E&E News' Lehmann talks Trump's next moves on Clean Power Plan, Paris, climate messaging

As the Trump administration takes decisive moves on energy and environment policy, the press is playing an increasingly important role in dissecting and explaining the implications of these measures. In this E&E special report, Evan Lehmann, the new editor of E&E News' Climatewire, explains how key policy moves on the Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement will unfold this year.


Monica Trauzzi: Thanks for joining us from the E&E News newsroom in Washington, D.C. I'm Monica Trauzzi and joining me today is a very special guest, my friend and new editor of Climatewire, Mr. Lehmann. Evan, congratulations.

Evan Lehmann: Thank you very much.

Monica Trauzzi: So you become editor at arguably the most critical time for energy and environment issues certainly from a policy standpoint and also from a reporting perspective. Are you surprised by the level of attention that we've seen coming from this administration and also the mainstream media on climate issues?

Evan Lehmann: So yeah. I am surprised at the level of discussion around climate change that this administration has done. Then that has fed into the mainstream media attention, which is also interesting because I've sat in on White House briefings a lot in the past five months and climate isn't often a big issue unless the administration starts talking about it or unless the president starts saying that sea-level rise won't affect a little island in the Chesapeake Bay that is clearly disappearing.

So it's been, like you said, a very important time to be covering climate change.

Monica Trauzzi: We've been covering these issues, both of us, for a long time. I've certainly seen a dramatic shift when it comes to coverage outside of publications like ours.

Evan Lehmann: Right. Even cable news will cover climate —

Monica Trauzzi: Even cable news. Sometimes they won't get it all right, but they're still covering it.

Evan Lehmann: They're trying.

Monica Trauzzi: And ... have you spent time at the White House covering the administration's moves on climate and energy? What's coming next?

Evan Lehmann: Well, all of the big announcements as far as we know have been announced. Now the very important task of finding out how those announcements will play out and reverberate into the future is the important tasks that we're focused on including the Clean Power Plan, deconstruction, withdrawal from Paris and a lot of other issues.

Monica Trauzzi: We're awaiting the announcement of deputy administrator at EPA. We've been reporting this week that there's speculation the post could go to Jeff Holmstead who, of course, has been representing the coal industry at Bracewell and worked in the Bush EPA as air chief. How significant of a move could it be if the Trump administration goes with Holmstead?

Evan Lehmann: So, if that happens, it's an interesting choice. Some conservatives really don't like Holmstead because they see him as too moderate on climate change. He was involved with the endangerment finding at the end of Bush's second term.

He has made some references to the idea that carbon will eventually be regulated and that actually became a blown-up point during the transition with Trump where there were some conservative elements in EPA who were pointing with alarm at some of the things that Holmstead said.

On the other hand, environmentalists see him as an insidious threat because they think that he is the ultimate insider that could do just enough climate policy that could skate through the courts and survive their challenges and things like that.

Like, for example, making power plants more efficient rather than a much broader, ambitious goal of transitioning away from coal and bringing in natural gas or renewable energy and creating carbon markets and things like that.

Monica Trauzzi: Well, and one could argue that that just means that he's good at his job, right? Which makes him a more compelling choice for the administration.

Evan Lehmann: I think you've probably interviewed him a lot of times —

Monica Trauzzi: I've interviewed him many times for sure. OK.

Let's go back to Paris and Climatewire's coverage of that because obviously the announcement is just the beginning. There are diplomatic implications. We don't quite know yet what other countries might do or how they will react down the line as a result of the U.S.'s removal. How do you see this story evolving this year?

Evan Lehmann: Well, I think that the diplomatic issue is a big one. I think everybody's jostling for pole position or maneuvering to their positions and negotiation stances right now.

You see a lot of European nations vowing to never renegotiate the deal at this point. You've got the Trump administration who has said it would renegotiate the deal, but if it doesn't, eh, it's fine, too.

So I get the sense that everybody's lining up and trying to find where a good place to negotiate is.

On the more technical perspectives, withdrawing from Paris is something that will take a lot of time given the way that the Trump administration has begun this process. So there's three or four years of breaking news that we can cover through this process and the direction that this goes is really up for grabs I think at this point.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. We're going to end it right there. There's so much to watch and cover, and we're going to be reading it all on Climatewire. Congratulations again.

Evan Lehmann: Thank you very much.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching.

[End of Audio]



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