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EPA chief calls for exit from Paris climate agreement

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s top environment official called Thursday for an exit from the historic Paris agreement, in what appeared to be the first time such a high-ranking official has so explicitly disavowed the agreement endorsed by nearly 200 countries to fight climate change.

Speaking with ‘‘Fox & Friends,’’ Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt said, ‘‘Paris is something that we need to really look at closely. It’s something we need to exit in my opinion.’’

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‘‘It’s a bad deal for America,’’ Pruitt continued. ‘‘It was an America second, third, or fourth kind of approach. China and India had no obligations under the agreement until 2030. We front-loaded all of our costs.’’

Pruitt’s claim about China and India having ‘‘no obligations’’ until 2030 is incorrect — while these countries do indeed have 2030 targets, they are already acting to cut their emissions by investing in renewable energy and other initiatives.

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Pruitt had called the Paris accord a ‘‘bad deal’’ in the past but does not appear to have previously gone so far as to call for the United States to withdraw.

The Trump administration has previously said it is currently reviewing its position on climate change and energy policy and remains noncommittal, for now, on whether it will follow through on the president’s campaign pledge to ‘‘cancel’’ the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Trump’s recent executive order on energy policy, which set in motion the rollback of Obama’s domestic Clean Power Plan, was silent on the matter of Paris.

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‘‘You might have read in the media that there was much discussion about US energy policy and the fact that we’re undergoing a review of many of those policies,’’ Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in Texas on Thursday, according to prepared remarks. ‘‘It’s true, we are and it’s the right thing to do.’’

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said the administration will resolve its view on the Paris accord ‘‘by the time of the G7 Summit, late May-ish, if not sooner.’’

Amid this uncertainty, the statement aligns Pruitt with a more hard-line approach held by some in the Trump administration, such as Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, rather than the more moderate take of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson said in his confirmation hearing that the United States should have a ‘‘seat at the table’’ in the Paris negotiations, and Ivanka Trump and her husband and Trump confidant Jared Kushner.

Tillerson’s former company, ExxonMobil, has also supported the Paris accord, and in late March wrote a letter to the White House reiterating its view that ‘‘the United States is well positioned to compete within the framework of the Paris agreement, with abundant low-carbon resources such as natural gas, and innovative private industries, including the oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors.’’

If the Trump administration wants to take a more moderate approach to the Paris deal, it could consider modifying the United States’ current pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, rather than seeking to exit altogether.

That’s a tack advanced in a letter to Trump, previously reported on by E&E News, by Representative Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, who argued that the United States “should present a new pledge that does no harm to our economy,’’ including highly efficient and low-emission coal-fired generators and nuclear power plants.

‘It’s a bad deal for America. It was an America second, third, or fourth kind of approach.’

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It is far from clear how the Trump administration could actually ‘‘exit’’ the Paris agreement, if it determines that it wants to. Now that the agreement is in effect, it takes three years under its terms for a party to withdraw, followed by a one-year waiting period — a length roughly equal to Trump’s first term in office.

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