Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Trump Orders EPA to Review and Remove Waters of the U.S. Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will become considerably smaller and more focused on its core missions if the Trump administration has its way. The new Administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, will manage an agency with an initially proposed budget reduction of 25 percent and with 3,000 fewer employees. Most importantly, President Trump is quickly ordering reviews of the Obama administration’s rules and orders. One week into the new administration, the new administration ordered a review of the Waters of the United States ruling – defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act – and said it will withdraw from fuel-efficiency standards and rescind rules limiting carbon emissions from power plants.
Administrator of EPA Scott Pruitt

Pruitt, who as attorney general of the State of Oklahoma often challenged EPA rules and regulations, is a strong believer in deregulation and shifting authority to the states. He was one of the states’ attorneys who sued on the Waters of the United States rule and helped tie it up in court.

Where the administration has authority, it has moved quickly. President Trump reversed President Obama’s decision and approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines during his first week in office. Pruitt will have allies in the departments of Interior (Ryan Zinke), Energy (Rick Perry) and Agriculture (Sonny Purdue – not confirmed) who share his goals of states rights and deregulation in departments now constrained by smaller budgets as federal dollars shift to defense spending.

But much of what the EPA does in rules and regulations, including its aggressive expansion orchestrated by the Obama White House after the 2014 election, can only be undone through a carefully managed and legally guided process. Just as Pruitt used his state position to challenge, and in some cases, stop the Obama administration, Democratic states’ attorneys, environmental groups and others will be ready to litigate any reversal of rules and regulations.

How much of Trump’s budget and administrative proposals are implemented remains to be seen. As the first eight weeks of the administration makes clear, there are a host of roadblocks to get around. The judiciary stopped the refugee rule. Meanwhile, Congress must enact the proposed budget and is struggling to find the votes for the Affordable Care Act repeal and replacement and for tax reform.

The EPA, in particular, will face a mostly hostile bureaucracy, powerful environmental interest groups adept at lawsuits, administrative leaks, media attacks and substantial local activism. Justice and the EPA were President Obama’s most political agencies. Changing their direction will produce the most resistance.

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