01/13/2021 - Regulatory Rollbacks

Deconstructing Environmental Deregulation Under the Trump Administration

by Hannah Perls

Over the past four years, EELP has tracked the Trump administration’s environmental rollback efforts, analyzing both individual regulations and broader attacks on EPA’s mission-critical capacities, while also highlighting the lawsuits brought by coalitions of states, nonprofits, and community organizations to stop or delay those efforts.

In this article, published by the Vermont Law Review, Legal Fellow Hannah Perls presents an overview of that work focusing on four key ways EPA and, to a lesser extent, the Department of the Interior, pursued their deregulatory agenda.

First, Hannah addresses the ways that the Trump administration undermined EPA’s scientific and expert capacities, forcing an exodus of academic scientists from the agency’s expert bodies and opening the door to representatives of regulated industries.

Second, she assesses the many ways the Trump administration narrowed public participation mechanisms designed to invite comment and critique of agency decisions. In doing so, the administration not only ignored information essential for reasoned decision-making, but also created explicit preferences for the interests of regulated industries over those of communities most affected by those industries’ activities.

Third, the Trump administration minimized regulation-triggering events by expanding the projects and impacts exempt from environmental review and modifying the assessments agencies use to determine when new projects or events merit analysis or oversight. In promoting a Frankenstein’s monster version of cost-benefit analysis to justify the administration’s deregulatory goals, President Trump established arbitrary limits on the costs agencies can impose on private industry and EPA issued new protocols to consistently undervalue or ignore the benefits of regulating greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

Fourth, and perhaps most consequential, EPA adopted novel interpretations of its own statutory mandates to severely narrow, or in some cases abdicate, its own authority to regulate at all. While the ink is still wet on many of these interpretations, if approved by federal courts, the Trump administration’s legacy will prevent future administrations from exercising the broader regulatory authority necessary to address both longstanding and novel public health and environmental challenges.

Read the whole article here.