What to Know About Trump’s Order to Dismantle the Clean Power Plan

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A coal-fired energy plant in Ghent, Ky., in 2014. Such plants are the main target of the Clean Power Plan.

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Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that calls on Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to take steps to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, a set of rules regulating energy plants powered by fossil fuels.

What was happening with the Clean Power Plan until now?

The plan, which would have regulated carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-powered electricity plants, has been tied up in courts for more than a year, after more two dozen states, industry representatives and others sued the E.P.A. They claimed that the plan was unconstitutional, and it hadn’t yet taken effect because the Supreme Court had said the plan could not be carried out while it was being argued before a lower federal court.

Mr. Trump criticized the Clean Power Plan during the campaign and promised to bring back coal mining jobs and create new jobs in the fossil fuel industry; the rules would have made that more difficult. Mr. Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, sued the E.P.A. 14 times over environmental regulations, including the Clean Power Plan.

What happens next?

The problem for Mr. Trump and Mr. Pruitt is that, if they get rid of this plan, they are legally required to come up with another one.

Plus, in order to repeal regulations, federal agencies have to follow the same rule-making system (requiring periods of public notice and comment) used to create regulations, which can take about a year.

Keep in mind that 18 state attorneys general and several environmental advocacy groups had previously moved to defend the rule, and they may challenge whatever alternative Mr. Pruitt might devise.

Would getting rid of the Clean Power Plan bring back…

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