Friday wasn't a good day in the United States for advocates of renewable energy and of taking definitive steps to address climate change.
In a matter of hours, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, and a federal appeals court agreed to stay an long-running lawsuit on Obama-era rules for reducing carbon emissions from coal fired power plants.
And to add to gray cast of the day, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters traveling with the president on Friday that he'll let the world know if he plans to abide by the Paris Climate Agreement sometime before he travels to Europe in late May.
Trump will reach his 100th day in office on Saturday. The executive order he signed Friday reversed some of President Barack Obama's climate policies with the stroke of a pen, it also directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review which federal undersea holdings are currently open to oil and gas explorations and which he feels should be open.
"This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration," Trump said during a White House signing ceremony. "It reverses the previous administration's Arctic leasing ban and directs Secretary Zinke to allow responsible development of off-shore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers."
The move fulfills a Trump campaign promise to tap the nation's energy reserves to reduce oil imports and create jobs.
The executive order reverses part of a December effort by Obama to deem the bulk of U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and certain areas in the Atlantic indefinitely off limits to oil and gas production.
"Today," he said, "we're unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying energy jobs."
Environmentalists across the US reacted with horror, saying the move is a disaster for wild animals and plant life in the areas that will be opened for development and that the end result will be a dramatic escalation of the ills associated with climate change.
In addition to paving the way for the sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska, the order could lead to the opening of oil and gas exploration areas off Virginia and North and South Carolina.
In a statement, the National Ocean Industries Association applauded Friday's executive order, calling it " a new day and a new attitude for American energy."
The signing ceremony came hours before the the D.C. Circuit, a federal appeals court based in Washington D.C., granted a Trump administration request to postpone ruling on lawsuits challenging Obama-era restrictions on carbon emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency filed a motion requesting the litigation be put on hold after Trump signed an executive order directing officials to roll back President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
The plan, part of President Obama’s effort to fulfill the United States’ commitment under the 2015 Paris climate accord, sought to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by one-third by 2030.
But Trump, who has often expressed skepticism about climate change and man’s role in it, dismissed the regulations as unnecessary job-killers in already-struggling coal-dependent communities.
In a second order issued Friday, the appeals court in Washington also postponed consideration of a separate case challenging the legality of an EPA rule capping greenhouse gas emissions from new or renovated power plants.
Several states, led by West Virginia and Texas, and more than 100 coal-industry companies and utilities sued to block the Clean Power Plan, calling it an unconstitutional power grab.
In February 2016, a divided Supreme Court agreed to delay the plan’s implementation.
Ten judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit later heard arguments in the case and could have issued a ruling at any time. Friday’s order from the court asks the parties whether, after a 60-day postponement, the issue should be sent back to the EPA.