This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.
Since taking office, President Biden has pursued an active agenda to address many urgent matters that require his prompt attention. We hope one important initiative does not get lost in transition: restoring the norms of good governance.
During his term in office, President Trump sought to exert absolute control over the apparatus of government by undercutting normal operating practices and systematically dismantling protections for officials whose duty to the public might override their personal loyalty to him. It is no secret that Trump demanded personal loyalty from executive branch officials and fired those, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who prioritized complying with the law over following his orders. He has taken many actions to strip, override and undermine essential protections for our nation’s public servants.
Biden has already taken some steps to address these concerns. On Jan. 22 he signed an executive order to restore civil service protections, including merit selection and good cause removal protections, for thousands of hardworking federal employees. This much needed action reversed Trump’s earlier executive order removing these protections, which had exposed these positions to patronage and political retaliation. While reversing this order and others …
Update: On March 15, 2021, the Senate voted to confirm Deb Haaland as Secretary of Interior.
President-elect Joe Biden tapped Deb Haaland to head up the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees our nation's public lands, wildlife conservation, and key aspects of energy development. Currently a House representative from New Mexico, Haaland has led the national parks, forests, and public lands subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee. She would be the first Native American to lead the department.
If confirmed, Haaland will oversee an agency the Trump administration systematically worked to dismantle. Secretaries Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt did everything in their power to make the department as industry friendly as possible — shrinking national monuments, gutting endangered species protections, throwing open the doors to fossil fuel extraction, and more.
Though Haaland will face significant challenges, she can begin to reverse harmful policies and ensure …
This commentary was originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
Throughout his time in office, President Donald J. Trump has boasted about cutting regulations.
His antagonism to environmental regulation has been particularly virulent and incessant. By one count, Trump Administration agencies have initiated or completed 100 environmental rollbacks. By thwarting often bipartisan legislative environmental protection goals adopted over the course of 50 years, President Trump's actions create serious threats to public health and environmental integrity. The Administration's suppression of public participation in regulatory decision-making has also undercut the ability of people and communities harmed by the Administration's deregulatory frenzy to protect themselves.
These anti-environmental and anti-democratic practices converged in the Administration's recent revisions to the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Often referred to as the Magna Carta of U.S. environmental law, NEPA has two main goals …
Staff and Board members of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) denounce the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day. We stand with the peaceful protestors calling for radical, systemic reforms to root out racism from our society and all levels of our governing institutions and the policies they administer.
CPR Member Scholars and staff are dedicated to listening to and working alongside Black communities and non-Black people of color to call out racism and injustice and demand immediate and long-lasting change. Racism and bigotry cannot continue in the United States if our nation is to live up to its creed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
CPR's vision is thriving communities and a resilient planet. That ideal animates all of our work, but systemic sources of inequality and injustice stand as massive barriers to the realization …
Originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
Much of the discussion of the Trump administration's failed handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on its delayed, and then insufficiently urgent, response, as well as the President's apparent effort to talk and tweet the virus into submission. All are fair criticisms. But the bungled initial response—or lack of response—was made immeasurably worse by the administration's confused and confusing allocation of authority to perform or supervise tasks essential to reducing the virus's damaging effects. Those mistakes hold important lessons.
The administration's management of the pandemic has been hampered by misallocation of authority along three different but interacting dimensions. First, it has been marred by overlapping authority that has resulted in waste, while failing to capitalize on this overlap's potential to safeguard against shirking and inaction. Second, it has reflected a thoughtless mix of centralized and …
The Trump administration has fired the latest salvo in its never-ending assault on environmental safeguards: a proposal from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to overhaul its regulations governing federal agency compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The proposal would narrow the scope of NEPA’s protections, weaken federal agency duties when the law applies, and attempt to shield violations of NEPA from judicial oversight. More significantly, the proposal is wildly inconsistent with NEPA’s most fundamental goal: fostering deliberation and democratic participation to improve the government’s capacity to promote social welfare.
NEPA relies on four key mechanisms.
First, it directs all federal agencies to accompany proposals for “major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment” with a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) comparing the environmental impacts of the proposed action …
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
Ever since Ronald Reagan declared government to be the problem rather than the solution, the federal bureaucracy has been the target of criticism from right-leaning think tanks, regulatory skeptics in academia, and politicians of all political persuasions. Lately, members of the federal judiciary have visibly joined this chorus of criticism.
Among the charges leveled against regulation and the agencies responsible for issuing and enforcing rules is the claim that, even assuming the validity of regulatory goals, traditional regulatory approaches too often fail to achieve them or impose unjustified social costs. Others assert that regulatory "intrusions" on the operation of the free market are antithetical to the protection of individual liberty and the economic system on which our nation was built.
We take a different view.
Government regulation serves a critical role in promoting the public interest by, for …
For five decades California and the federal government have worked together in an innovative exercise in federalism aimed at achieving cleaner air. California has played an important role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, particularly from motor vehicles.
But now, contrary to law and in a massive departure from past practice, President Donald Trump has announced that his administration is pulling the rug out from under California's feet by divesting it of its longstanding authority to adopt auto emission controls more stringent than the Environmental Protection Agency's.
The action, implemented jointly by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Administration, couldn't come at a worse time. Less than a year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called "ambitious mitigation actions" indispensable to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees …
Imagine a world in which administrative agencies whose actions are challenged in court are afforded little respect and even less deference from reviewing courts. Imagine further that congressional efforts to vest authority in these agencies to act as guardians of public health and safety, environmental integrity, consumer interests, and economic security are viewed as alarming threats to liberty and to the very foundations of the separation of governmental authority enshrined in the Constitution. Finally, imagine a jurisprudence in which judges are committed to fashioning (or refashioning) administrative law doctrine to shackle the authority of agencies to which Congress has delegated regulatory authority at every opportunity. That is the world to which some members of the Supreme Court appear to aspire.1
In the waning days of the Supreme Court’s 2018–2019 term, a four-Justice plurality …
The Trump administration's push to boost fossil fuel extraction has received a major setback. On March 29, Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for Alaska ruled invalid Trump's order lifting a ban on oil and gas drilling in much of the the Arctic Ocean and along parts of the North Atlantic coast. Gleason held that the relevant law – the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – authorizes presidents to withdraw offshore lands from use for energy development, but not to reverse such decisions by past administrations.
If this ruling is upheld on appeal, it would bolster lawsuits contesting another controversial action by President Trump: Removing some 2 million acres from the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, which were created by Presidents Obama and Clinton respectively under the Antiquities Act of 1906.
As scholars of environmental and …