Repeal First, Explain Later: The Trump Administration and the Clean Water Rule

by Dave Owen | June 28, 2017

Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog by CPR Member Scholar Dave Owen.

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers just released a proposal to repeal the Clean Water Rule and to return to previous regulations. The Clean Water Rule (also known as the WOTUS Rule) would have clarified the scope of federal regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. It was one of the Obama administration's signature environmental initiatives, and it was one of candidate and then President Trump's signature targets. So the emergence of this proposal is no surprise. Nevertheless, the contents of the new document are surprising in several ways.

First, I'm not sure I have ever seen a notice of proposed rulemaking that makes so little effort to justify the rule it adopts. EPA and the Corps seem to have offered two, and only two, justifications for switching from the newer regulations to the old ones:

  • First, they want to think a little bit more about the implications of Clean Water Act section 101(b), which affirms the importance of state involvement in water quality protection;
     
  • Second, they worry that keeping the new rule could cause confusion if, as I think is likely to happen, the Supreme Court rules that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals does not have jurisdiction over challenges to the old rule.

The first rationale isn't really a justification at all; one could do that thinking with the new or the ...

Partner Spotlight: A Conversation with Center for Progressive Reform's Evan Isaacson

by Kerry Darragh | June 27, 2017
This post originally appeared on the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition's website.  All month long, MCAC has been highlighting the Bay cleanup plan, also known as the Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load), in order to keep track of the progress that is, or isn't, happening within the Bay watershed to reduce pollution. We recently chatted with Evan Isaacson, policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform, about tracking the progress of the Bay TMDL, what more states should be doing ...

The Message Congress Needs to Hear As It Debates Our Water Infrastructure Needs

by Evan Isaacson | June 22, 2017
Last fall, the Senate directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to conduct an independent study on affordability of municipal investments in water infrastructure. As someone who spent several years within the halls of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, I was honored to contribute to NAPA's research efforts by responding to a survey with suggestions for public administrators and communities struggling to meet the challenges ...

CPR Scholar Op-Eds Hit Assault on Our Safeguards from Trump and Congress

by Matthew Freeman | June 19, 2017
Four recent op-eds by CPR Member Scholars underscore the scope and danger of the current assault on our safeguards now being mounted by the president and the congressional leadership. Highlights of the most recent pieces follow, but you can always browse through all of this year’s published pieces from our scholars and staff on our website. On May 17, Alyson Flournoy and Mary Jane Angelo, colleagues at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, co-authored “Without Public Protections, Florida ...

As Waters Rise, Trump Wants to Cut Coastal Protection Efforts Off at the Knees

by David Flores | June 14, 2017
On Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt will appear before a House Appropriations subcommittee to explain how he plans to square the Trump administration's proposed 31-percent cut to EPA's budget with its statutory obligations to protect the environment. Spoiler alert: There's no plan. The proposition – implementing and enforcing safeguards related to water, air, and hazardous materials while cutting a quarter of the agency's workforce – is preposterous.  Some House members are likely to press Pruitt on a ...

As Pruitt Visits Congress to Discuss Massive EPA Cuts, Don't Lose Sight of Important but Less Visible Damage

by Evan Isaacson | June 14, 2017
With a massive, proposed 31 percent cut to his agency looming in the background, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is preparing to visit Capitol Hill for an appearance before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday. Lawmakers, their staff, and others are likely and understandably focused on the Paris climate agreement withdrawal, the Trump administration's proposal to end federal financial support for programs that help protect and restore a variety of Great Waters like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, and ...

Trump's Nominee for Top EPA Enforcement Lawyer Set to Testify. Here's What We Want to Know.

by Matt Shudtz | June 12, 2017
Susan Bodine, an attorney with significant experience on Capitol Hill and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is President Trump's nominee to lead the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) at the agency. She is likely to get a friendly audience tomorrow when she appears before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to answer questions about the future of OECA. After all, she's worked closely with everyone on the panel, and there remain some aspects of federal ...

LA Times Op-Ed: EPA Scientists Said Ban the Pesticide Chlorpyrifos. Scott Pruitt Said No

by Carl Cranor | June 08, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Los Angeles Times. Miners carried canaries into coal mines; if the canary died, it was an early warning of the presence of toxic gases that could also asphyxiate humans or explode. The Trump administration has decided to use children and farmworkers as 21st century canaries, continuing their exposure to a pesticide named chlorpyrifos that has been linked to serious health concerns. The toxicity of this commonly used pesticide was demonstrated in early May when ...

Trump's Proposed Budget Cuts to Climate Programs Hurt American Agriculture

by David Flores | June 07, 2017
President Trump's historic retreat from the Paris climate accord last week is just the latest installment in the story of how his administration's anti-science and anti-protections policies with respect to climate change could do grave harm to many aspects of American life. His proposed budget is likely to be the next chapter.  While Trump sees the issue through coal-colored lenses, it's clear to anyone paying attention to actual science that that the impacts of climate change have and will continue ...

