It's Official: Trump's Policies Deter EPA Staff from Enforcing the Law

by Joel Mintz | February 19, 2019

This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an annual report Feb. 8 on its enforcement activities in fiscal 2018. After wading through a bushel full of cherry-picked case studies and a basket of bureaucratic happy talk, the report paints a dismal picture of decline in a crucially important EPA program.

EPA's data indicate that it initiated and concluded approximately 1,800 civil judicial enforcement cases in 2018 — fewer than half the number it handled in fiscal 2008, the last year of the George W. Bush administration. The agency required violators to invest $3.95 billion to control their excessive pollution last year, a far cry from the $21.3 billion in pollution control expenditures that resulted from EPA enforcement in 2011. Similarly, the total amount of administrative and civil penalties that EPA extracted from environmental violators was at its lowest level in the past decade, thus reducing the disincentive for companies to break the law. The same was true with regard to the number of criminal cases opened by the agency in 2018 and the number of defendants charged with federal pollution crimes — all were down to the lowest levels in ten years.

Contributing to those dismal numbers was a dramatic decline in EPA's facility inspections and plant evaluations. Those activities fell to 10,600 in 2018 — less than 50 percent of the number of plant visits conducted ...

Wheeler Hearing Provides Opportunity to Learn More about 'Benefits-Busting' Rule

by James Goodwin | January 15, 2019
During his tenure, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt launched multiple assaults on environmental and public health safeguards. His attacks on clean air standards and water quality regulations made so little sense in our reality that he went to the absurd and extreme lengths of creating an alternative reality to make them look legitimate. That alternative reality is rendered in the "benefits-busting" rule, which would systematically distort the analyses EPA economists conduct to assess the economic impacts of ...

Federalism 'Collisions' in Energy Policy

by Alexandra Klass | November 20, 2018
Originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. Like many areas of law, energy policy in the United States is both national and local. The boundary lines delineating federal and state authority are not always clear, leading to tension and disagreement between federal and state authorities. When tensions get too high, Congress can, and often has, stepped in to override state control in order to promote national interests. But when Congress faces partisan gridlock, an increasing number of disputes are ...

For Parents of Rape Survivors, OIRA's 'Open Door' to Nowhere

by James Goodwin | November 06, 2018
The meeting logs for the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – the small but powerful bureau that oversees federal rulemaking efforts on behalf of the president – have looked a little different in recent weeks. As usual, they are graced by high-priced corporate lobbyists and attorneys from white-shoe law firms, along with a smattering of activists from public interest organizations. But also signing in have been nearly a dozen ordinary Americans, representing only themselves, and they've ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- The National Environmental Policy Act and Disasters

by Joel Mintz | September 21, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. In August, 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought widespread devastation to the southeastern United States, destroying buildings, flooding neighborhoods, and taking lives. Harvey shattered the national rainfall record for a single storm, dropping over 50 inches of rain in a 36-hour period. The Houston area suffered massive flooding, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers attempted to balance ...

A Loss for Trump -- and for Coal

by Daniel Farber | August 23, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. Understandably, most of the attention at the beginning of the week was devoted to the rollout of the Trump administration's token effort to regulate greenhouse gases, the ACE rule. But something else happened, too. On Tuesday, a D.C. Circuit ruling ignored objections from the Trump administration and invalidated key parts of a rule dealing with coal ash disposal. That rule had originally come from the Obama administration, and the court agreed with environmentalists that it was too weak. ...

CPR, Public Interest Allies Call on EPA to Abandon 'Benefits-Busting' Rule

by James Goodwin | August 15, 2018
Earlier this week, 19 Member Scholars with the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that provide a detailed legal and policy critique of the agency's "benefits-busting" rulemaking.  Since early July, EPA has been accepting feedback on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) that could lead to a complete overhaul of how the agency performs cost-benefit analysis on its environmental and public health rules. Consistent with other anti-safeguard moves the Trump EPA has ...

Trump Loses Another Big Court Case

by Daniel Farber | August 13, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. Last Thursday, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Scott Pruitt had no justification for allowing even the tiniest traces of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos (also called Lorsban and Dursban) on food. This is yet another judicial slap against lawlessness by the current administration. Chlorpyrifos was originally invented as a nerve gas, but it turns out that it kills insects quite satisfactorily. (I remember ads for "Big Foot Lorsban" from back when I lived in downstate Illinois, many years ago. ...

