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 ...

New Report: With Assault on Safeguards, Trump Trounces Constitution, U.S. History

by James Goodwin | June 21, 2017
Today, Neomi Rao is likely to take one step closer to becoming the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – that is, the Trump administration's "regulatory czar" – with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee expected to favorably report her nomination to the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote.  As detailed in an April 2017 CPR report on her nomination, Rao would arrive at her new position with little substantive expertise related to ...

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 ...

New York Times Op-ed: Regulatory 'Reform' That Is Anything But

by William Buzbee | June 15, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in The New York Times. After decades of failed efforts to enact "regulatory reform" bills, Congress appears to be within a few votes of approving reform legislation that would strip Americans of important legal protections, induce regulatory sclerosis and subject agencies that enforce the nation's laws and regulations to potentially endless litigation. This is not reform. These bills would sabotage agency regulation with legislative monkey wrenches. Key compromises about agency power and procedures, worked out under ...

Chamber's Brief Lays Bare Crackpot Theory at Heart of Two-for-One Order

by Amy Sinden | June 15, 2017
I don't know what executive order the Chamber of Commerce is defending in the amicus brief it filed Monday in Public Citizen v. Trump. But it doesn't appear to be the one at issue in that lawsuit. The lawsuit charges that Trump's "one-in, two-out" executive order is unconstitutional. That's the order he issued in January requiring agencies to repeal two regulations for every one they issue. It requires agencies to make sure that the costs imposed by any new regulation ...

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 ...

Questions Arise as Senate Prepares to Take Up Nomination for Key Trump Regulatory Post

by Robert Verchick | June 06, 2017
Tomorrow, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will examine and likely vote on President's Trump's selection for Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). OIRA is the most important government office most Americans have never heard of. It is the depot through which all regulatory freight must pass, the place where ideas go to be sorted, weighed, green-lighted, or buried. It's the ganglia of the president's bureaucratic brain. At the center of those fluttering ...

The Congressional Review Act Is No Solution

by James Goodwin | June 01, 2017
This post was originally published on The Regulatory Review. Over the last several years, conservative opponents of regulatory safeguards for health, safety, the environment, consumers, and the economy have gradually coalesced around a grand theory for why the supposed balance of policymaking powers between the executive and legislative branches has become so, well, unbalanced. These opponents’ theory goes something like this: Congress faces strong incentives to delegate too much substantive policymaking authority to federal agencies because delegation creates a political “win-win.” By passing statutes with ...

New Amicus Supports Challenge to Trump's 'Two-for-One' Order

by James Goodwin | May 25, 2017
Yesterday, ten distinguished law professors, all of them CPR Member Scholars writing in their individual capacities, filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by Public Citizen, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Communication Workers of America challenging as illegal and unconstitutional the Trump administration’s Executive Order 13771. The order requires agencies to identify at least two existing rules to repeal for every new one they seek to issue and to ensure that the money companies would ...

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 ...

The Depraved Indifference of Hollow Government

by Matt Shudtz | May 23, 2017
From the safety of Air Force One en route from Tel Aviv to Rome, President Trump dropped his FY 2018 budget on Washington, D.C., and sent OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to run point on the ground. They like to talk about it as a "hard power" budget. What they don't like to talk about are the consequences of unleashing such firepower on the American public. Make no mistake about it, this budget is the realization of several decades' travail by ...

Requiring Formal Rulemaking Is a Thinly Veiled Attempt to Halt Regulation

by Bill Funk | May 22, 2017
Originally published on The Regulatory Review by CPR Member Scholar William Funk. Professor Kent Barnett recently opined in The Regulatory Review that formal rulemaking really is not that bad and may actually be a good thing in certain circumstances. His argument deserves closer review because the proposed Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) would require the equivalent of formal rulemaking—or what the bill calls a "public hearing." Barnett may well be right to suggest that in some situations the costs of formal rulemaking could ...

Ahead of Markup, CPR Member Scholars Voice Concerns over the Senate Regulatory Accountability Act

by James Goodwin | May 16, 2017
Today, 27 Member Scholars of the Center for Progressive Reform, leading academics who specialize in administrative law and regulatory policy, submitted a letter to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill outlining their serious concerns with the Senate Regulatory Accountability Act. That bill is among several aimed at undermining our system of regulatory safeguards that are set to be marked up by the committee at its business meeting on Wednesday. Others set ...

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 ...

Anything but Moderate: The Senate Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017

by James Goodwin | May 02, 2017
Today, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars and staff are releasing a comprehensive analysis of the Senate Regulatory Accountability of 2017 (S. 951), which Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced last week. Our analysis explains how S. 951 would drastically overhaul the Administrative Procedure Act, which has successfully guided agency enforcement of public safeguards for over 70 years. A summary of the key findings of the analysis is also available.  The bill is the latest legislation to ...

White Collar Crime and the Trump Administration

by Rena Steinzor | April 27, 2017
Cross-posted by permission from the Columbia Blue Sky Blog. The Obama administration had a mixed record on white collar crime. On one hand, it extracted $4 billion and a guilty plea from BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill. On the other hand, it allowed HSBC, then the fourth largest bank in the world, to sign a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) over charges of laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel and serving as a banker for illicit ...

New CPR Project - CRA by the Numbers: The Congressional Review Act Assault on Our Safeguards

by James Goodwin | April 25, 2017
If Donald Trump has learned anything over the last 100 days, it's that unlike in golf, you can't call a Mulligan on the beginning of your presidency, no matter how much it might improve your score.  These last few months have been long on scandals and failure (Russian probes, the spectacular implosion of Trumpcare, etc.) and short on policy accomplishments, particularly in the legislative realm. This sad state of affairs has left Trump's PR team looking to inject some positive ...

Regulatory Policy

When it comes to health, safety and the environment, executive branch enforcement of the law has become yet another arena to fight and re-fight policy battles presumably settled in Congress. In particular, regulated entities, including companies that pollute or  make potentially dangerous products, spend millions working to block, delay, and unravel such protections.

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