Less than a month into the Trump administration, Ted Thomas told his colleagues that everything was not as peachy as it may have seemed.
“In the past three weeks, to me as a Republican appointed by a Republican governor, I’m not reassured by the progress the Congress and the administration are making,” Thomas said at a meeting of electricity regulators. “If they don’t get it together, we’re going to have a different administration in four years, and that’s when folks might wish they had the Clean Power Plan.”
Thomas is chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which regulates the 24 electricity utilities that operate in the state. His quote attracted national attention because it was, in effect, exactly what climate advocates wanted to hear: that the disappearance of the Clean Power Plan would not alter states’ plans to remove coal power plants from their fleets.
This week, President Donald Trump ordered a formal review of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s most significant second-term climate policy. The Clean Power Plan aimed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in the power sector by 32 percent by the year 2030 (as compared to their historic peak in 2005).
It was a familiar scene, and likely the one that Americans picture when they think of energy policy. The president—surrounded by smiling coal miners—gave a short speech, sat down at a small desk, and signed an executive order that formally began to dismantle Obama-era federal energy and climate directives. “My action today is the latest in a series of steps to create American jobs and to grow American wealth,” he said.