Miami Herald Op-Ed: New EPA Administrator, Same Menace to the Environment

by Joel Mintz | August 02, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in the Miami Herald. The forced resignation of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brought celebration and relief in many quarters. Pruitt was a walking scandal machine who generated an endless stream of headlines about spending abuses, cozy relationships with industry lobbyists, first-class travel at government expense, and aides asked to perform personal tasks, including buying lotions and mattresses and unsuccessfully helping his wife land a Chick-fil-A franchise. Of more lasting ...

A Real, Not Faux, Transparency Proposal for Regulatory Science

by Wendy Wagner | August 01, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. In a previous essay, we critiqued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently proposed transparency rule, arguing that the proposal conflicts with best scientific practices and would further erode the EPA’s ability to do its job. According to supporters, the central goal of the proposed rule is to increase the transparency of regulatory science. Unfortunately, the proposal does not begin to deliver. No matter how many times the word “transparency” is repeated ...

Wheeler's Chance for a Course Correction at EPA

by Matt Shudtz | August 01, 2018
Andrew Wheeler will be on the hot seat today when he heads to Capitol Hill for his first appearance before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as Acting Administrator of the EPA. Senators initially scheduled the hearing when Scott Pruitt was Administrator and his ethical problems had reached such epic proportions that his party's support was starting to erode. With Pruitt out and Wheeler in, today's hearing has the potential to be more about environmental policy than conflicts of ...

Scott Pruitt Wants to Pick Winners and Losers by Cooking the Books at EPA

by James Goodwin | June 28, 2018
UPDATE (July 2, 2018): EPA has granted a one-month extension to its original comment period. Public comments on the advance notice of proposed rulemaking are now due on August 13. Soon after his confirmation, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt quickly set out to take a "whack-a-mole" approach to advancing his anti-safeguard agenda, attacking particular rules designed to protect Americans and the environment from specific hazards – climate change, various air and water pollutants, and so on – one by one. But ...

Deconstructing Regulatory Science

by Wendy Wagner | June 19, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt recently opened another front in his battle to redirect the agency away from its mission to protect human health and the environment. This time, he cobbled together a proposed rule that would drastically change how science is considered during the regulatory process. Opposition soon mobilized. In addition to the traditional forces of public interest groups and other private-sector watchdogs, the editors of the ...

Senators' Letter Brings Welcome Oversight to Troubled White House Office

by James Goodwin | May 10, 2018
Yesterday, six senators, led by Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, criticized Trump administration "regulatory czar" Neomi Rao and her office for what appears to have been a slapdash review of a highly controversial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draft policy designed to stifle the agency's progress on advancing environmental and public health protections. Rao is the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a small but powerful bureau located within the Executive Office of the ...

The Questionable Legal Basis of the EPA 'Transparency' Proposal

by Daniel Farber | April 30, 2018
"They sat at the Agency and said, 'What can we do to reimagine authority under the statutes to regulate an area that we are unsure that we can but we're going to do so anyway?'" When he said those words, Scott Pruitt was talking about the Obama administration. But it seems to be a pretty accurate description of the "transparency" proposal he issued last week. Everyone agrees that it would be good to increase the public availability of scientific information ...

Scholars Call Out Congressional Committee for 'Mythification' of NEPA

by James Goodwin | April 24, 2018
Tomorrow, anti-environmental members of the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing provocatively titled, "The Weaponization of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Implications of Environmental Lawfare" – yet another in a long line of conservatives' attempts to justify myriad legislative attacks against this bedrock environmental law. As more than 100 CPR Member Scholars and other academic leaders explain in a letter to committee members, though, the hearing would be more aptly titled "The Mythification of NEPA."  The ...

The Hill Op-ed: Justice Dept's Enforcement Policies Make Change for the Worse

by Rena Steinzor | February 22, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has wasted little time portraying himself as the prosecutor-in-chief of street — as opposed to white collar — crime, rejecting this month even a broadly bipartisan effort to reduce sentences for nonviolent crime supported by a coalition that spans the Koch brothers and the NAACP. Civil enforcement has also fallen off, as documented in investigative reporting by The New York Times and others. Both trends will almost certainly continue given ...

CPR's Emily Hammond Testifies About Health and Economic Benefits of Clean Air Act Regulation

by Matt Shudtz | February 14, 2018
It was an early holiday present to the nation's biggest polluters. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in early December that he was drastically changing the way EPA reviews polluters' compliance – or lack thereof – with the Clean Air Act. Today on Capitol Hill, CPR Member Scholar Emily Hammond will explain that this dramatic shift in policy is a complete abnegation of EPA's statutory responsibilities and, beyond that, puts lives and economic opportunity at risk. Professor Hammond is testifying before ...

The Center for Progressive Reform

2021 L St NW, #101-330
Washington, DC. 20036
info@progressivereform.org
202.747.0698

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015