Get Ready for Phase 2 of the Deregulation Wars
Originally published on Legal Planet.
The first phase of Trump's regulatory rollbacks has been directed against Obama's climate change regulations. Those deregulatory actions will be finalized soon. What happens next will be in the hands of the courts. But the Trump EPA is now beginning a new phase in its attack on environmental regulation. Having tried to eliminate climate regulation, its next move will be an attack on basic protections against air pollution.
The Clean Air Act, the federal air pollution statute, is largely structured in terms of achieving national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). In March 2020, EPA will propose revisions in the standards for ozone and particulates, the two most important pollutants. It has already started work on the revisions. Guess what? EPA won't be planning to tighten the standards. If anything, they are likely to loosen them, weakening a crucial safeguard.
Trump's EPA has been working over the past couple of years to undermine the scientific basis for the standards. First, it purged CASAC, its general scientific advisory board, of independent academic experts, replacing them with industry-connected scientists. The committee currently does not contain any statisticians, experts in modeling risk assessment, or epidemiologists. The administration also eliminated the specialist advisory boards advising CASAC on the complex science relating to these two pollutants. Even Trump's handpicked CASAC has complained about losing the advice of those specialists.
Second, the Trump EPA has been working to
The Cost-Benefit Boomerang
This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect. Everyone in communications knows how to bury a news story: release it late on a Friday. So it was with the White House’s annual report on federal regulations, released months behind schedule on a Friday in February. As it has for many years, the report pegged the benefits of federal regulation in the hundreds of billions of dollars, swamping the calculated costs of compliance by at least 2 to 1 and
EPA Abandons Role at the Center of the Chesapeake Bay Accountability Framework
On June 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its evaluation of the third and final round of state Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) under the Chesapeake Bay restoration framework known as the "Bay TMDL" (Total Maximum Daily Load). EPA's evaluation of the seven Bay jurisdictions broke no new ground regarding the quality or contents of the states' plans, but instead reiterated many of the same findings and concerns expressed by advocates, including the ones I expressed with my colleague David
Trump EPA Hiding Hundreds of Deaths in Plain View
According to press reports, EPA is preparing to ignore possible deaths caused by concentrations of pollutants occurring below the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). This is a key issue in a lot of decisions about pollution reduction. For instance, there is no NAAQS for mercury, but pollution controls on mercury would, as a side benefit, reduce pollution levels of harmful particulates. According to EPA’s prior cost-benefit analyses, those reductions could save many lives even in areas where current levels of
EPA's Partial Retreat on Cost-Benefit Analysis
In a memo sent last week but just now released, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler backtracked a bit on one of the administration's initiatives to undercut sensible safeguards. His May 13 memo abandons the agency's push last year to establish uniform standards for bending agency decision making in favor of cost-benefit analysis, regardless of statutory directives, and instead directs that this effort follow a statute-by-statute approach. Wheeler’s retreat on this particular effort to ignore the life-saving benefits of environmental rules is good
Shackling EPA Risk Assessment
Originally published on Legal Planet. EPA pollution regulations are based on an assessment of the risks posed by pollutants. This can be a complex scientific judgment. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the agency's scientific advisory board, is pushing for major changes in the way that EPA approaches this analysis. The effect would be to make it much harder for EPA to prove that a risk exists. Currently, risk assessment is based on a "weight of the evidence" approach
EPA's Mission: The Original Understanding Wasn't Cutting Regulatory Costs
Originally published on Legal Planet. What is EPA’s mission? To what extent is minimizing regulatory costs part of the core mission, as the Trump Administration seems to believe? Does the Trump-Pruitt/Wheeler view comport with original intent? History makes it clear that the answer is “no.” The title of the agency itself suggests that the core mission is protecting the environment, just as the core mission of the Defense Department is presumably national defense (though cost isn’t irrelevant in either setting). It’s
Public Interest Community Calls on EPA Administrator to Halt Dangerous 'Benefits-Busting Rule'
Today, the Center for Progressive Reform and 46 other environmental, labor, and public health organizations sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler calling on him to withdraw the agency's pending "benefits-busting" rule. Wheeler was recently confirmed as the official agency head, and, as the letter notes, he can begin his tenure on the right track by abandoning this dangerous rulemaking. The proposal is a vestige of the disastrous Scott Pruitt era that would radically overhaul how the
Due to NEPA, Trump's 'One-In, Two-Out' Order Does Not Apply to Environmentally Protective Regulations
This post is adapted from a recent law review article published in the University of Missouri—Kansas City Law Review. In myriad ways – from speeches, favoritism toward polluting industries, and ill-advised regulatory rollbacks – the Trump administration has consistently exhibited unrestrained antagonism toward regulatory safeguards for health, safety, and the environment. One of the earliest manifestations of that antagonism – and arguably one of the most pernicious – was an executive order signed by the president only ten days after
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
Wheeler Hearing Provides Opportunity to Learn More about 'Benefits-Busting' Rule
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
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
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
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
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
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