

Q: -- the Paris deal --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not getting into good or bad on Paris because that's still under discussion.

Q: But do you think that they should be coordination because these countries on climate change --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is true. But again, I think -- again, I'd just go back to where we stand on these critical questions about energy production, about jobs and keeping EPA to its core mission. And that's what's in this order. That's what I'm focused on right now. You're talking about a much bigger issue than --

Q: And finally, President Trump has spoken with a lot of

-- met a lot of foreign leaders in his two month period. Has climate change been a part of that discussion with them?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know. I could follow up with you on that, but I'm not in those discussions.

Q: So you said the President believes in manmade climate change. Is he making sure that everybody in the White House working on this also believes in manmade climate change?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I think that it's not a controversial statement. I guess the key question is to what extent, over what period of time. Those are the big questions that I think still we need to answer. Again, we're focused on this order for tomorrow. We believe that this order, again, is going to do what the President set out to do in terms of his priorities, whether on energy production, protecting jobs, and making sure that we're getting EPA back to its core --

Q: Can you say that people who are working on this right now in the White House, all of them believe in manmade climate change?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I haven't talked to everyone in the White House.

Q: Do you believe in manmade climate change?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's not relevant what I think.

Q: I think it's pretty relevant, you're talking about it.

I mean, can you answer the question? Do you believe in manmade climate change?


Q: Yeah, so?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But that doesn't say much, does it?

Q: Well, it's pretty important if you're talking about it. Are you convinced --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, the issue really is as to what extent and how serious and the magnitude of it. And there are a lot of other questions that flow from that statement that I think are still unanswered and we still don't know the answers to.

Q: So do you ultimately foresee the administration agreeing to an inside-the-fence regulation of power plants? Or is that even sort of too much to sort of --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, that's way too early to get into sort of what is next --

Q: -- essentially a settlement in (inaudible.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, the environmentalists could sue or petition the agency to try to force them to do something along those lines. But whether or not -- how that ends up in court, I don't know -- or what the administration -- what we do in terms of petition -- it's way too early to get into that.

Q: Thank you.

END 6:26 P.M. EDT

Donald J. Trump, Background Briefing on the President's Energy Independence Executive Order Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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