Whither WOTUS?

by Daniel Farber | May 24, 2017
President Trump ordered EPA and the Army Corps to review the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which sets expansive bounds on federal jurisdiction over water bodies and wetlands. The agencies have sent the White House a proposal to rescind the WOTUS rule and revert to earlier rules until they can come up with a replacement. In my view, either the agencies will have to dive deep into the scientific thicket in the hope of justifying a new ...

CPR Scholars' Recent Op-Eds

by Matthew Freeman | May 15, 2017
CPR Member Scholars continue to make their voices heard on the nation’s opinion pages. You can always review the latest and greatest pieces on our op-eds page, but here’s a roundup from the last few weeks to save you a couple clicks. Two CPR Member Scholars had pieces in The American Prospect in mid-April. Tom McGarity called out the right wing’s on-again, off-again allegiance to states’ rights in "Trumping State Regulators and Juries." McGarity writes, “Conversations about how progressive states ...

Thinking Globally, Acting Transnationally

by Daniel Farber | May 12, 2017
The U.S. government obviously isn't going to be taking a global leadership role regarding climate change, not for the next four years. At one time, that would have been the end of the story: the only way to accomplish anything internationally was through national governments. But we live in a different world today, and there are other channels for international action against climate change. Today, transnational networks of state and local governments, private firms, and NGOs are actively addressing climate ...

Trump's Plan to Dismantle National Monuments Comes with Steep Cultural and Ecological Costs

by Sandra Zellmer | May 04, 2017
Professors Michelle Bryan and Monte Mills of the University of Montana co-authored this article with Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and University of Nebraska—Lincoln Professor Sandra Zellmer. It originally appeared in The Conversation on May 3, 2017. In the few days since President Trump issued his Executive Order on National Monuments, many legal scholars have questioned the legality of his actions under the Antiquities Act. Indeed, if the president attempts to revoke or downsize a monument designation, such actions ...

Trump's Environmental Steamroller Bears Down on National Monuments

by Robert Glicksman | May 01, 2017
Donald Trump's antagonism toward environmental and natural resource protections seems to know no bounds, legal or otherwise. Among his latest targets are our national monuments, which include some of the most beautiful and historically, scientifically, culturally, and ecologically important tracts of federally owned lands. During the reign of destruction the president has unleashed in his first 100 days in office, his commitment to fossil fuel resource extraction and development regardless of the impact on our nation's natural resource heritage has ...

Baltimore's Experience May Yield Lessons for Senate as It Debates Integrated Planning Bill

by Evan Isaacson | April 13, 2017
The City of Baltimore is wrapping up an $800 million upgrade of its largest sewage treatment plant. At the same time, the city is starting a $160 million project to retrofit a drinking water reservoir; is in the midst of a $400 million project to realign a major section of its sewer system; and is spending several million on projects throughout the city to manage polluted runoff from its streets and other paved surfaces. And these are just a few ...

How Trump's Proposed Cuts to EPA Disempower States

by Karen Sokol | April 11, 2017
Last month, President Trump released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which calls for sharp cuts to many agencies in order to fund increases in defense and military spending. Hardest hit is the Environmental Protection Agency. Already underfunded, EPA will simply not be able to carry out its statutory mandates to keep our environment clean and healthy if subjected to Trump's proposed cut of 31 percent. Rather, the Trump administration asserts that the agency would "primarily support States and ...

Looking for Inspiration Outside the Beltway? See What's Happening in Maryland.

by Matt Shudtz | April 10, 2017
Thank goodness for state-level policymakers who are resisting the Trump administration's extreme policies. Attorneys general from around the nation are making headlines by fighting Trump's discriminatory immigration ban. Governors from both major political parties stood up to the attempt to strip away health care from millions of hard-working Americans and their children. And mayors and law enforcement officials are lifting up undocumented residents and recognizing their many contributions to our society, rather than assisting in the indiscriminate roundups Trump has ...

Why Trump's Environmental Rollbacks Won't Boost the Economy

by Michelle Zemil | April 07, 2017
It was Ronald Reagan who popularized attacks on regulations when he was on the campaign trail in 1980, and since then, the tactic has been an inescapable feature of our political landscape. The false claims about environmental regulations, job creation, and the economy have been repeated so frequently and for so long that many Americans don't even question them. Yet no matter how many times a fallacy like this is repeated, it remains untrue.  President Trump and his administration have ...

Environmental Policy

The planet faces unprecedented environmental challenges. Heading the list of threats is climate change, but other problems persist, including air and water pollution, toxic waste, and the protection of natural resources and wildlife. In recent years, we've been reminded that many of these problems , in their way, magnify the harm from natural disasters.

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