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Oklahomans weigh consequences, benefits as Trump rejects climate deal

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- With the United States officially out of a deal to combat climate change, communities and companies are weighing the impact of President Donald Trump's decision.

More than 190 countries have signed or ratified the agreement, which seeks to lower greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rise in global temperatures.

Only three countries -- the United States, Nicaragua and Syria -- have declined to take part.

"The efforts to reduce carbon, particularly carbon emissions were directed more at the fossil fuel industry more than anywhere else," said Joe Warren, a partner at Cimarron Production Company Inc. who serves on the board of the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance. "We were bearing the biggest burden."

The OEPA, which represents 50 or 60 small producers, says it's not about global warming. The Paris Climate Accord is simply a bad deal, Warren said, which gives energy companies more costs in the form of extra regulations.

"[They would be] more than a headache," Warren said. "If it gets tough enough, it could create an insurmountable barrier for a company like ours to even do business."

Larger companies like Shell, Exxon and BP have voiced support for the deal, largely so they can have a seat at the international table. The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association said many of its members are divided on the deal.

But for smaller, local companies, it's clear there's a better deal out there.

"Right now we feel small producers are being asked to pay an outsized portion of the cost," Warren said. "As an industry, we will get away from the last eight years where we felt like we had a target on our back."

Economics are exactly the reason Cindy Rosenthal sees the deal as so critical.

The former Norman mayor signed onto the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which had many of the same goals. Only Rosenthal and the mayor of Shawnee signed onto the deal.

"I think often times people don't appreciate that they can save money through energy efficiency, you can build jobs for your community," Rosenthal told NewsChannel 4. "It's pretty hard to deny that [climate change] is going on and we need to respond and be prepared."

Jobs in renewable energy would be supported by the deal, she said, pointing to a 2017 Department of Energy report that shows solar and wind sectors on the rise.

The problem with rejecting the climate deal, she said, is it takes away America's seat at the table in a global discussion on renewable energy.

"It's cutting off your nose to spite your face to say that we're not going to pursue these opportunities and be a leader," she said. "Clearly the fastest-growing energy production jobs tend to be in renewables right now, not in these older, traditional technologies. Those are all things that have great potential for the state of Oklahoma."

Oil producers like Warren maintain fossil fuels are the most economical use of money, convinced there is a better deal out there that can better benefit his industry.

"What I object to is seeing my tax dollars used to subsidize what are ultimately uneconomical enterprises," he said of wind and solar power, "and are enterprises that are never going to replace our industry."