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Jan. 19, 2021 by Daniel Farber

Rethinking Presidential Administration

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Conservatives love to complain about faceless bureaucrats, but blaming bureaucrats for regulations is hopelessly out of date. When Elena Kagan was a professor, she wrote an article called “Presidential Administration.” The article applauded her former boss Bill Clinton for seizing greater control of the regulatory process, away from agencies. That trend has accelerated to the point where the White House controls even the fine details of regulation.

Two things can get sidelined in presidential administration. One is agency expertise. No one in the White House has as much knowledge as agency experts about air pollution, or climate change, or endangered species.

The other thing that gets sidelined is active implementation of the law actually passed by Congress. The White House staff who review regulations care only about costs and benefits. The president and the higher-level staff care only about the president’s policy and political agendas. From their perspective, the law actually passed by Congress only matters to the extent it might let courts get in the way of those other agendas. Only the agency itself has an affirmative institutional commitment to the statute it administers.

Kagan admitted in …

Jan. 12, 2021 by Victor Flatt
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One of the most vexing environmental law issues of the last three decades is the scope of the term "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) in the Clean Water Act — and what marshes, lakes, and streams fall under its purview. A connected legal question stretching back even further is how much deference to give agencies in policymaking and legal interpretations.

These issues are present in both the Trump administration's final "Waters of the United States" rule, which narrowly defines waters subject to the act, and the Biden administration's likely attempt to expand that definition. The Trump administration's narrow approach dramatically reduces the number of waterways under federal protection. A broader definition would restore and possibly expand protections to better safeguard public and environmental health.

A new study on the economic analyses in the Trump rule (which I co-authored) concludes that its supporting economic analyses rely on questionable …

Jan. 8, 2021 by Amy Sinden, Richard Parker
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This post was originally published by the Yale Journal on Regulation's Notice & Comment blog. Reprinted with permission.

T’was the season of gift-giving and on December 9, outgoing EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler delivered a parting gift for his successor in the form of a new regulation: Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process.

The new Rule is offered as a simple housekeeping measure designed “to ensure consistent, high-quality analyses [and to] codif[y] best practices for benefit-cost analysis in rulemaking.” Some observers find it relatively harmless; but others are not so sanguine. We view it as a sort of Trojan Horse—seemingly innocuous on its face, but harboring content that will hamper, and may undermine, EPA’s efforts to confront the climate crisis and protect the safety of the air we breathe. Here are a few …

Jan. 7, 2021 by Darya Minovi, James Goodwin
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In a last-ditch effort to further weaken the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to protect public health, this week, the Trump administration published its final “censored science” rule. As stated in the Center for Progressive Reform’s comments on the draft rulemaking, this proposal unjustifiably limits the research that can be used in regulatory decision-making, giving more weight to studies where the underlying data is publicly available. These restrictions will apply to dose-response studies — which measure how much an increase in pollution exposure increases public health harms — and which often rely on medical and other private data.

Furthermore, in the final rule, EPA continues to make the baseless claim that the Federal Housekeeping Statute, an obscure law dating back to 1789, provides the agency the authority to issue this rule. It’s doubtful that this law even applies to EPA. Even if it does, it …

Jan. 4, 2021 by James Goodwin
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In my previous post, I began my review of 10 key regulatory policy stories to watch out for as 2021 gets underway. In this piece, I wrap up that list and offer some closing thoughts.

  1. How will Congress oversee the Biden-Harris administration's regulatory actions? When Republicans regained control of the U.S. House in 2010, they wasted little time challenging the Obama administration's regulatory policies, regularly holding bombastic hearings for show and rolling out new bills meant to throttle the regulatory system. If Republicans win either or both Georgia runoffs for U.S. Senate tomorrow, they will retain control of the chamber and will likely borrow a page from this playbook. Whether the Biden-Harris administration vigorously defends its regulatory agenda or cowers like the Obama administration will determine how much progress it makes on its policy priorities. On the flipside, House Democrats have a crucial …

Jan. 4, 2021 by James Goodwin
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Thanks to the recent presidential election results, I’m able to do something I haven’t done in a long time: look at a new year with something resembling hope and optimism. As noted in my December 21 posts, the Trump administration wreaked havoc on our system of regulatory safeguards in 2020, as it did in previous years. The incoming Biden-Harris administration brings a strong mandate to undo the damage — and to go further by building a more just and people-centered government that can meet the pressing challenges America faces.

CPR recently launched Policy for a Just America with this opportunity in mind. This initiative aims to rebuild and reimagine government and offers detailed recommendations aimed at promoting a more robust and responsive regulatory system.

Will we seize the moment? Here are the first five of 10 storylines I’ll be following this year. Each could significantly …

Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This was the year in which many of our worst fears about the Trump administration came to pass. Racial unrest reached a boiling point. The GOP’s attacks on our democracy leading up to and after the election will take decades to fix. And of course, tens of thousands of lives have been needlessly lost to an unprecedented pandemic.

It was an ugly year. Not surprisingly, most of 2020’s top regulatory policy stories were ugly too. In general, policy developments aligned against the goals of CPR’s new Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. The incoming Biden-Harris administration can put us back on the right track, but they have a lot of work ahead of them.

Here are the first five of this year’s 10 most significant developments affecting …

Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin
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In my last post, I began counting down the top ten most significant developments affecting regulatory policy and public protections from the past year. This post completes the task. The good news is some of these developments offer some hope on realizing the goals of CPR’s Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. Others, however, suggest that the task of realizing those goals will be an arduous one.

  1. Environmental justice takes its rightful place as a top-tier issue. At the beginning of the year, environmental justice rose to unprecedented prominence thanks to advocacy efforts behind the Green New Deal and the introduction of major environmental justice legislation by Reps. Donald McEachin (Va.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.). The issue took on greater urgency in May, after the alleged murder of George Floyd …

Dec. 17, 2020 by Robert Verchick
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President-elect Joe Biden is set to name Brenda Mallory to lead the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House office that coordinates environmental policy across federal agencies. Mallory has more than three decades of environmental law and policy experience, served as CEQ general counsel under President Barack Obama, and is currently director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Though somewhat dormant during Donald Trump's early tenure, CEQ ramped up its attacks on environmental policies and protections during the second half of Trump’s term.

It focused its assault on how agencies review the environmental impacts of their actions. Congress required such environmental review beginning in 1970 with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Whenever an agency funds or issues a permit for a big project like an oil pipeline, a bridge, or a highway, NEPA requires that agency to assess its environmental harms …

Dec. 15, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Donald Trump prided himself on his contempt for established norms of presidential action. Whole books have been written about how to restore those norms. Something similar also happened deeper down in the government, out in the agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that do the actual work of governance. Trump appointees have corrupted agencies and trashed the norms that support agency integrity. It will take hard work to undo the harm. White House leadership is important, but success will require dedicated effort by the agency heads appointed by Biden.

Scientific integrity. The role of science is the most obvious example of norm busting under Trump. Whether it is EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Trump …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Jan. 19, 2021

Rethinking Presidential Administration

Jan. 12, 2021

Study Finds Significant Flaws with Trump Waters of the United States Rule, Provides Legal Support for Biden Replacement

Jan. 8, 2021

Andrew Wheeler's Trojan Horse for Clean Air Act Regulation

Jan. 7, 2021

Incoming Biden Administration Should Repeal Harmful EPA Censored Science Rule

Jan. 4, 2021

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories to Look Out for in 2021 -- Part II

Jan. 4, 2021

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories to Look Out for in 2021 -- Part I

Dec. 21, 2020

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories of 2020 -- Part II