Climate Regulations Under a Watchful Internet Eye

Bracing for a rollback, website run by Columbia Law School alerts any time President Trump or Congress change a rule involving climate change or energy.

Donald Trump signing executive orders on his first day as President
Any time President Trump changes a regulation involving climate or energy, a new website will track it. Credit: Getty Images

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A new tool launched by the Columbia Law School on Donald Trump’s first day in office is tracking every step the Trump administration takes to roll back or eliminate existing federal rules on climate change and energy.

The tool is called the Climate Deregulation Tracker and is run by Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. It’s intended to be a public resource that catalogues the regulatory steps the new administration takes on issues including climate change, fossil fuels, clean energy and energy efficiency—and provides context for what those actions mean.

Columbia has tracked climate change-related regulations since 2009, but this tool was developed in anticipation that the new administration would seek “to undo regulations to avoid dealing with climate change,” said Michael Burger, the center’s executive director.

Trump has previously vowed to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement, roll back domestic climate policies such as the Clean Power Plan and increase fossil fuel production. There’s already early signs that he plans to make good on these pledges. Detailed on the new White House website is “An America First Energy Plan” that describes how President Trump intends to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan” and take advantage of untapped oil, natural gas and coal reserves. Moreover, the White House over the weekend issued a freeze on new regulations, including four rules near completion related to energy efficiency.

Both examples are briefly mentioned on the Climate Deregulation Tracker, but neither qualify as actual regulation or deregulation, according to Burger. If and when such a regulatory step is taken, however, Burger said the Columbia researchers will compare it with President Obama’s record. The Columbia staff has already developed a database of the many Obama administration climate and energy-related regulations.

“We think it’s really important the Trump administration’s climate policies aren’t being viewed in a vacuum,” Burger told InsideClimate News.

The tool will also track any steps the new Republican-controlled Congress takes to undermine climate action.