In his last State of the Union (SOTU) on January 12, 2016, President Barack Obama focused on progress made during his seven years in office, including reinventing the energy sector. The speech highlighted the Administration’s accomplishments through clean energy initiatives and emissions reduction policies. The President called for an accelerated transition towards clean energy, stating that communities relying on fossil fuels should invest in the future rather than subsidize the past. He vowed to continue to push against leasing public lands for oil, gas, and coal production at subsidized prices.
Shortly after the SOTU address, on January 15, the Administration issued an order to pause new leases for coal mined from federal lands as part of a comprehensive review of the government’s management of significant amounts coal reserves in the West. The move comes as a major setback for the coal industry and western states, where federal coal leases support thousands of jobs and government revenue.
As litigation against the Clean Power Plan (CPP) continues and public opinion on climate change remains divided, President Obama’s final year in office will likely focus on preserving his climate policies and defending the CPP. Efforts to advance clean energy initiatives could increasingly favor moving away from coal and oil. The Administration will take efforts to complete its environmental regulations – establishing fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks, finalizing methane emission rules for the oil and gas sector, and advancing energy efficiency standards for appliances.